Pablo Neruda – The United Fruit Co.

The following poem by the Nobel prize-winning Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, is a critique of the capitalist United Fruit Company, which was a US owned corporation that caused irreparable harm to any Latin American country that it set up in. The company was responsible for the term ‘Banana Republic, used to describe those nations effectively run by it.

The poor residents of vast regions were removed from, or murdered on, their land to facilitate the creation of plantations of the United Fruit Company. The workers were living in virtual penal servitude as they toiled on the land to create greater profits for the owners. It should come as no surprise that the socialist Pablo Neruda would pen some verse about this corporate abomination.

Today, the same tactics are still being used by other capitalist interests in nations such as Colombia, where right-wing paramilitaries ‘cleanse’ the land of the people at the direction of the capitalists. Where is our Neruda, today, to speak out for the poor?

The United Fruit Co.

When the trumpet sounded, it was
all prepared on the earth,
the Jehovah parcelled out the earth
to Coca Cola, Inc., Anaconda,
Ford Motors, and other entities:
The Fruit Company, Inc.
reserved for itself the most succulent,
the central coast of my own land,
the delicate waist of America.
It rechristened its territories
as the ’Banana Republics’
and over the sleeping dead,
over the restless heroes
who brought about the greatness, the liberty and the flags,
it established the comic opera:
abolished the independencies,
presented crowns of Caesar,
unsheathed envy, attracted
the dictatorship of the flies,
Trujillo flies, Tacho flies,
Carias flies, Martines flies,
Ubico flies, damp flies
of modest blood and marmalade,
drunken flies who zoom
over the ordinary graves,
circus flies, wise flies
well trained in tyranny.

Among the blood-thirsty flies
the Fruit Company lands its ships,
taking off the coffee and the fruit;
the treasure of our submerged
territories flow as though
on plates into the ships.

Meanwhile Indians are falling
into the sugared chasms
of the harbours, wrapped
for burials in the mist of the dawn:
a body rolls, a thing
that has no name, a fallen cipher,
a cluster of the dead fruit
thrown down on the dump.

Pablo Neruda

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