Banana Republic

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Besides being a retail store, a banana republic, actually has a much more significant meaning.  The famous American writer, O. Henry, coined the term when writing his book, Cabbages and Kings, inspired by his time in Honduras. Technically, a banana republic is a small country that depends on a single export and a servile dictator.  More specifically, a banana republic, it is a common pejorative political science and economics term that describes collusion between state and particular monopolies where the result is often private profit and public debts.  In other words, a banana republic is a corrupt government that accepts kickbacks from corrupt businesses.  The businesses get to use public lands to grow a main export crop, such as bananas, and collect the profit, but leaves the public to pay for the damaged lands.  Banana republics are most commonly countries of Central and South America.

You might wonder why bananas are such a significant fruit, but according to an article in the New York Times on the topic, bananas are the fourth most commonly consumed food in the world behind rice, wheat and milk.

In the 1950’s, the president of Guatemala was overthrown by the US government for trying to regain power from the US banana export company, United Fruit that effectively governed the country in those days.

The 1928 Banana Massacre was a massacre of workers who were on strike in Columbia, refusing to continue working for United Fruit until working conditions improved.  The Columbian army was sent to squelch the strike after the United States threatened to invade with the Marine Corp. if the Columbian government did not act to protect United Fruit’s interests.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote One Hundred Years of Solitude on this topic and included a fictionalized version of this massacre.

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