Today, as it was 80 years ago

The hell on earth of banana plantations

This is not the first time that a workplace accident occurs in a banana plantation. And in the establishments of Chiquita Brands in Costa Rica labor accidents are far from being a rare thing.

Gerardo Iglesias – Gerardo Castillo

03 | 10 | 2023

Image: Mamita Yuani (Blog Carlos B. Gil)

In the plantations owned by this multinational corporation —which the Brazilian fruit juice consortium Cutrale-Safra acquired in 2014— it is apparently company policy to squeeze every last drop of both its men and women workers’ energy, even when a worker is still recovering from an illness or injury.

On Wednesday, September 20 Javier Espinoza, who had recently undergone knee surgery, was forced to work bagging bananas.

Unsurprisingly, Espinoza fell off the ladder he had to climb loaded with a bag of bananas, and Chiquita left him lying on the cold floor of the administration office for hours until, thanks to the actions of union leaders, he was taken by ambulance to a social security clinic.

Exactly one week after this deplorable episode, Walter Reinoza, a 30-year-old Nicaraguan worker collapsed from physical exhaustion.

At noon, Reinoza had reported that he was feeling unwell. What was Chiquita’s response? Management demanded that he continue working, and at 3 p.m., he fainted. What did Chiquita do then? The worker was taken home and simply left there to his own devices.

In 1941, Costa Rican writer Carlos Luis Falla, known as “Calufa,” published the novel Mamita Yunai. El infierno de las bananeras (Mamita Yunai. The Hell on Earth of Banana Plantations), where he denounced the abuses suffered by the laborers working in banana plantations and the conditions of abject poverty in which they lived.

That was 82 years ago. The conditions described by Calufa have changed little if at all. The wages are not enough to live on, working hours are arbitrary, and labor precariousness has become permanent. Moreover, trade union representatives are forbidden from entering the plantations and the workers’ dignity is not respected.

It is a furiously burning hell.