Stimulants and drugs in Latin America: Research Essay

Latin America's Historical Economic Growth

Since the time before industrialization and before capitalism, Latin America has consistently been a significant producer of goods like stimulants and drugs. This is a crucial place to start when describing Latin America's historical economic growth. The fact that the producers in the supply chain of foreign commerce are the poorest has always been a significant paradox. (Mintz, Sidney W, 106). As various writers have theorized, this phenomenon gave rise to the dependency theory. To explain the historical economic background of Latin America, these writers have concentrated on a variety of commodities, including sugar, coffee, silver, and cocaine. Latin America has historically been known as a major commodity producer for the period spanning from middle ages to modern times. Different commodities dominated different eras in international trade. These products include tobacco, coffee, sugar, and cocaine. All these played a significant role in economic, social, and political transformation in the middle ages.

The Continent's Role in Global Supply Chain

The continent majorly took the role of a producer of stimulants and drugs. The production of these products became widespread due to the huge demand that existed in international markets. Europe became a major consumer of the products in the middle ages. The general acceptability of these products in Europe played a major role in the social and economic transition. The high demand for these products placed Europe in a strategic position for the global supply chain.

Changing Popularity of Commodities

The popularity of different commodities changed over time due to advancement in civilization, religion, and acceptable social behavior. For instance, alcohol was considered the choice beverage for occasions. The Middle Ages were characterized by voluminous drinking of alcoholic beverages as the social norm. It was even an accompaniment for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. However, the development of religion in the 17th century led to the condemnation of alcohol use (Mintz, Sidney W, 97). Hot beverages like coffee, tea, and chocolate substituted the role previously taken by alcohol.

The Rise and Fall of Cocaine Trade

Cocaine trade played a major role in international commerce from mid 19th century to the mid 20th century. At the period, cocaine trade was legitimate and widely acceptable. The product was used both for its medicinal value and as a stimulant. At some point, it was even considered the agricultural product of the future for Latin America. Cocaine was regarded as an export commodity rather than a menacing drug.

The Dependency Theory

This theory explains the effects of international trade on the producers and the consumers. It studies the producers referred to as the periphery and the consumers referred to as the core. The core is usually more developed nations like European nations, while the periphery comprises of primary producers such as Latin America. The core is often seen to get richer and richer at the expense of the periphery. This explains the irony that besides Latin America being a major producer of stimulants and drugs, it is still poorer than Europe which does not produce these products.

The Birth of Industrialization

The birth of industrialization can be attributed to the trade of stimulants and drugs. While Latin America remained an agricultural economy, Europe experienced rapid industrialization which enabled value addition to commodities exported from Latin America. Industrialization resulted in value addition which accelerated the expansion of European economies. Raw products did not fetch as much profits as the processed products. Profit distribution is therefore skewed toward the more industrialized Europe.

The Role of Coffee in the Development of Capitalism

The increase in coffee consumption and the establishment of coffeehouses in Europe played a key role in the development of capitalism. Coffee was widely used as a stimulant and the ideal beverage for breakfast. Coffee played an important socio-economic role at the time. It kept people in high spirits and made them more productive. Coffee houses became popular meeting points for business people to close business deals and transactions. A remarkable example can be seen with Lloyd's coffeehouse that was a popular meeting point for insurance brokers and their clients. It was at this time that London gained the title of an international hub of capitalism (Schivelbusch, Wolfgang, and David Jacobson, 39).

Stimulants, Drug Use, and Ethics

In the middle ages, alcohol usage was widely accepted in society. Alcohol was used as the main beverage. At the time, people saw nothing wrong in alcohol consumption and proudly celebrated it. Alcohol was a source of happiness and the main drink during social interactions. This, however, came to be controversial since it often led to immorality. In the sixteenth century, the Puritan ideology condemned alcohol use. Although there was reluctance in abandoning alcohol consumption, reduced alcohol use in society had several benefits such as a higher developed society and more work discipline.

Hot beverages came to substitute alcohol use at around the 17th century. Coffee use became widely accepted. Some scholars view coffee as the beverage that saved society from drunkenness. Coffee made people sober by stimulating their bodies. It awakened humanity and made them more productive in their work. They were able to work for longer hours thus contributing to the economy in a positive manner. Carolus Linnaeus, who was a naturalist, viewed coffee as an artificial stimulant that kept people awake at the expense of their health (Schivelbusch, Wolfgang, and David Jacobson, 41).

Cocaine was at first used for its medicinal value as well as a stimulant. Its production and trade were legal in the mid 19th century. It was a major cash crop in Latin America. Cocaine was later found to be very addictive and was highly abused. This prompted the illegalization of production and distribution of cocaine in the mid 20th century. Cocaine use has been connected with many social evils. It has often been linked with crime, impairs judgment, and reduces the productivity of the users.


Latin America has been a key player in the global economic transformation. It is a resource-endowed continent that produces stimulants and drugs. The international trade for these products has a close correlation to the global socio-economic development. This paper analyzes the various ways in which the trade of stimulants and drugs played a key role in the economic prosperity in Europe (Topik, Steven, 105). It also discusses the ethical issues associated with various stimulants and drugs. Ethical issues affected the acceptability of different products at different eras in history.

Work cited

Mintz, Sidney W. The Power Of Sweetness And The Sweetness Of Power. Amsterdam, Van Loghum Slaterus, 1988,.

Schivelbusch, Wolfgang, and David Jacobson. Tastes Of Paradise. New York, Vintage Books, 1993,.

Topik, Steven. From Silver To Cocaine. Durham, Duke Univ. Press, 2007,.

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