Saturday, November 12, 2022

Banana massacre in history

Bananas are originally from Eastern Asia but made their way to the Americas in the 1500s and grew most bountiful in what is today Central and South America. For several hundred years, all was peaceful in the world of bananas.

In November 1928, grumbling among the more than 25,000 workers on the banana plantations of the United Fruit Company turned into a united effort with a well-organized strike against the massive American corporation. United Fruit Company had become a local monopoly by developing strong ties to the Colombian and American governments and building its own railway system to transport its bananas.

On the evening of October 5, 1928, the delegates for Colombia’s banana workers in Magdalena gathered to discuss their grievances. Among their concerns were their long hours and low pay.

The banana workers’ demands included a 6-day work week, eight-hour days, medical care and the elimination of scrips (only good at company stores) that were paid to the workers instead of cash.

A strike began on November 12, 1928, when the workers ceased to work until the company would reach an agreement with them to grant them dignified working conditions. The main objective of the strike was to put pressure on the UFC to force it to comply with the Colombian Labor laws approved in 1915, which the United Fruit Company avoided to comply since it meant to grant certain benefits to workers.

The workers were immediately and unjustly portrayed as “communists” by the local newspapers. The U.S. government threatened to invade, using the U.S. Marine Corps that were stationed off the shores of CiĆ©naga, should the Colombian government not act to protect United Fruit’s interests. Government officials in Bogota were frightened by the possibility the strike was the start of a full-fledged revolution and the possibility of American intervention.

The strike lasted two months, during which time the workers briefly established popular sovereignty, deciding how best to organize themselves. The striking workers tested the United Fruit Company’s ability to continue to exert power through its ad hoc network of corporations, missionaries, and mercenaries backed by the military and diplomatic power of the U.S. government.

On November 12, 1928, the United Fruit Company convinced the Colombian government to send in troops to break the strike on the grounds that an organized workforce was akin to Communism, and after weeks of tension, the army opened machine gun fire on the striking crowd in the town square of Cienaga on December 6.

The figures about the number of workers killed greatly fluctuate depending on the source. Historians estimate as many as 47 in the shootout and up to 2,000 in the aftermath, when the government and company spent weeks cracking down on dissidents.
Banana massacre in history

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