Get on de boat, de banana boat!

Ships headed for the Panama canal

Earlier this month the banana giant Chiquita filed a lawsuit attempting to block the release of documents pertaining to the various payments it made to paramilitary groups that the U.S. considers terrorist organizations. That sounds like a tale out of a different, era, yeah?

Unfortunately, it’s all too current. Chiquita paid a $25-million fine just six years ago after admitting that it had funneled money to multiple Colombian groups. That’s part of a larger phenomenon where multinationals essentially operate above the level of governments in many parts of the world — often engaging in illegal shenanigans — precisely because the corporations have so much economic clout.

A development professor on mine has labeled countries like Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica essentially a “dessert” economies. It’s a fitting moniker given the number of bananas and pineapples they produce. What large-scale industrial fruit-culture has done to the landscapes and social organization of these countries is hard to fully comprehend without visiting. And I note that Global North citizens — particularly Americans — are complicit, what with our year-round demand for exotic fruit of uniform shapes at cheap prices. That consumer demand leads precisely to Chiquita acting like, well, