Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, History, Northwestern University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2009
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, New York University (NYU)
The Marijuana Axis: The First Narcotics Boom and the “War on Drugs” in Colombia, 1955-1985

By the time cocaine traffic became one the most profitable and problematic industries of the Western hemisphere, the marijuana boom of the 1970s in the Colombian Caribbean coast had already established the blueprint for drug production, trade, and repression in the country that is today one of the world's principal site for the manufacture and export of narcotics. In order to examine the first boom of narcotics exports in Colombia, and the first target of the U.S "war on drugs" in the Andes, my dissertation pays attention to local, regional, national, and international developments in the realms of marijuana production, trade, and repression. The boom, popularly known as la bonanza marimbera, spread nationally, yet its place of origins and main center of production and commercialization remained in the Guajira peninsula, which borders Venezuela, as well as in the neighboring Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, a lawless zone never fully integrated into either Spanish colonial regime or the modern Colombian nation-state. My dissertation proposes that similar to the coffee business in the early twentieth century, the marijuana trade in the late twentieth century constituted a new nexus for capital accumulation, novel forms of social mobility and class formation, new popular identities expressed as gendered regional discourses, and practices of state repression that reshaped hemispheric relations. Rather than considering the marijuana boom as the result of the absence of the state in a peripheral frontier zone, I examine it as a crucial prelude to the rapid extension of the drug economy that came to dominate Colombian politics, society, culture at the end of the twentieth century. It represented a turning point in the relation with the U.S., insofar it served as a laboratory for the "war on drugs" in the broader Andean region.