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Bananas and Business: The United Fruit Company in Colombia, 1899-2000

Marcelo Bucheli
Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Bananas and Business
    Book Description:

    Publisher Description not available

    eISBN: 978-1-4798-3822-6
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-23)

    In 1967, Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez publishedOne Hundred Years of Solitude, a work for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize.One Hundred Years of Solitudesoon became obligatory reading for anyone interested in Latin America.¹

    The novel tells of the inhabitants of an imaginary Colombian-Caribbean town, Macondo—a quiet village inhabited by people from different parts of Colombia who settled there after the country’s nineteenthcentury civil wars. The town’s calm is disturbed by the sudden arrival of what García Márquez calls the “leaf storm.” The “leaf storm” represents the arrival of an American banana company that changes...

  5. 2 From Hotel Luxury Suites to Working-Class Lunchboxes
    (pp. 24-43)

    In the 1880s, Americans had never heard of bananas. A decade later, they were being sold in major American cities in individually wrapped tinfoil packages as luxury goods. By the 1910s, they were considered a cheap fruit—part of the basic diet of the growing American urban working class. After the 1930s, Americans could find bananas in any grocery store or supermarket across the country at any time of year. Bananas were no longer considered an exotic fruit; they became a common part of breakfast with traditional food such as bread and milk. A national mass consumption of bananas was...

  6. 3 The United Fruit Company in Latin America: Business Strategies in a Changing Environment
    (pp. 44-85)

    This chapter examines the evolution of the United Fruit Company’s business strategies throughout the twentieth century. The company had to adapt to the changing political environment in Latin America; these changes were facilitated by technical improvements in the banana industry. Prior to World War II, the company built its production and distribution empire following vertical integration. This system ensured the coordinated flow of highly perishable bananas to their final markets. United Fruit had good relationships with most of the governments of the countries in which it operated, so its huge investments were safe from any threat. Additionally, United Fruit used...

  7. 4 The United Fruit Company and Local Politics in Colombia
    (pp. 86-117)

    The United Fruit company did not wield the same kind of political and economic influence in Colombia that it wielded in Central America.¹ Chapter 3 described how the evolution of Latin American politics forced the company to change the way it operated throughout the region. This was even more true for Colombia, where United Fruit was more affected by the changes in the national political environment. Eventually, Colombia’s political and economic development through the century encouraged United Fruit to divest its operations in Colombia earlier than in its Central American divisions.

    United Fruit’s relationship with the Colombian government was different...

  8. 5 The Labor Conflicts of the United Fruit Company in Magdalena in the 1920s
    (pp. 118-136)

    No issue related to the history of United Fruit in Colombia has been more studied than the labor relations with its workforce in the 1920s. Pioneering studies by Catherine LeGrand and Judith White focus on the social conflicts surrounding the 1928 strike that ended in the city of Ciénaga when the Colombian army opened fire against peaceful and unarmed demonstrators, killing several of them. The strike was made infamous by Gabriel García Márquez’s novelOne Hundred Years of Solitude,which has remained the primary point of reference for the labor history of United Fruit in Colombia. White’s study is important...

  9. 6 Nobody’s Triumph: Labor Unionism in Magdalena after World War II
    (pp. 137-148)

    After the 1928 strike, the Magdalena banana labor unions grew stronger. Their power reached a peak after World War II when workers managed to win unprecedented benefits from United Fruit as well as win almost every conflict with the company. The labor unions became so powerful that United Fruit eventually opted to gradually divest their operations in Magdalena, transferring all the production activity—along with all the associated labor conflicts—to local producers. In this way, United Fruit freed itself from its increasingly demanding employees. When the company finally pulled out of Magdalena in the mid-1960s, workers found they could...

  10. 7 The United Fruit Company’s Relationship with Local Planters in Colombia
    (pp. 149-179)

    United Fruit relied heavily on local planters for its banana export business even before its divestiture. However, the relationship between United Fruit and local planters in Magdalena and Urabá has not been studied by scholars, who have mainly focused on labor conflicts. Judith White interviewed some planters and described the elite’s view of the 1928 strike. Catherine LeGrand went further by analyzing how the local elite benefited from the presence of United Fruit and what kind of conflicts existed between the planters and the company. Neither studied what happened to the Magdalena local planters after the 1928 strike or after...

  11. 8 Conclusion
    (pp. 180-190)

    In the early twentieth century, the United Fruit Company developed a production and distribution network of bananas from Colombia and Central America to the United States. The company vertically integrated during the first half of the century and began a divestiture process after World War II. United Fruit began its Colombian operations in the region of Magdalena in the early 1900s and exported bananas from its own plantations and local providers until World War II, which interrupted its operations. By the time United Fruit returned in 1947, Colombian-owned export companies had launched their own operations. In the early 1950s, the...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 191-214)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 215-230)
  14. Index
    (pp. 231-240)
  15. About the Author
    (pp. 241-241)