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Banana Cultures

Agriculture, Consumption, and Environmental Change in Honduras and the United States

By John Soluri

Publication Year: 2006

Bananas, the most frequently consumed fresh fruit in the United States, have been linked to Miss Chiquita and Carmen Miranda, “banana republics,” and Banana Republic clothing stores—everything from exotic kitsch, to Third World dictatorships, to middle-class fashion. But how did the rise in banana consumption in the United States affect the banana-growing regions of Central America? In this lively, interdisciplinary study, John Soluri integrates agroecology, anthropology, political economy, and history to trace the symbiotic growth of the export banana industry in Honduras and the consumer mass market in the United States. Beginning in the 1870s when bananas first appeared in the U.S. marketplace, Soluri examines the tensions between the small-scale growers, who dominated the trade in the early years, and the shippers. He then shows how rising demand led to changes in production that resulted in the formation of major agribusinesses, spawned international migrations, and transformed great swaths of the Honduran environment into monocultures susceptible to plant disease epidemics that in turn changed Central American livelihoods. Soluri also looks at labor practices and workers' lives, changing gender roles on the banana plantations, the effects of pesticides on the Honduran environment and people, and the mass marketing of bananas to consumers in the United States. His multifaceted account of a century of banana production and consumption adds an important chapter to the history of Honduras, as well as to the larger history of globalization and its effects on rural peoples, local economies, and biodiversity.

Published by: University of Texas Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

This book began as a research question focused on the relationship between social and environmental change in Honduras. Over many years, it has evolved into a study of the mass production and mass consumption of bananas—the most frequently consumed...

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pp. xi-xiii

Any project that is ten years in the making accumulates a long list of people and institutions to thank. My journey into the lowland tropical regions of Honduras began in Oswego, New York, a place better known for its blizzards than bananas. I have had the good fortune...

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Introduction: Linking Places of Production and Consumption

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pp. 1-17

Chances are good that most U.S. readers who pick up this book will have eaten a banana in the recent past. Chances are equally good that they will not remember the experience because banana eating in the United States has become rather banal. But this was not always...

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1. Going Bananas

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pp. 18-40

In the mid-1840s, Thomas Young, Deputy Superintendent of the British Central American Land Company, traveled along the Río Negro, one of many rivers that cut through the narrow coastal plain that stretches along Honduras’s Caribbean coastline. Paddling upstream...

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2. Space Invaders

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pp. 41-74

On a cold December night in New Orleans in 1910, deposed Honduran President Manuel Bonilla slipped aboard Sam ‘‘Banana Man’’ Zemurray’s private yacht moored on Lake Pontchartrain. The yacht carried the ex-president across the lake and into the Mississippi...

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3. Altered Landscapes and Transformed Livelihoods

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pp. 75-103

‘‘I believe, Honorable Minister, that the true sons of Honduras should not be impeded when we want to work our own lands,’’ wrote a frustrated Víctor Medina Romero on October 8, 1932, in a letter addressed to the Honduran minister of...

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4. Sigatoka, Science, and Control

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pp. 104-127

In late October 1935, a powerful storm struck the Sula valley. After three consecutive days of heavy winds and torrential rains, the Ulúa and Chamelecón rivers overflowed their banks, destroying crops, drowning livestock, and washing out villages, labor camps...

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5. Revisiting the Green Prison

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pp. 128-160

Juan Sotano awoke and rolled out of his hammock when the first rays of dawn were more imaginary than real. Bending over to pull on a pair of muddied shoes, he felt a dull throbbing in his forehead—a reminder of the previous night’s...

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6. The Lives and Time of Miss Chiquita

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pp. 161-192

Miss Chiquita was born on the airwaves in 1944.That year, the United Fruit Company launched a nationwide radio campaign that featured the voice of Patty Clayton singing the ‘‘Chiquita Banana Song.’’ The tune, set to a calypso beat, achieved hit status and found...

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7. La Química

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pp. 193-215

One day in the early 1950s, United Fruit Company research assistant Jorge Romero was supervising a work crew applying an agrochemical through the irrigation system.1 As the sun climbed in the tropical sky, the smell of the rapidly vaporizing chemical penetrated...

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8. Banana Cultures in Comparative Perspective

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pp. 216-245

When Hondurans turned on their radios the morning of April 22, 1975, they learned from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces that Colonel Juan Melgar Castro was the new Chief of State, replacing General Oswaldo López Arellano, who two weeks...


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pp. 247-291


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pp. 293-313


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pp. 315-321

E-ISBN-13: 9780292796836
E-ISBN-10: 0292796838
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292709577
Print-ISBN-10: 0292709579

Page Count: 336
Illustrations: 25 figures, 5 maps, 2 tables
Publication Year: 2006