At the height of the barbasco trade, thousands of Mexican peasants harvested "more than ten tons of wild yams" from "the tropical humid areas of Oaxaca, Veracruz, Tabasco, and Chiapas on a weekly basis.
Proquivemex)/Mexican Chemical Vegetable Products, Echeverria hoped to "displace the middlemen and become the link between barbasco pickers and transnational corporations.
Writing a fascinating text based on interviews with former barbasco pickers as well as archival sources, Soto Laveaga historicizes and politicizes the process by which rural Oaxacans became involved in the process of drug development.
Throughout these chapters, we see the intricate details of the Pill's development alongside the lives of the campesinos: the difficulty of finding yams, the ease in selling them to interested scientists and pharmaceutical companies, the fluctuating price, and the lack of knowledge in the countryside of what happened to the barbasco after a sale was made.
After the boom burst, they found other exotic cargo such as barbasco
, a root that Indians still use to poison fish.
At the same time, Syntex was in desperate need of Rosenkranz' expertise because Russell Marker, a mercurial chemist from Pennsylvania State University, had left the company and taken with him critical details about how to synthesize progesterone from an inedible Mexican yam root called barbasco
, or cabeza de Negro.