Student Research Projects

Cochineal

Student Amanda Baxter, '17
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department Foreign Languages and Literature
Course Spanish 313: Seminar in Hispanic Cultures

Abstract

In the history of Latin American cultures, there is a small insect that changed the way these people lived. This bug, called cochineal, was discovered and domesticated and has since had a huge impact on the business world and the environment since the time it started making its way around the globe. These include positive and negative impacts. In the industrialization of business products, cochineal had a significant role. It created more opportunities for different styles in clothing throughout Europe. The dye can also be used in food and makeup to give a crimson color. However, in the past the Spanish had a monopoly over the industry, which meant that they got to control the price and who could buy it. The production of this insect is also expensive and hard work.

When it comes to the environment, cochineal is beneficial as opposed to chemical dyes because it is all natural and not harmful, unlike chemical dyes. However, the argument can be made that cochineal production is bad for the environment, and in my research I have found that the negative impacts outweigh the positives. The harvesting of cochineal exploits the species. It also puts the species in danger of extinction, which can be detrimental to the entire food chain and ecosystem. This exploitation also allows the cochineal industry to grow and consume more resources.