Cannabis in Mexico, from Colombus to the present days
Cannabis in Mexico. The first appearance of hemp in Mexico happened in October, 12th of 1492 with the arrival, by mistake, of the Admiral Colombus to the new world. It was a mistake of enormous importance that was going to change the concept of the world and favor the exchange of goods, animals and people between the old and new world.
The 3 ships that arrived in New Spain, the Pinta, the Niña and the Santa María, had sails made with hemp fiber, an unknown fabric among the natives. Therefore, we can say that hemp arrived in Mexico and America thanks to a mistake.
Probably, the most important war to consolidate the Spanish Empire in the new world was against the Aztecs. After the fall of Tenochtitlán in 1521, Hernán Cortés decided to bring from Spain different plants to activate the economy of New Spain. Among the new imported plants there was cannabis sativa indica. Millions of seeds were brought in order to create new cultures to obtain the fabric needed to pursue new voyages for the Crown of Spain.
It was a farmer of great skill, Pedro Cuadrado, who brought the seeds and began to cultivate them. The Catholic Church, through Fray Juan de Zumárraga, gave enormous parcels of its own to teach the Indians how to cultivate hemp. In his ranch in Chanco were created tons of cultures. However, the Indians didn’t show interest in learning because hemp was a way to pay taxes to the new Landlords.
In the XVI century, any decision had to be approved by the King of Spain. In 1545, the Emperor Charles V, authorized the cultivation of hemp all over the West Indies. He knew that only cultivating a lot of hemp Spain could continue building sails for the ships needed to conquer new territories. Spain was the first maritime power and hemp was absolutely necessary. Carlos V gave specific orders to teach the Indians how to germinate the seeds and how to cultivate the plants. Moreover, he ordered to teach them how to manufacture the sails of the ships.
Unfortunately, Spaniards took to the new world new diseases that killed 19 millions of Indians between 1509 and 1618.
On the other hand, at that time slavery was in full swing. Millions of slaves were brought from West Africa to the new world. These Africans were used to consume cannabis for medical and ritual purposes. Very soon Africans and Indians exchanged their customs and began to use cannabis for the same purposes.
Cannabis became natural medicine and the women were in charge to cure people. They decided the doses and treatments needed in any case. These healers had to be named either Juana or María. Synthesizing both names the term Mariguana was born.
Version of Jack Herer
However, the cannabis legendary activist Jack Herer had a different version. He said that it was in 1895, during the Mexican revolution, when the word marijuana was first used by the followers of Pancho Villa.
The famous song “the cockroach” is a typical Mexican “corridor” that the troops used to sing. Here are the lyrics.
The cockroach, the cockroach
Cannot walk anymore
Because she hasn’t , because she is lacking
Marijuana to smoke
The cockroach already died
And they took her to be buried
Among 4 vultures and a mouse from San Cristan
In the north lives Villa
In the south lives Zapata
And I want revenge
For the death of Madero
From the whiskers of a moor
I have to make a broom
To sweep the barracks
Of the Spanish infantry
It is probably Villa who popularized the term among the Americans. Anyway, we wanted to raise the two hypotheses.
Americans think the word marijuana is a contraction of the names Maria and Juana (Narcotics Identification Manual , 1994). This hypothesis is basically the equivalent of the previous theory we exposed about the women named María and Juana.
For the first time in the Spanish overseas territories cannabis went from having an industrial use to a medical and ritual purpose. Anyhow, these new consumers used to smoke underground. They knew that the conquerors , especially the Church, did not allow the ritual use of cannabis.
However, in the century XVIII, the Jesuits, the most progressive wing of the Catholic Church, promoted the medical use of the plant in the east of Mexico. In 1772, the writer and philosopher Juan Antonio Alzate is pronounced openly in favor of the medical benefits in an article published in his own newspaper named Asuntos varios (different issues). In this article he attacks the repressive church policy alleging that cannabis was an important part of the Indian idiosyncrasy in the century XVI.
Mrs Juanita and the ragged people
It was the poorest people who took away cannabis from its medical and ritual status to the poor neighborhoods, where criminals and poor prevailed. They wanted to enjoy cannabis for fun and forget their miseries and poverty. It is precisely in this moment when the word “Doña Juanita” is born, as a pseudonym of cannabis. This term represents how cannabis went from its medical and ritual use to a new concept of fun.
Francisco Ponce, Governor of Colima State, tried to prohibit cultivating cannabis in
mid-nineteenth century. But the dictator Francisco López de Santa Anna absolutely oppsed. It was precisely then when the famous song “lamariguana” was born. The society was going through a period of convulsion, poverty and revolution.
All the political parties hated cannabis and its consumers. Firstly because most consumers were what they called “léperos”, a word that means criminals, poor or both. And secondly because the thought that cannabis induced to crime and madness.
In 1862 was born the stereotype of “mariguano” in a jail in Belén. The mariguanos were considered the worst of society because they used to bribe the guards to introduce cannabis and alcohol in jail.
With the industrial development of the country, the new middle class takes cannabis out of social oblivion. It becomes an important way to enjoy life. In fact, this phenomenon occurs with most drugs and in many countries. In Mexico cannabis was sold in pharmacies and announced in newspapers. The ritualistic meaning of cannabis became a new way to have fun. The bohemian of the last third of 19th century went even further and made of cannabis a question of fashion. It becomes a question of aesthetics and a new way of living. Obviously, this new way of thinking proved to be dangerous because it was used not only for cannabis but for all kind of drugs; hard drugs too.
