September 19, 2011
(This was part of my first pitch to Cracked. It turns out they did a piece about the history of the global banana trade a couple years back. So you, fine reader, are the beneficiaries of these comedic dregs. Enjoy. BTW, my first actually-published Cracked article can be found here.)
You probably knew that your Nike’s are made by forced child labor in Pakistan and Cambodia. But that’s cool, because everybody knows that. And old news = taken-for-granted = guilt-free jogging or snacking in place! But maybe you didn’t know that the most mundane foods that you eat every day have been brought to you by brutal political oppression and murder? Well, read on, and feel like an asshole all over again!
Americans eat more bananas per year than apples and oranges combined. That’s really fucked up, considering that both apples and oranges are native to the U.S., whereas bananas originally came from the other hemisphere.
Bananas were introduced to the U.S. in 1876 at the nation’s Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. It was thus perhaps no coincidence that these exotic little yellow phalluses would predate the erection of Washington Monument by just a few years.
On the other hand, initial sales of bananas were weak. This was the prudish Victorian era, after all, where the socially elite one-upped future 12-year-olds everywhere, by thinking that eating a banana looked like sucking a dick.
The United Fruit Company (which would later be renamed to the I think less catchy sounding “Chiquita”) launched its own anti-prude advertising campaign, distributing postcards that depicted hoity-toity, morally upstanding women sitting around a table with half-peeled bananas. Showing off such culinary circle jerks worked, apparently, and bananas became all the rage.
No, seriously, banana importation caused so, so much rage. Like when Samuel Zamurray (who would later head up United Fruit) just straight up took land from people in Central America, essentially turning the Honduras into his personal private plantation. The balls on this guy. He loaded up boats with a small army led by mercenaries with Saturday morning cartoon-sounding names like General Lee Christmas and Guy “Machine Gun” Maloney, and proceeded to install a government who looked more favorably upon being a fake government. You know what was even more of a dick move? He forced the very people whose land he took to work on it as de facto slave labor.
With such low labor costs (zero is low, right?), United Fruit transported and sold these bananas to Americans so that, despite traveling 1,000 miles, they were actually cheaper than the apples that you could buy next fucking door.
No, wait, this get so much better. To keep banana prices low, the U.S. government got in on the act, and has even overthrown a government or two in Central America. Like, in the 1950s, The United Fruit Company started a propaganda campaign that Ecuador was a rising communist power in cahoots with the Soviet Union, and was taking the land that United Fruit
stole paid fair price for, and giving it to the fucking people they stole it from in the first place insurgent commies. But here’s the thing. They got the fucking C.I.A. in on this shit. The U.S. quickly deposed the democratically elected government, and replaced it with a military junta.
But whatevs. As so much political oppression is solved with cartoons, and as Chiquita just so happened to need an advertising mascot, they went with the obvious choice of turning Carmen Miranda into a singing jaundiced penis, who came into every American home, urging us not to refrigerate our bananas. You see, the peels of refrigerated bananas turn black, which, as every 1950s household feared, once you go black, you never go back.
But, what’s this? After decades of painstaking yet foolishly daredevil research, it has been discovered that refrigerated bananas last longer, and taste juuuuust fine. But you probably won’t use up your bananas as quickly, which means you and your bloated wallet are kind of being a shitbag towards Chiquita.
Thank god the 1950s are over, and all of this is behind us.
Whoops. Nope. Wrong. The U.S. Marines have since been used to put down banana worker strikes and other efforts to organize themselves. And Chiquita has very recently paid millions of dollars to Colombian paramilitary groups to protect its banana harvesting zones. Dudes, as of 2007, Chiquita has been dealing with what could end up being the biggest terrorism-related lawsuit in history, in which the associated death toll is three times that of the World Trade Center attacks.
The rest of us live in the fucking Matrix:
Speaking of the Matrix, this story wouldn’t be complete without some techno-horror genetics-gone-wrong component. Indeed. 99% of the bananas we eat now are of the “Cavendish” variety (surely named as such because its letters can be rearranged to get “I vend cash”). These are now all genetically engineered to be the inbred retarded dalmatians of the fruit world.
Cavendish bananas are all technically sexless and sterile (so I especially appreciate the irony that so, so many people have gotten fucked over by them). They are also highly susceptible to fungus diseases, especially the insult-to-injury named “Panama Disease.”
Just like bloated cookie-cutter hair metal bands from the 1980s, this is what happens when massively cloned fruit goes globe-trotting. They get the fucking clap. Cavendish bananas from Ecuador might be resistant to a particular fungus, but then they’re brought to Asia, where they run up against mutated version of it. Hence the Panama Disease, which can wipe out entire plantations in a matter of a couple of years, has been spreading across that other hemisphere, and experts predict that it will come full circle to Central America soon. So the people there, whose lands were stolen from them, and who were essentially enslaved to work on said lands, and whose political economies depend entirely on MOTHERFUCKING BANANAS, could very well lose their one tyrannically imposed livelihood.
But they are still delicious on corn flakes, so I’m really torn.