Bananas. Healthy. Tasty. Cheap. Who doesn’t love bananas?
But tell me, does it really matter how amazing bananas are if they are killing, raping, sterilising, abusing, damaging and forcing humans to flee their homes? Are you in doubt? Well, give me a couple of minutes to explain it to you, then you can live with a conscious choice to ignore or make a difference to human exploitation.
Have you ever considered why bananas are the cheapest fruit in the supermarket? No, me neither. I was blinded by happiness of affordable groceries. But when the truth came to me, slapped me in the face and left me guilty in my love for bananas, I could no longer ignore a history of abuse and an industry that is sacrificing human life in order for you and me to eat cheap fruit.
I was doing research for my paper on the Colombian Conflict when I came across an event in 1928 known as the Banana Massacre. The US company United Fruit had ordered the Colombian army to open fire against ‘bananeros’ (banana workers) who had decided that enough was enough, the exploitation had gone beyond what was acceptable. They demonstrated their frustration through a strike on the 6th of December when bullets started flying. The number of deaths have never been established, but more than thousand people are estimated to have died and many more injured. Basic labour rights, like 6 day work week and 8 hour days, was demanding too much thought the United Fruit Company. Why? Well, the UFC had ambitions of making banana the cheapest fruit in all of the US. How do we achieve this? We save as much as possible and spend as little as possible. Workers who were threatening their profits had to be shut down, regardless of methods and consequences.
Wow, I thought. I couldn’t imagine such awful disregard for human life. Could I forget about this? It was nearly 90 years ago and surely conditions have improved drastically. As I scrolled further down on google I came across a video, ‘Banana land’. Let’s have a look, maybe I can find some more sources for my paper.
It took an hour to change the way I see bananas forever. You think I am dramatic? They’re just bananas. Have a look, I dare you and see if you still think I am overreacting.
Is it overreacting when daughters are being raped and sons are being murdered so that I can eat cheap bananas?
Is it overreacting when women are being mutilated and men sterilised so that multimillion companies can squeeze out every penny possible to make a few rich men even richer? I thought 1928 was a world away, but it turns out it was only the beginning of an industry thriving on the death and repression of those who have nothing.
Let me tell you something. You know those companies Chiquita and Dole? Those we buy products from on a daily basis? Those who we are making richer with our money every day? What if I told you that millions of the dollars we keep feeding into their pockets are being used to pay paramilitary groups in Colombia to murder and torment bananeros and their families so that they can get wealthier and the poor stay poor.
You know what they also did? They also continued using pesticides in Latin America that had been banned in the US because it was sterilising men. Did they tell their banana workers of the situation that might arise? No. What other way of understanding this is there, than a total and intentional disregard of an indisputable human right? Who has the right to play God?
Too many incidents of violation have happened. Too many dead people, too many lives ruined to say that the past is the past, let’s look forward. Cause if conditions have improved, why is that? It’s because someone caught them red handed. It’s because someone stood up and said what you are doing is wrong and it needs to stop.
It’s easy to turn your back on problems, I know. But who can make a difference? We can. This is in no way a horrific reality exclusive to the banana industry, but one has to start somewhere and I am grateful to those who made me realise that ignorance is not an option. The banana is more than just a fruit. It represents an industry that is vicious and inhumane. It represents thousands of people living in poverty, who have so little and who because of these conditions are victims of the brutality and worst traits of capitalism and consumerism. Take action, don’t buy bananas from Latin America, don’t support these inhumane companies and be aware of where your product comes from. Bananeros are husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. They are you and me.
You can’t do everything, but everyone can do something.
This is the truth. Now you have read it. Can you keep ignoring it?
Please take the time to watch Banana Land or this video clip to see why you need to take action.