Did you know that the first bananas that reached U.S. soil came from Honduras?
They were shipped in 1860 from Utila, an island located off the North
Coast of Honduras. Following the U.S. Civil War, the banana trade exploded
in Honduras. Three economic powerhouses soon dominated the market: the
United, Standard, and Cuyamel Fruit Companies. These foreign corporations
received large grants of land from the Honduran government, and in exchange,
constructed badly needed railroads, shipping, and port facilities.
But they forsake their promise to build a railroad that would join Honduras'
capital with the Northern banana towns. This caused uneven growth because
the North Coast was more closely linked to New Orleans than Tegucigalpa,
the nation's capital. Also, small, domestic producers were forced to accept
the arbitrary banana prices set by large corporations, which monopolized
the market. By the 1920s, the Honduran economy was dependent on the world
banana market, since bananas accounted for 80% of domestic exports. Thus,
Honduras was dealt a shattering blow when banana prices collapsed due
to epidemics and unrest in Europe prior to World War II.
The Garinagu, in particular, suffered the brunt of this economic crisis.
Large numbers of Garífuna men had been hired as field hands to pick and
load bananas for export. Garífuna communities were built overnight around
the ports in La Ceiba, Tela, and Cortes. When banana companies suspended
their operations and pulled their railroads, many Garífuna families were
left with no alternative source of income. As a result, many Garífuna
males enlisted in the U.S. and British merchant marines, who needed new
recruits because many had left for war. This established a pattern of
outward migration due to limited
Current Event: Following the wake of devastation left by Hurricane
Mitch, the Honduran government reported 8,058 officially dead or missing
and 617, 831 evacuated or homeless (ECLAC Report 1999). To make matters
worse, Standard Fruit Company, a subsidiary of Dole Foods, laid off 8,000
banana workers - 3,600 of whom were women and 40% single mothers. Tela
Railroad Company, a subsidiary of Chiquita International, also dismissed
7,000 employees, including 2,000 women that worked in packing factories
(Barraclough and Moss 15).
Many banana workers lost their homes and relatives in the storm. And without
an income, many are turning to prostitution or odd jobs to meet their
basic needs. A 31-year old Honduran women, Mereyda Reyes Fajardo from
La Lima says, "I don't know what I'm going to do. I used to make $20 a
week packing bananas. Now I get $5.50 a week to wash clothes and that's
only if I do a lot of ironing" (Garvin 6). Even though operations will
soon reopen, the banana companies are accused of delaying the rehiring
process to weaken the Banana Union Central Council (COSIBAH). The Council
has insisted on long-term solutions to problems of unemployment and environmental
degradation (Barraclough and Moss 15, 17). Also, the banana companies
have been criticized for installing modern irrigation and packing equipment
to cut labor costs by 15% (Garvin 5).
Visit the below links for more information on this current event. Read
about the allegations that Standard Fruit's nightly fumigations have caused
Honduran children to be born with brain
Related Current Events Links:
Banana Action Net:
for the respect of labor rights on banana plantations; Mitch;
Ecolabeling Program is World's Largest. Rainforest Action Alliance.
Bananas have strong
impact on North Coast cuisines (scroll down). Wendy Griffin. Honduras
This Week, 7/20/98.
Dole Food Company Homepage
Del Monte Homepage
rebuilding, Chiquita strives for eco-friendly bananas (scroll down).
Wendy Griffin. Honduras This Week, 7/99.
Related Deaths Under. Juan Ramon Duran. Inter Press Service, 2/26/98.
The Banana Chain:
The macro economics of the Banana Trade. Adelien van de Kasteele on
behalf of IUF Amsterdam, International
Banana Conference Document. February 1998.
Better Banana Project. Rainforest Action Alliance.
Impact of the Banana Industry: A Case Study of Costa Rica. Yamileth
Astorga. International Banana Conference Document.
Click here for more links in Spanish.