What is the Significance of the United Fruit Company?

The United Fruit Company harvested fresh fruit and vegetables from Latin American countries.
The United Fruit Company harvested fresh fruit and vegetables from Latin American countries.


The United Fruit Company was formed in the United States in 1899. It dealt with a variety of tropical fruits, primarily bananas, in Latin America that were being sold to the United States and Europe for consumption. The company is well known for having meddled in Latin America's development - a fact that is not historically seen in a positive light. Reasons for this include a question of whether or not a corporation as powerful as the United Fruit Company should have been able to influence something so essential to human existence as fresh fruit production. The company ceased to be in 1970 and has operated under "Chiquita Brands International" since 1984. In between 1970 to 1984 it was called the United Brands Company.


The United Fruit Company had operated under the pretence of helping to develop areas in Central and South America. These nations later became known as the Banana Republics and included Costa Rica and Guatemala. The United Fruit Company was responsible for building a great amount of infrastructure that was said to improve quality of life and generate job opportunities. However, due to fears that it would detract away from their profitable rail system, the company tried to actively discourage the construction of government roads. This is an example of the ways in which the United Fruit Company operated as a "monopoly". There are reports of at least one railroad being destroyed under the guise of the UFC.

Nonetheless, the company owned a large amount of property in the Caribbean lowlands and had a great degree of control over transportation networks such as the railway as well as steam ships. The United Fruit Company also helped create the "Tropical Radio and Telegraph Company". Largely thanks to beneficial laws such as tax breaks, the company was able to expand throughout the region. This resulted in the company's profits highly benefiting their employees and overseas investors instead of local recipients.


The United Fruit Company was responsible for a large degree of environmental degradation when it was at its thriving stage. During this time, forests were cleared, low swampy areas were filled in, and water systems were destroyed. Previously, the ecosystem had high biodiversity. Farming techniques also led to the loss of biodiversity and caused harm to the land. There were many strikes by the workers which hindered the company. The company was due to suffer under the Arbenz government's Agrarian reform legislation and was also accused of communism.

Massacre at Santa Marta

Although exact numbers are disputed, it is estimated that at least 47 workers of the United Fruit Company were murdered after being shot by members of the Colombian army in 1928. The strikers were seen as a communist threat, an idea that was backed by the United States government. This was one of the major catalysts for a period of time in Colombia that is none for having been very violent.


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