Week Nine

This week’s homework focuses on the influence that the United States had, both positively and negatively, on Latin America prior to 1959. Throughout the readings, I found many intersecting sections, one being the core periphery relationship between the United States and several countries within Central America and the Caribbean. Similar to cases in the past, the United States exploits these countries of their periphery, this time focusing on the banana, a difficult and specific fruit to breed. North American plantation and railroad entrepreneurs create the United Fruit Company in 1899, later becoming the largest banana company in the world, with plantations ranging in the Caribbean and different countries in Central America. On page 182 of this week’s readings, Dawson writes, “the United States was at its core an anti-imperialist nation” and a few lines down, concludes the paragraph by saying that the United States was “a nation dedicated to the principles of freedom and self-determination.” I feel as if these two statements, in a way, contrast the international monopoly over bananas that the United States had inflicted over the countries they had purchased land for banana farming: not that the U.S. necessarily had conquered these countries, but rather developed and held much power and money within them. The United Fruit Company would exploit the periphery countries as they would transport huge amounts of bananas (up to 45 million bunches a year by 1914) north and then artificially ripen them in American warehouses before further distribution. In essence, this has become to be known as the dependency theory: arguably a reason as to why some countries are less developed than others, creating this┬ácore periphery structure. In the readings, it was also noted that the United Fruit Company “controlled hundreds of miles of railroad in the Caribbean, employed tens of thousands of workers, operated stores, schools, hospitals, radio stations, breweries, banks, and hotels.” Not only was the North dominating the banana industry, but also had a major influence on different industries.

Something else Dawson mentions, also on page 182, states that during this time were the “halcyon days of American Imperialism, a time when one could image that U.S. hegemony as not simply Great White Fleets and U.S. Marines, but as Coca Cola, jazz, baseball, and movie stars, as things that people all over the world desire.” Like discussed in weeks earlier in “The Export Boom as Modernity,” Latin American elites wanted “the look and feel of modernity, rather than its philosophical or intellectual ethos.” This notion can pertain to another form of imperialism-cultural imperialism-unintentionally.

Maybe I’m just confusing myself now, I don’t know.

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