Bananas in Surreptitious Pajamas

I came across this video on the Internet Archives:

It’s a propaganda film for the United Fruit Company, now known as Chiquita Banana.

The Banana Wars soon followed–a series of hostile military take-overs that would ensure economic prosperity for companies like United and help establish the United States as a prominent figure in the economic development of Latin America (thank you Monroe doctrine).

This film was made in the hope of encouraging banana consumption in the U.S.– in order to help justify the colonization of Honduras, Nicaragua and other parts of the Caribbean.

Because of the film’s already troubling inception, I thought it would be fun to look at some of the other problematic narratives running through it:

“Nature at it’s best”- One of the main ideologies behind colonization was the parent/child relationship between that the “developed” or “refined” countries and the colonized countries.  These “unrefined” countries were full of raw materials and resources that could only be made valuable through the process of refinement, which of course, could only be mastered by industrialized countries.  This led to the pillaging of natural resources (in the film you witness devastating deforestation), the under-development of industry in the colonized country and an economic enslavement to the colonizer, where the colonized had to buy back the refined goods at a much higher price.

“An ancient custom…”  The film is full of exoticisms that are absurd.

“Modern irrigation methods”  I guess dynamite is modern enough; they just blew-up a piece of land!

All scenes of railroads– The “deal” colonizers would offer the colonized was the exchange of raw materials for developmental aid. In Honduras, the implementation of railroads came in exchange for the use of land.  From Wiki:

“The first company that concluded an agreement with the Honduras government was the Vaccaro Brothers Company (Standard Fruit Company).[7] The Cuyamel Fruit Company then followed the lead. Furthermore, the United Fruit Company also agreed to a contract with the government, which contract was attained through its subsidies (Tela Rail Road Company and Truxillo Rail Road Company).[7]

There were different avenues that led to the signature of a contract between the Honduras government and the American companies. The most popular avenue would be to obtain a grab on a piece of land in exchange of the completion of railroads in Honduras.[7] It is, thus, the reason why it is a railroad company that conducted the agreement between the United Fruit Company and Honduras.

However, according to Mark Moberg, most banana producers in Central America (including Honduras) “were scourged by Panama disease, a soil-borne fungus (…) that decimated production over large regions”.[8] Therefore, when a plantation would be decimated, the companies would leave the plantation as is, and destroyed the railroads (and other utilities) that they had been using along with the plantation.[8] Therefore, one might argue that the exchange of services between the government and the companies was not always respected.”

“Off to world markets in specially constructed ships of the GREAT WHITE FLEET” Uhh white supremacy. It’s kind of glaring.

“… The banana is as old as history itself… Only recently have scientists discovered its amazing food value” Right, because something can only be deemed legitimate/useful if Western science labels it as such.  It then cuts to men in white coats playing with beakers over a fire– cooking banana fosters I assume.

Old wives tales about bananas- Again, scientists and doctors know what’s up. Your grandma is an idiot.

Anthropomorphized vitamins- Not sure where this fits in, but it’s just creepy.


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