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Banana: Ethnobotany, Public Relations, CIA Covert Ops, and the Plant that Transformed the 20th Century

A presentation for Mr. Tripodi's Honors History 9 class at Blackhawk High School.

jeff tripodi

on 25 April 2014

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Transcript of Banana: Ethnobotany, Public Relations, CIA Covert Ops, and the Plant that Transformed the 20th Century

Ethnobotany, Public Relations, CIA Covert Ops,
and the Plant that Transformed the 20th Century

Along the way, I had the opportunity to pass through the dominions of the United Fruit, convincing me once again of just how terrible these capitalist octopuses are. I have sworn before a picture of the old and mourned comrade Stalin that I won't rest until I see these capitalist octopuses annihilated.
-Che Guevara, 1953
Cast of Characters
Che Guevara
If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, it is now possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without them knowing it.
-Edward Bernays, 1928
Edward Bernays
Mohammad Mossadegh
"If I sit silently,
I have sinned."
-Mohammad Mossadegh, 1951
Kermit Roosevelt, Jr.
Jacobo Arbenz
Samuel Zemurray
Jorge Ubico
Allen Dulles
Dwight Eisenhower
Fidel Castro
Cast of Corporations
Agriculture and ethnobotanical history
John Foster Dulles
Minor Keith
Media and Further Study
Mossadegh overthrown (1953 newsreel)
American Coup (2011) movie trailer
Edward Bernays on 'Late Night' (1984)
Chiquita Banana commercial (1947)
From 'The Century of the Self' (2002)
Part 1
Part 2
Guatemalan Human Rights Commission, USA "fact sheet"
New South Wales, Australia, guide to growing Cavendish bananas
United Fruit Co. Historical Society biography of Jacobo Arbenz
We all know how cities have been bombed and strafed, women and children have suffered... That was an act of vengeance by the United Fruit Company.
1975 CIA memo detailing its role in Arbenz overthrow (declassified in 2003)
-Jacobo Arbenz, 1954
1909-1939: Delicious and healthful
1939-1950: Twice as much… for a nickel, too!
1950-1953: The light refreshment
1953-1961: Be sociable
1961-1963: For those who think young
1963-1967: Come alive! You’re in the Pepsi Generation
1967-1969: The taste that beats the others cold
1969-1973: You’ve got a lot to live; Pepsi’s got a lot to give
1973-1975: Join the Pepsi People feelin’ free
1975-1978: Have a Pepsi Day
1978-1981: Catch that Pepsi spirit
1981-1982: Pepsi’s got your taste for life!
1983-1983: Pepsi now!
1984-present: The choice of a new generation
Renaissance - c.1925
c.1925 - present
"I am like Hitler. I execute first and ask questions later."
-Gen. Jorge Ubico, 1938
"In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians.

This history is well known. Rather than remain trapped in the past, I have made it clear to Iran's leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward."

-Barack Obama, Cairo, June 2009
A (very) brief history of advertising
William G.S. Cavendish
6th Duke of Devonshire (1790-1857)
The origin of the banana is unclear, but it's likely native to Indonesia.
Banana stand in Tanzania
There are over 1,000 varieties of banana.
Of these, roughly 20 are commercially cultivated.
hands and fingers
All bananas are clones.
Seedless, sterile
Genetically identical
Herb, fruit, or seed?
Gros Michel
Dan Koeppel tries his first Gros Michel
Gros Michel
Bananas are predictable.
From green to fully ripe in seven days
gas-controlled truck
ripening room
("Big Mike")
Larger, tastier
Pliny the Elder called bananas "the food of the sages" in 67 C.E.
Alexander the Great brought bananas back to Macedonia in 326 B.C.E.
In 400 C.E., Saint Jerome completes the Vulgate for Pope Damascus I.
malum=evil; malum=apple
Apples did not grow naturally in Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, or other geographically likely Edens
Bananas soon spread throughout the old world.
Some African nations:
Bananas= 80% caloric intake
The average American eats ~11 pounds of bananas a year.
The average Ugandan eats ~500 pounds of bananas a year.
...and we eat more bananas than apples and oranges combined.
Better texture
Thicker skin
Bananas are thus also prone to epidemic disease.
Easier to ship
Dominant banana in U.S. consumer market, 1880-1970
More "banana-y"
Considered inferior to Gros Michel
Must be shipped in boxes
Resistant to Panama Disease
Fear: "New Coke"
You recently ate one.
Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense
Panama Disease
Destroyed Gros Michel to brink of extinction
Highly contagious fungus
If you are an average American, about forty years old, you are approaching banana ten thousand...

Everywhere they've appeared, bananas have changed the culture that embraced them.
-Dan Koeppel, author
'Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World'
Widely introduced to the United States at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876
At the 1876 Expo, the bananas were cut and served in foil.

This was considered "more respectable" in the Victorian Age.
Minor Keith
"The uncrowned king of Central America"
The first of the bananamen
Railroad baron
Built railroads in Costa Rica, 1871-1890
Similar problems to Panama Canal
Bananas = food for rail workers
Costa Rica runs out of money
Land for rails
First bunch in New York City: 1804
Late 1840s:
25c for a Cuban Red banana
Widespread by 1890s. Why?
1. Advances in transportation
2. Rise of middle class
3. Birth of nutrition movement
4. Bananas are seasonless
Day 1
Day 2
Al Jolson sings "Yes, We Have No Bananas" (1930)
United Fruit Company
Anglo-Iranian Oil Company
Married into Costa Rican royal family
Created the first true multinational American company
Minor Keith heads to Costa Rica
Keith builds Costa Rican railroad under terrible conditions
1885: Establishes Boston Fruit Company
[Spanish-American War]
1873: Keith plants bananas to feed his workers
United Fruit Company established; controls
75% of U.S. banana market
1904: Guatemala's dictator trades 99-year lease for UFCo.'s promise to build national railroad
1903- Panama Disease
1910: Sam Zemurray overthrows Honduras
[Great Depression]
1929: Zemurray's Cuyamel Fruit is bought out with UFCo. stock.
1933: Zemurray takes control of UFCo.
1944: Miss Chiquita Banana is born
1945: Juan Jose Arevalo elected in wake of Guatemalan uprising
1954: CIA overthrows Guatemalan government
1951: Jacobo Arbenz elected Guatemalan president
1932- Sullivan and Cromwell represents UFCo. Chief counsel: JFD
John Watson Foster
Day 3
Author O. Henry coins phrase "banana republic"
1978: First Banana Republic opens in San Francisco
“Look at the mess we’ve got ourselves into,” Colonel Aureliano Buendia said at the time, “just because we invited a gringo to eat some bananas.”

—Gabriel Garcia Marquez
One Hundred Years of Solitude
The trade-off:
Developing nations and first-world corporations
Governments get
Corporations get
telephone lines
free use/passage
Mohammad Reza Shah
Mohammad Reza Shah
Opening sequence of Argo (2012)
Full transcript