In the 1960s, the governments of Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia launched agricultural settlement programs in their vast Amazonian frontier lowlands. Two decades later, some territories within these zones had transformed into the centers of the illicit cocaine boom of the Americas.
In this conversation, Paul Gootenberg and Liliana M. Dávalos discuss their recent book, The Origins of Cocaine: Colonization and Failed Development in the Amazon Andes (Routledge 2018), and larger drug policy trends in the Americas. Drawing on concepts from history and scientific fields, The Origins of Cocaine explores how three countries with divergent mid-century political trajectories ended up with parallel outcomes in illicit frontier economies and cocalero cultures. Bringing together transnational, national, and local analyses, the volume provides an in-depth examination of the deep origins of drug economics in the Americas.