In the Shadows of State and Capitaltells the story of how Ecuadorian peasants gained, and then lost, control of the banana industry. Providing an ethnographic history of the emergence of subcontracting within Latin American agriculture and of the central role played by class conflict in this process, Steve Striffler looks at the quintessential form of twentieth-century U.S. imperialism in the region—the banana industry and, in particular, the United Fruit Company (Chiquita). He argues that, even within this highly stratified industry, popular struggle has contributed greatly to processes of capitalist transformation and historical change.
Striffler traces the entrance of United Fruit into Ecuador during the 1930s, its worker-induced departure in the 1960s, the troubled process through which contract farming emerged during the last half of the twentieth century, and the continuing struggles of those involved. To explore the influence of both peasant activism and state power on the withdrawal of multinational corporations from banana production, Striffler draws on state and popular archives, United Fruit documents, and extensive oral testimony from workers, peasants, political activists, plantation owners, United Fruit administrators, and state bureaucrats. Through an innovative melding of history and anthropology, he demonstrates that, although peasant-workers helped dismantle the foreign-owned plantation, they were unable to determine the broad contours through which the subsequent system of production—contract farming—emerged and transformed agrarian landscapes throughout Latin America.
By revealing the banana industry’s impact on processes of state formation in Latin America, In the Shadows of State and Capital will interest historians, anthropologists, and political scientists, as well as scholars of globalization and agrarian studies.
Bringing together the work of anthropologists, sociologists, economists, historians, and geographers, this collection reveals how the banana industry marshaled workers of differing nationalities, ethnicities, and languages and, in so doing, created unprecedented potential for conflict throughout Latin American and the Caribbean. The frequently abusive conditions that banana workers experienced, the contributors point out, gave rise to one of Latin America’s earliest and most militant labor movements. Responding to both the demands of workers’ organizations and the power of U.S. capital, Latin American governments were inevitably affected by banana production. Banana Wars explores how these governments sometimes asserted their sovereignty over foreign fruit companies, but more often became their willing accomplices. With several essays focusing on the operations of the extraordinarily powerful United Fruit Company, the collection also examines the strategies and reactions of the American and European corporations seeking to profit from the sale of bananas grown by people of different cultures working in varied agricultural and economic environments.
Laura T. Raynolds
The voices and creations of Ecuadorian politicians, writers, artists, scholars, activists, and journalists fill the Reader, from José María Velasco Ibarra, the nation’s ultimate populist and five-time president, to Pancho Jaime, a political satirist; from Julio Jaramillo, a popular twentieth-century singer, to anonymous indigenous women artists who produced ceramics in the 1500s; and from the poems of Afro-Ecuadorians, to the fiction of the vanguardist Pablo Palacio, to a recipe for traditional Quiteño-style shrimp. The Reader includes an interview with Nina Pacari, the first indigenous woman elected to Ecuador’s national assembly, and a reflection on how to balance tourism with the protection of the Galápagos Islands’ magnificent ecosystem. Complementing selections by Ecuadorians, many never published in English, are samples of some of the best writing on Ecuador by outsiders, including an account of how an indigenous group with non-Inca origins came to see themselves as definitively Incan, an exploration of the fascination with the Andes from the 1700s to the present, chronicles of the less-than-exemplary behavior of U.S. corporations in Ecuador, an examination of Ecuadorians’ overseas migration, and a look at the controversy surrounding the selection of the first black Miss Ecuador.