South American Indians actively used coca leaves since 3000 B.C. Among the indigenous tribes, Mama Coca was a kind goddess, benevolent and enlightening to the human beings. Chewing coca leaves for about forty-five minutes released the vitamins, minerals and alkaloids, which made it easier for the human body to adapt to the harsh climate, thin air of high mountains and hard working conditions. Besides that, the coca bush, which grows freely in the Northern Andes, didn't require any special care and gave several crops a year.
During the Spanish colonization the conquistadors banned coca use, as it was against their high Christian morality. As a result, the productivity of labor in the mines significantly decreased, and the Spaniards had no other choice than to legalize the use of coca once again.
The Museum of Coca in La Paz is there to tell the detailed story of the coca plant. The museum's exhibits examine the role of the sacred leaf and provide a lot of interesting information about the coca bush, its uses and properties when chewed, drunk as a beverage, its nutritional value, its role in the rituals of the indigenous peoples, how it was utilized in the pharmaceutical industry and how ignorant white people started using it to synthesize cocaine and even worse – producing Coca Cola, which is harmful to your health. The visitors can chew coca leaves and feel the effects of this plant for free.