Latin American Literature, United Fruit Company and Banana Trade

. . . The Fruit Company, Inc.

Reserved for itself the most succulent,

 The central coast of my own land,

 The delicate waist of the Americas.

It rechristened its territories

 As the “Banana Republics”,

 And over the sleeping dead,

 Over the restless heroes

 Who brought about the greatness,

 The liberty and the flags,

It established a comic opera. . . .

– Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, won Noble Prize in 1971

In 1871, American enterprenur Henry Meiggs was constructing railway line for government of Costa Rica. To feed rail workers he came up with idea of planting banana trees along the railway line. Soon he started exporting bananas to US and found it to be profitable business.


This lead of formation of a company called United Fruit Company. The company in order to earn more profits started using unfair trade practices. They forced the governments of banana growing countries like Costa Rica, Guatemala and Honduras to grant company more and more land at concessional rates to grow bananas. This annexation of land resulted in many farmers becoming landless; they were then employed as labour in banana farm at low wages. The company maintained its monopoly by preventing other companies and individuals from competing with it.


This combination of forced monopoly, acquisition of land at concessional rate and use of cheap labour resulted in low cost of production for company, while they sold product in US at high price.

The company did not stop here; it started interfering in political system of the countries and ensured that government of their choice was in power. They also started controlling economy of the country as country was now dependent of export of bananas. Writer O’ Henry coined term for such countries – Banana Republics.


This had influence on literature of Latin America. Columbian author Gabriel García Márquez talks about exploitation of labour by Banana company in his book One Hundred Years of Solitude (where company massacres banana plantation workers who have gone on strike to protest against inhuman working conditions and dump their bodies in sea.)


Guatemalan author Miguel Ángel Asturias has written three books on how a banana company exploits local people, prevents them from competing with company- The Green Pope, The Eyes of the Interred and Strong Wind

strong windgreen popeeyes of interred

Both Miguel and Gabriel won Nobel Prize for their works.


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