mark moberg and steve striffler
Introduction
Fmore
romthe‘‘bananarepublics’’atthebeginningofthetwentiethcenturyto
the ‘‘banana wars’’ at its conclusion, one tropical fruit has transformed
of Central America, the Caribbean, and South America than
any other commodity. The conversion of much of the Americas into banana-
producing enclaves during the last century has also informed North Ameri-
cans’ most popular, and often stereotypical, images of the rest of the hemi-
sphere. In most of the regions examined in this book, the onset of commercial
banana cultivation coincided with a broadly similar set of processes: in vari-
ous diplomatic, military, and economic guises, foreign interests entered Latin
American countries, created banana-exporting sectors, and deepened the de-
pendence of regional and national economies on a volatile world market. The
expansion of banana production and the further integration of Latin Ameri-
can countries into theworld economy necessarilyentailed profound ecological,
demographic, cultural, and political changes. Settlers and immigrants poured
into frontier zones as banana companies carved roads, railroads, and towns
from tropical forest. In the process of transforming the physical landscape, the
workers, farmers, state officials, and company men also transformed them-
selves,forgingnewvarietiesofpolitical andculturalidentity,conflict,andorga-
nization. The same themes, processes, conflicts, and actors often reappeared
from one banana-producing region to the next, yet their local expression was
inevitablyconditioned by the histories, cultures, and geographies of each place.
It is both the similarities and the variations among banana-producing regions
throughout the Americas that give this volume its coherence.
Ultimately, though, this collection stresses variation—the profound differ-
ences in social, cultural, economic, and political processes and experiences—
because, although the development of various banana-exporting regions did
reflect similar historical forces and processes, such transformations took strik-
Previous Page Next Page