Museo de la Coca (Coca Museum)
Visit the Museo de la Coca (Coca Museum) to discover the history and importance of the coca leaf in Bolivian and Andean cultures. Inside this small museum you’ll find hundreds of informative and thought-provoking exhibits that show the many uses of, and local love for, coca.
Pick up an information pamphlet in English at the reception. Discover why the pre-Colombian societies of the Andes mountains, such as the Incas, considered the leaf to be sacred. That’s why Bolivia actually has a law to protect coca as “cultural patrimony” and a “ renewable natural resource of Bolivia's biodiversity.” Learn about the use of coca in ancient rituals and religious ceremonies and why generations of miners and other laborers in South America have used the leaf to be able to cope with their long work days.
See how the coca leaf is also used in modern culture, such as soft drink companies and the pharmaceutical industry. The leaf is not a narcotic in its natural state, but its the production of the highly addictive chemical called cocaine hydrochloride that gave the plant a bad name outside of South America. Find out about what the difference is between the actual plant and the drug and look for the curious mannequin that portrays a drug addict.
The museum staff can show you the correct way to chew coca leaves and what is needed to feel the numbing effect on your tongue. End your visit at the museum’s café and sample products containing the coca leaf, including teas and coffees, beers and juices, cakes and cookies. Buy coca-based souvenirs, such as a coca-distilled alcohol and coca candy. If you have a headache due to altitude sickness in La Paz, consider steeping the leaves in boiling water to sip the brew, “mate de coca.”
The Museo de la Coca is a short walk from Plaza Murillo and Plaza San Francisco in the city center of La Paz. The museum’s irregular opening hours are published on the museum’s website. There is a nominal admission fee. Allow up to 1 hour to see all of the exhibits.