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  • Coca Tea in the Morning: Guest Post by David Augustus Ball, author of Triptych

    Coca Tea in the Morning: Guest Post by David Augustus Ball, author of Triptych

    Every morning, between 9 and 10 in La Paz and the rest of the Altiplano, the vast majority of indigenous Bolivians — primarily Aymara and Quechua — eat a hearty bowl of chanka or fricasé, then pour out a mound of dried green leaves onto a woven cloth called a tari.  This is the moment for a precious ritual practiced here for thousands of years:  the akulliko.  Each person seated around the cloth picks through the leaves to find the smallest ones, for they are the youngest and contain the highest concentrations of one of the world’s most notorious alkaloids:  cocaine.  With great care, the chewer snaps off the prickly stems and arranges 30 or 40 of the leaves into a pile in his hands.  Then, with a bit of baking soda or lime ash, he places it on the inside of his cheek and begins to masticate it like a wad of bubble gum.  This action, in Aymara, is called pischar. The taste of coca is best described by the word evergreen, with perhaps a hint of licorice.  The effect of continued mastication is subtle:  the chewer becomes quiet, reflective, melancholy, philosophical.  The baking soda or lime ash leaches out the cocaine and numbs the cheeks, lips and mouth.  As La Paz sits at 12,500 feet above sea level, the akulliko helps the body to absorb the scarce supply of oxygen; even tourists know that coca is the best antidote to soroche, the local word for altitude sickness. As coca leaves are a Schedule II narcotic in the United States, and the cultivation of coca has been curtailed by United Nations resolution, it is not possible for Americans to take part in an akulliko…unless they travel to Bolivia or Peru. 12,000 feet below the Altiplano, in the flatlands of Paraguay and Argentina, live the Guaraní, a proud nation who welcomed the Spanish when the Jesuits conquered their territory in the 17th century.  In most ways, they could not be more different from their indigenous siblings occupying the Andean highlands.  Strangely, though, in the land of the Guaraní, a similar custom takes place every morning at about the same time as the akulliko.  The leaves of Ilex paraguariensis, carefully heated, aged and ground, are poured into a hollowed-out gourd commonly known throughout the world by the Quechua word mate. Read more…

  • Who are the Guarani? (Guest Post by the Author of Triptych, David Augustus Ball)

    Who are the Guarani? (Guest Post by the Author of Triptych, David Augustus Ball)

      After Columbus, only one Amerindian people managed to escape the violence and subjugation imposed by the Europeans:  the Guarani. Not only did the Guarani escape cultural obliteration; they flourished.  As such, they are the only people whose eponymous language achieved official status alongside the colonizers’ dialect of Latin – the language we call “Spanish” – from the foundling days of the Republic of Paraguay, to the present. The Guarani lived in groups, but they had no kings or queens.  They were known to practice cannibalism, not out of a desire for conquest, but for survival.  They were adept at making use of whatever they had.  Today, we see evidence of the spread of their culture in the names of streets, towns and plazas throughout Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina.  There has even been evidence of Guarani tribes as far north as French Guiana. When the Society of Jesus – the Jesuits – entered the Guarani encampments in Paraguay in the 1600s, they expected to be met with poisoned arrows and savage resistance.  Instead, the Guarani welcomed them. They were animists, in a way, but they had a Supreme Being, known as Tupa. They also loved music, and to this day, Paraguayans prefer music and poetry in Guarani because of its lilting cadence.  The Jesuits intended to civilize the Guarani and teach them the Catechism as well as handicrafts, farming and language, and found, surely to their shock, that they were learning more from the Guarani than the Guarani were learning from them. The Guarani showed the Jesuits the leaf of Ilex paraguariensis, which when steeped in hot water gave the Guarani stamina to work in the heat and facilitated storytelling and camaraderie.  This began the history of cultivation of what was to become known as “yerba mate,” enjoyed throughout the River Plate region as a social beverage like coffee or tea. Read more…

  • Where can I buy Triptych?

    Where can I buy Triptych?

    David Augustus Ball’s Triptych is available for digital download on this site. You can order a paper copy from your preferred independent bookstore, or alternatively from Amazon or Barnes & Noble: Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Triptych-David-Augustus-Ball/dp/1945979011/ Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble. Read more…

  • Triptych Now Live

    Triptych Now Live

    Hard copies of David Augustus Ball’s Triptych are now available from your local bookseller or from Amazon. Read this true crime tale tinged with not a little spirituality. The e-book version is available directly from Andalus. If you need an Amazon compatible version to side-load on your device and can’t access Amazon, send us an email. Read more…

  • Hello world!

    Hello world!

    Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Read more…