United Fruit Company New Orleans

CLAS Summer Institute for Teachers
"The Octopus and the Banana:
United Fruit in Latin America"
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Other Resources

Video Clips


“Afro-Jamaican traditions and labor organizing on United Fruit Company plantations in Costa Rica, 1910” on The Free Library.

This article discusses the influence of Jamaican culture on the 1910 strike against the United Fruit Co. in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica.

“Assessing Children’s Pesticide Exposure Through a Visual Time Activity Diary” by Karen Phung on the CLAS website: http://clas.berkeley.edu/Research/graduate/summer2008/Phung/index.html

This summer research report details Phung’s work investigating pesticide exposure among the children of banana plantation workers in Costa Rica. This project — a collaboration between Dr. Berna van Wendel de Joode of Costa Rica’s Universidad Nacional, Dr. Christian Lindh from Sweden’s Lund University and UC Berkeley Professor Brenda Eskenazi — is ongoing.

“The Banana War” on Portfolio.com. http://www.portfolio.com/news-markets/international-news/

This article discusses payments made by Chiquita Brands (formerly United Fruit) to Colombian paramilitary death squads between 1997 and 2004.

“Can This Fruit Be Saved” on the online Popular Science site:

This article was the seed from which Dan Koeppel’s book Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World grew. While he says his ideas have evolved since this article was written, it remains a good introduction to the biological problems facing the conventional banana.

“Going Bananas for Energy in Africa” by Matt McGrath for BBC World Service. http://somalilandpress.com/5246/going-bananas-for-energy-in-africa/

While not focused on Latin America, this article describes a new process that turns banana skins into briquettes that can be burned for cooking, lighting and heating.

“The Impacts of Banana Plantation Development in Central America” by Carrie McCracken:  http://members.tripod.com/foro_emaus/BanPlantsCA.htm

This 1998 article provides an overview of the banana industry in Central America.

“Last of the Banana Men” on Penguin.com. http://us.penguingroup.com/static/html/blogs/last-banana-men-0

This article by workshop speaker Dan Koeppel describes his meeting with a former United Fruit scientist who still makes his home in Honduras.



“Bananas Unpeeled: The Hidden Costs of Banana Production and Trade” (http://www.global-ed.org/bananas-unpeeled.pdf) is a curricular unit based on the film “Banana Split.” While tailored to a Canadian audience, it touches on the history of banana production in Latin America as well as current issues such as environmental degradation and working conditions.

“Boots, Bananas and Biodiversity: Interdisciplinary Environmental Activities about Costa Rica for Grades 6-9.” Published online by the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, this curriculum was written by 12 teachers as part of a 1995 Fulbright Group Project on Environmental Literacy. http://www4.uwm.edu/clacs/outreach/curriculum/bbb.cfm

In spite of the title, this curriculum doesn’t spend much time dealing directly with the banana industry. However, it does address many of the problems facing tropical developing countries. It includes sections on community organizations, “eco-tourism” and native species. One of the more interesting lessons is “Shield or Crown: A Tropical Forest Development Game” (Activity 6 in the Environment, Resource Use and Regional Development  section), a simulation that asks students to make trade-offs between economic development, quality of life and environmental concerns.

“Honduras” by the nonprofit Rainforest Alliance (http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/education.cfm?id=seventhmain) includes two lesson plans about the origins of bananas, their consumption in the United States and the organization’s certification program for banana growers.

“Platanos: Learning About Bananas” http://stonecenter.tulane.edu/bananasunpeeled/units.php#UNIT1

by Tulane’s Stone Center for Latin American Studies is a collection of lessons submitted by teachers from various grade levels and disciplines using the film “Banana Split” as inspiration. Note: to view the Stone Center’s materials, you have to apply for a free password.



Most of the films I was able to screen about the banana industry were out of date. Interest seems to have peaked during and immediately after the Central American wars of the 1980s.

“Banana Split” (2002) (http://www.shebafilms.com/films/banana_split.html) is a relatively recent production that “provides an overview of the historical, social, economic, scientific and environmental aspects of banana production.” I was unable to get a copy of the film, but you can read a review of it here: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/caribbean_studies/v036/36.1.clegg.html.
Please see the curriculum section for links to lesson plans based on this film.



Cabbages and Kings by O. Henry is archived here (http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/2777) in its entirety. The novel is set in “Anchuria” (a play on Honduras), and in it O. Henry coins the phrase “banana republic.”

“La United Fruit Co.” by Pablo Neruda. Click here

for the he translation by Jack Schmitt used in the workshop. Alternately, another, slightly different translation is available here: http://cdyoung.typepad.com/weblog/2004/07/poem_united_fru.html


Nonprofits That Focus on the Banana Industry

Banana Link (http://www.bananalink.org.uk/content/view/10/14/lang,en/) is a British NGO that campaigns for a fair and sustainable banana trade.

Fair Trade Labelling Organizations International (http://www.fairtrade.net/) is an umbrella organization that sets Fair Trade standards and coordinates Fair Trade labeling at the international level.

Rainforest Alliance (http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/banana/banana_cert.html) is a New York-based nonprofit that offers a certification program for tropical fruits, including bananas. Their certification process is meant to ensure that agricultural products are “produced in compliance with strict guidelines protecting the environment, wildlife, workers and local communities,” and they have been credited with reducing pesticide use and improving working condition on large-scale plantations in several countries. Their work is somewhat controversial. Some critics have dubbed their program “Fairtrade lite,” arguing that they provide cheap “greenwashing” for large corporations.

Transfair USA (http://www.transfairusa.org/content/about/overview.php) provides Fair Trade certification for fresh fruits, including bananas. They focus their work on “democratically organized” groups of small farmers.


Video Clips

“About Bananas (1935)” http://www.archive.org/details/AboutBan1935

This 1935 PR film sponsored by United Fruit provides an overview of the banana industry from the clearing of the jungle to the shipment of fruit to American markets. Amazing period footage.

“Chiquita Banana: The Original Commercial” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFDOI24RRAE&feature=related

The original Chiquita Banana commercial produced by Disney Studios in the 1940s.

“Great White Way Orchestra — ‘Yes! We Have No Bananas, 1923’” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1Hc80NpL4M

The song “Yes! We Have No Bananas” plays against a backdrop of photos of New York in the 1920s.

“Harry Belafonte Day-O (Banana Boat)” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMTNT_BzkdA&feature=related

This YouTube clip combines Harry Belafonte’s famous version of “Day-O” from 1956 with photos of bananas and banana trees.

“‘The Lady in the Tutti-Frutti Hat’ from ‘The Gang’s All Here’” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=flfB4PGBHhE

Carmen Miranda struts her stuff against a bizarre banana-based backdrop in this scene from the 1943 film “The Gang’s All Here.”

“Little Steven — Bitter Fruit”

This very1987 video from Little Steven showcases his song “Bitter Fruit” which was inspired by the misdeeds of the United Fruit Co. (although in the video the fruit looks more like a tangerine — liability concerns perhaps?).

Other Outreach Events

2008 Summer Institute for Teachers

"Empire to Empire: The Americas in the Age of Exploration"

2007 Summer Institute for Teachers

"From Crude to Cane: Energy Policy in Latin America"

2006 Summer Institute for Teachers

"Remembering Alta California, Remaking the Past "

2004 Summer Institute for Teachers

"The Making of Modern Cuba"

2003 Summer Institute for Teachers

"Ten Years After NAFTA: How Has Globalization Affected Mexico?"

2002 Summer Institute for Teachers

"Mexico in the 20th Century:
Themes of the History Curriculum








© 2012, The Regents of the University of California, Last Updated - October 23, 2009