History Department
History Department

Lecture: "The 'Pre-Colombian' Era of Drug Trafficking in the Americas: Cocaine, 1945-1973"

Thu, October 28, 2010 | Santa Rita Room, Texas Union 3.502

5:00 PM


The Distinguished Speaker Series in Latin American History presents a lecture by Dr. Paul Gootenberg, professor of History and Co-Director of Latin American Studies at the State University of New York in Stony Brook, entitled "The 'Pre-Colombian' Era of Drug Trafficking in the Americas: Cocaine, 1945-1973."

His recent award-winning book, Andean Cocaine: The Making of a Global Drug (Chapel Hill, 2009), has received critical acclaim from a wide audience and has affirmed Gootenberg as one of the leading experts on the history of the drug trade in the Americas.

Before anyone heard of Colombian narcotraficantes, a new class of international cocaine traffickers was born between 1945 and 1973, led by little-known Peruvians, Bolivians, Chileans, Cubans, Mexicans, Brazilians, and Argentines. These men—and often daring young women—anxiously pursued by U.S. drug agents, pioneered the business of illicit cocaine, a drug whose small-scale production in the Andes remained legal until the late 1940s.

Before 1945, cocaine barely existed as an illicit drug; by 1950, a handful of couriers were smuggling it by the ounce from Peru; by the mid-1960s this hemispheric flow topped hundreds of kilos yearly, linking thousands of coca farmers across the eastern Andes to crude labs, organized trafficking rings, and a bustling retailer diaspora in consuming hot-spots like New York and Miami. The Colombians of the 1970s, the Pablo Escobars who leveraged this network into one of hundreds of tons, worth untold billions, are today notorious. Historians have yet to uncover their modest predecessors or the actual start of Colombia's role: cocaine's "pre-Colombian" origins.

The Distinguished Speaker Series in Latin American History, an organization run by the graduate students in the Department of History, is committed to bringing leading scholars to the UT campus to annually lecture on the history and culture of Latin America.

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Sponsored by: History Dept., LLILAS, Graduate Student Assembly

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