Human beings have always found in plants, mushrooms and even animals the substances we need to cure our afflictions, those of the body and soul. In the caves of Tassili, Algeria and Altamira, Spain, discoveries have been made of representations of hallucinogenic mushrooms that grant powers to those who consume them. There are also references in ancient poems to intoxicating concoctions that enliven the senses and favor knowledge. From the Yaqui to the Mapuche, the peoples of this continent use vines, cacti and the sweat of batrachians in their sacred rituals. Regardless of the culture we belong to or the beliefs we hold, the experiences—even the visions—that entheogens provoke are the same, or at least very similar, since the human brain possesses the receptors it needs to be stimulated. When this takes place, a sort of mystical ecstasy is generated. Mexico is the territory with the widest variety of hallucinogenic plants in the world. Thanks to Huichol art and to the shamans from Huautla, but also to songs from the years of the Mexican Revolution that celebrated the use of marijuana, drugs are present in our collective imagination in many ways. For decades, the drug trade and the violence it brings about have been reflected ad nauseam in our cultural expressions. The films of Everardo Castillo and Carlos Reygadas immediately spring to mind, but there are also the narcocorridos or drug ballads and the ex-votos made for Malverde, the so-called “narco-saint”. Given the importance and omnipresence of this subject, devoting an issue to drugs was inevitable. In this edition, the Odyssey and poems by Nezahualcóyotl sit side-by-side, while a dialogue establishes itself between Enid Blyton, Rosario Castellanos and Susan Sontag. In his essay “The High Text,” Luigi Amara takes a look at writers whose works narrate experiences of intoxication—which are almost always intentional—and assembles a library of essential books on the subject. Sonia Weiss, Alí Cortina, and Michael Pollan describe the immense contributions substances like mescaline and psilocybin have made to modern psychiatry and pharmacology. In a beautiful personal chronicle entitled “A Winter Underground,” Daniel Saldaña París recounts his addiction to morphine and the subterfuge he resorted to in order to get hold of this powerful painkiller. In “Drugs of Our Lives” Maia F. Miret recalls that seemingly harmless products such as coffee, sugar, and fats can also lead to addictions and alter our state of consciousness. In this month’s comic strip, the renowned narrator and cartoonist Bef tells us about the origin of “straight edge” philosophy, whose devotees avoid all intoxicants. José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez describes the close relationship that exists between the prohibition of marijuana and the import of weapons from the United States, while Jorge Javier Romero Vadillo explains why it is so difficult to quantify the colossal contribution of drug trafficking to our economy. And what about the topic of healthcare and public policy? Are governments accomplishing their goals of dissuasion and providing the support that addicts need? Jorge Hernández Tinajero and Carlos Magis respond categorically to this last question. From Moses to the Beatles, with María Sabina, Andy Warhol, Lewis Carroll, and Nina Simone in between, drugs have played—and still play—a fundamental role in art, sacred rituals and the different medicinal practices of the world. This is why it is not difficult to foresee that in spite of the attempts and the efforts made by governments to penalize their consumption, they will remain in our midst. If we compare the number of lives that have been lost to drugs with those that the “war” against them claims every day, the disparity is immense. The condemnatory and punitive system established in the mid 20th century has not only failed but has also had disastrous consequences for society. It is in our interest to be informed and to design an effective way of managing the consumption of narcotics. The question then, is not whether or not we will manage to one day eradicate drugs, but how to find the most harmonious way to live alongside them.
Imagen de portada: Cartón de LSD. Imagen de Romina Hernández, 2008.