This week, we learned about the American presence in Latin America. Personally, I found this weeks subject very interesting, as it touched on topics and relations that I had never heard of before or studied in school. I believe most of my lack of knowledge of American presence in Latin America is due to the fact that I have lived my whole life in 21st century Canada. Anyways, I really enjoyed doing this weeks reading.
The very first thing I read about was how the American presence in Latin America was often represented as a violent oppressor or as a noble saviour. Though unwelcoming, the U.S. was a source of aid and investment to Latin America. I am aware of the contradiction in this statement, however everything falls into place to support this argument.
American expansion was not unfamiliar for Americans. Manifest Destiny was still a popular idea at the time, and through its military, economic power and negotiations, the U.S. was able to gain new territories. The U.S. military intervened numerous times in Latin America, creating a permanent presence of their military in neighbouring countries. Although this ensured their domination, it created many distortions between these countries.
My favourite part of the reading was about the banana industry in Guatemala. Americans developed a strong attachment to the fruit, which created a boom in the banana market. UFCO, an American company became the largest banana company in the world, and owned 42% of the land in Guatemala. Guatemala gave UFCO complete monopoly over the banana market, and in return UFCO would turn unproductive land into a source of wealth. This angered many Guatemalans as their country was practically owned by a foreign company. However, some Guatemalans benefitted as they received better opportunities from UFCO than from any other employer. Arbenz, former president of Guatemala, did everything in his power to push back against UFCO. He devised the Plan 900, which allowed the government to take away unused land from large estates and give it to peasants. Consequently, the U.S. planned to overthrow the Guatemalan government with the help of the CIA. This led to Arbenz resigning, who faced too powerful of an opponent. This seems almost absurd that all of these issues began with the production of bananas. Years later, the U.S. tried to strengthen the relation between them and the South. Interestingly enough, this was done through Disney cartoons. The U.S. even provided financial aid to Latin American countries in order to promote modernization, which is covered in the film Silent War (1945). I found quite interesting how many Disney films I watched as a kid were directly connected to American presence in Latin America.
My question for the class is as follows:
Why did the American develop such an attraction to bananas? In addition, why would they simply grow their own bananas and avoiding a turmoil with Guatemala?