It is funny that is capitalism the vehicle that carries cannabis from the poorest places to the highest peaks of bourgeoisie and fashion.
However, as we said, this new mentality was for all drugs. It was a question of time hearing the first warnings from people worried for this situation.
The great socio-cultural revolt
This change of attitude toward marihuana is expressed as a new way of living that has its own prophets who explain how to get the maximum pleasure. This is the way new artists like José Guadalupe Quesada who in 1903 creates the history of “Don Chepito Mariguano”.
After the murder of Francisco Madero, the Mexican revolution becomes more bloodthirsty. After the coup of Victoriano Huerta, the Mexican society is covered of blood, violence and marijuana. The society rejects the coup and is then when the song “la cucaracha” is created. The song talks about the love of this man for cannabis.
In 1915 the followers of Venustiano Carranza prohibit the cannabis and this is written in the new Constitution of 1917. These followers didn’t get out marijuana from the streets. But they marginalized it and a new cast of anti-prohibitionism politicians appeared. Many cops looked aside when it came to marihuana and were given a “mordida”, a bribe.
In 1920, Venustiano Carranza ratifies the prohibition and declares illegal consuming it. With this new status, police corruption becomes a big problem and it begins a battle between anti-prohibitionism politicians and those who were against the prohibitionism.
In the decade of the twenties appears a new type of consumer named “the snobs” by the society. They are young people who didn’t take part in the revolution but are followers of it. A new party named “los muralistas” came out in 1922. It was leaded by Diego Rivera and tried to allow the use and sale of cannabis.
Another group of these snobs was the one formed by young poets named the “terrazistas” (from the word balcony). Some of its most important members were Xavier Villaurrutia y Salvador Novo, who developed “the culture of the balconies”. Taking advantage of the privacy of the balconies, they spent their time reading poems and smoking marijuana. These new citizens reached the glory and respects through their existentialist philosophy and poems against the war and hate.
Attempt to decriminalize vs U.S.A. prohibitionism
In 1930 cannabis is so accepted in Mexico that nobody hides anymore. It is in the dance halls, student meetings and literary circles. However, the Government doesn’t dare to decriminalize it for fear to the U.S.A. reaction. Because the American Government unilaterally declared the illegalization in 1937.
The famous Doctor Leopoldo Salazar Viniegra, in 1939 tries to decriminalize cannabis proposing to consider the users as sick instead of criminals. It had success for seven months until the pressure from the Americans ended up imposing their repressive thesis.
Rock and Roll and Marijuana
At the beginning of the second half of the century XXI, youth rebels against those laws that they consider unfair. Through the rock and roll many artists go to an audience that besides being cannabis users, consider it a political cause. Although this music was disregarded by the political class and the bourgeoisie, some writers of great talent and success , like José Agustín, with their novels like for example “Inventing that I dream”, or Parménides García Saldaña, en “Green Pasture”, claimed the right to use and consume marijuana.
In 1971, probably it is not a chance it occurs in the same date than the concert of Bangla Desh organized by old members of the Beatles, it is celebrated, without government permit, the rock festival of Avándano. The effect among the followers of the prohibitionism was devastating. They demonized rock and marijuana more than before. In 1978, the journalist Humberto Musaccio encouraged another journalists and intellectuals to fight for the legalization. However, those journalists of communist tendency fought more than never before for the illegalization.
In 1985 the sociologist Juan Pablo García Vallejo published his manifesto named “Manifesto Pacheco” claiming what he called the “psychoactive cultural right”. Already in the 90s, intellectuals as important as Octavio Paz and Carlos Fuentes published several articles for the legalization of cannabis. These writings were extremely relevant because they were written by people who did not smoke cannabis. They were impartial. Their intention was to fight for individual rights and prevent against the drug dealers.
Being sick of so much prohibitionism, many users organize demonstrations on which they introduce themselves as “the Mexican cannabis movement”, also known as the psychoactive social dissent. With enormous strength they pose the debate in the media, universities and also political parties.
They gain so much sympathy and respect among the young people that in 2008 is created the “Iniciativa Conde” to demand the legalization of cannabis for recreational, medical and industrial use.
Another political parties present proposals of partial legalization but not connected with the Cannabis Party. These proposals don’t have much success.
Already in 2009, the ex President Felipe Calderón legalize the personal use of cannabis. More than for personal conviction he acts for realism after seeing how the drug smugglers are winning the war and realizing Mexico is becoming a narco state. The Catholic Church fights against this law but still restricted legalization remains.
In 2011, Marcelo Ebrard, ex chief of the D.F. legalize the human rights for psychoactive substances users. The law of personal doses and the human of psychoactive substances users are a great success of the Cannabis Movement.
Nowadays is legal consuming marijuana but its possession is limited to 5 grams. In 2016, the President Enrique Peña presented a proposal in the Congress to raise this quantity to 28 grams. But it was rejected. The same year, marijuana got out of the list of absolutely forbidden narcotics in the General Law of Heath. This implies it is allowed its medical use as far as the circumstances are agreed by the Department of Health.
Andrés Manuel López Obrador won the last general elections (July 2018). He declined to give his opinion about legalization although his Secretary of Tourism proposed the legalization in all the touristic places. However, López Obrador declined a clear answer and said: “ No comments about it. Because after I will be accused of being supported by the Russians”
This is the situation in Mexico since 1492 until now (2018)