Bananeras

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Carmin Cueva
World History: Latin America 11D
Prof. George Gerdow
Spring 2007

Bananeras
The Latino American women transforming the labor world

The political role that the United States has played in the creation and maintenance of the banana economy in Latino America has been both positive and negative. On one hand the United States has used his imperial power givingunconditional support to transnational corporations. These huge companies have a concentrated control over the Latin American banana export industry. This imperial relation-ship creates twenty-one century American colonies of cheap manual work due the lack of legal environment that can protect the rights of the labor workers. On the other hand, thanks to the support of international organizations such as(ILO) International Labor Organization and (US/LEAP) US Labor Education in the Americas Project workers from the banana plantations have been able to obtain educational grants and exposure of their mission. However, the plantation system that exists in Latin America dates back in the 1880’s. Only three giant corporations, Chiquita, Dole and Del Monte Fresh Produce control two thirds of thebananas global market. In order to avoid labor responsibilities, these corporations usually subcontract with national producers who absorb the risks and have the support of the local governments. As a result most of the banana workers do not have a contract. “Their work is almost entirely casual, with not health care, vacations, retirement, or job security of any kind” (10). Since 1960’s thecorporations introduced packinghouses and the first bananeras women started working cutting, washing and placing bananas in boxes in order to export them. In most of the plantations women are not allowed to work in another kind of better-paid jobs such as tractor driver, carpenter, or mechanic. The jobs for women the banana plantations are monotonous. The bananeras stand up eight to fourteen hours aday, for six or seven days a week doing the same activity under a very high temperature wearing rubber gloves and boots. Mostly of the women banana workers are single women, who have to combine long hours from work with the necessary housework every day. One leader of the banana union expressed her concern about her condition as a single mother and bananera worker:
The work on thebanana plantations enslaves us, because we work twelve hours a day or longer; that means that we almost don’t live with our families and our children are looked after our siblings, aunts and uncles, or grandparents, those of us that have a family support; those who don’t, their children are left alone. Most of the women are both father and mother to their kids. (16)

Typically, the womenwho work on the banana plantations do not have enough scholar education, in fact mostly do not know how to read and write. In addition to the poor economic development in the regions around the plantations, women of the area do not have too many opportunities to have another kind of job different from selling food or as a domestic servant.
Even though, still there are a lot abuses on thebanana plantations, “working on a unionized plantation makes a huge difference for the banana women. With a union contract, women banana workers, just like men, can usually count on a relatively permanent job for around twenty years” (15). Even more, they can have benefits such as health care and they are also protected against sexual harassment.
With a mass strike in Honduras from May toJuly of 1954, inadvertently one of the first crusades to establish women programs in unions started. Thousands of workers walked out at once, producing a national crisis. In order to reestablish the production US embassy worked with the Honduran government and signed a settlement in which the company United Fruit agreed to pay increases in salaries and some benefits. In order to control the...
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