Banana Imperialism – Central America and the Rise of the United Fruit Company

Agriculture has historically played a central role in global empires, from wheat in North Africa during the Roman Era to sugar in the Caribbean during the era of French and British domination. But in the case of American imperialism, the little beforehand known banana plant became crucial in the rise of American money and power in Central America and coining of the phrase ‘Banana Republic.’


Myth of the 20th Century – Episode 156 – Banana Imperialism – Central America and the Rise of the United Fruit Company

— References —

– Cocaine Politics Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Central America, Marshall and Scott (1996)
– Going bananas: Pan Am Building suicide in Chiquita scandal, Krajicek (2011) –
– The Controversial History of United Fruit, Harvard Business Review (2019) –
– Cocaine stash worth more than $1M found in banana boxes at Washington grocery stores, Associated Press (2019) –


8 Comments Add yours

  1. Earl Shetland says:

    Wait, the bunches of bananas are called hands?

    So when King Leopold I told them to start lopping off hands in the Congo, was it all just a horrible misunderstanding?


    1. Adam Smith says:

      Hmm.. something tells me he was looking for the first version.


      1. Earl Shetland says:

        Yeah, I was going for low-hanging fruit there. I can’t wait for the pineapple episode.

        I had an article idea kind of related to “coconuts” – people brown on the outside, white on the inside (i.e. colored SWPLs) and their vocal support of BLM. “Don’t shoot me, don’t stop and frisk me, I have a job” type of thinking. Before Trayvon, there was that professor who got invited for a beer with Obama, after all. But I think the time has passed.


  2. /Potassium/ says:

    In further attestation to the b*nana’s countercultural cache, it was chosen by the authors of an 1967 hoax article in the Berkeley Barb to be the precursor foodstuff of a fictional psychoactive drug, dubbed “bananadine.” This recipe has also been included in some editions of the Anarchist’s Cookbook.
    For a laugh, I recommend anybody google “ham and bananas hollandaise” for some heinous 70’s foodgore. As time is a flat circle set on fast forward by the advent of the the internet, expect this recipe’s spiritual successor, the “steaknana w/ Heinz” meme from /ck/, to eventually be shared by the millennial consumer engagement intern at the helm of Chiquita Brands International Inc.’s twitter account.


  3. Octavian says:

    Great episode. Really enjoyed Adam’s ‘I don’t eat these things’.

    ‘We’re not talking about the fucking pineapple.’

    ^myth20c bumper sticker when?

    Pineapple episode yes please.


  4. I was particularly interested in this episode, because I recognized several names. I actually went to high school with a descendant of ” The banana jew”, Zemurray. The family later went into the timber business in Louisiana, operating a sawmill, and opening a park. I went there in 1968, and the old man showed me a map of virgin timber which he said would “never be cut”. Guess what. Also I was interested in the mob connection in New Orleans, I actually had an uncle who was a fruit inspector.
    I hope one day you will do a program on New Orleans, it is quite an interesting place in American history.


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