Like at the drugstore...coke!

COCAINE is a white, crystalline alkaloid that is obtained from the leaves of the coca plant, a bush commonly found growing wild in Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador and cultivated in many other countries.

A lighter look at cocaine published in the French magazine La Splendide, circa 1935.
Cocaine acts as an anesthetic because it interrupts the conduction of impulses in nerves, especially those in the mucous membranes of the eye, nose, and throat. More importantly, cocaine when ingested in small amounts produces feelings of well-being and euphoria, along with a decreased appetite, relief from fatigue, and increased mental alertness. When taken in larger amounts and upon prolonged and repeated use, cocaine can produce depression, anxiety, irritability, sleep problems, chronic fatigue, mental confusion, paranoia, and convulsions that can cause death.

For centuries the Indians of Peru and Bolivia have chewed coca leaves mixed with pellets of limestone or plant ashes for pleasure or in order to withstand strenuous working conditions, hunger, and thirst. In other cultures the active alkaloid is chemically extracted from coca leaves and is converted into the hydrochloric salt of cocaine, cocaine hydrochloride. This fine white powder is sniffed through a hollow tube and is readily absorbed into the bloodstream through the nasal mucous membranes. Cocaine is an irritant, however, and acts to constrict blood vessels, causing a chronic runny nose or, in severe cases, ulcerations in the nasal cavity. The euphoric effects of sniffing cocaine are relatively transitory and wear off after about 30 minutes. Cocaine is habit-forming and may also be physically addicting.

Cocaine Molecule
The prolonged or compulsive use of cocaine in any of its purified forms can cause severe personality disturbances, inability to sleep, and loss of appetite. Cocaine abuse during our period of review was a marginal drug problem which grew alarmingly as the century progressed.

The 1920s were a turning point in Argentine economic history. There is no doubt that belle époque growth rates were left behind in the 1920s, but when compared to the performance of other Argentine growth rates tend to look higher, and when compared to Gross Domestic Product growth rates throughout the 20th century in Argentina, the readings for the first and the third decade tend to exceed average performance. All this to indicate that during the period of our tango there was lots of money "in the streets". Not just for the bread and butter of daily life, but more than enough to raise the pursuit after entertainment: a situation ripe for the newer four horsemen (gambling, prostitution, alcoholism and drug addiction) to thrive.

Around this time, an estimated amount 3.4 million kilograms of cocaine was being produced in Bolivia. Of this, approximately 55% was consumed domestically, 15% went to Argentina, 15% to Chile, 10% to Peru, and 5% to the United States and Europe. The use of cocaine was illegal at this time in Argentina but the laws were not evenly applied. There were two types of people using the drug: those who could barely afford it (the addicts) over whom application of laws was strict; and those who could afford the drug as an upper-class entertainment (the fun crowd). It is obvious, that the cocaine available at our Corrientes 348 was for the latter "audience": definitely in the porteño class.

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