The coca leaf is a huge part of Peruvian culture and has been for centuries. For many South Americans, coca is part of their everyday lives, much like coffee is for inhabitants of other parts of the world. Coca, however, also holds important significance in rituals and in religious practices in Peru, and it’s also used for its medicinal purposes.
According to historians and archeologists, Andeans have been using coca for at least 8,000 years, suggesting that the leaves were chewed with lime. Hard evidence has been discovered in mummies from around 1,000 B.C., in which traces of coca were detected. Coca became an integral part of rites and ceremonies with the Incas, who believed the plant was a direct gift from the gods. Ancient images of Incan Emperors often depict the leaders wearing a coca pouch over their hearts.
Traditionally, coca has been used in a variety of ways in Peru, and many are still used today. For example, the leaves are used in a ritual of thanks to the earth, the mountains, and the sun. Reading the leaves is believed to reveal future events, also. The practice of placing coca leaves in the grave with the deceased is largely observed in modern Peru, just as it has been since the time of Incan mummies.
The coca leaf is also used in celebrations today, just as it has been for thousands of years in the Andean culture. It’s considered a cherished gift and a way to show honor and respect to the receiver. When a Peruvian male chooses a girl to marry, he often presents her father with coca leaves. When a new baby is added to a family, the father often passes out coca leaves to friends and relatives to celebrate the occasion. Source: http://www.actforlibraries.org/the-coca-leaf-in-peruvian-culture/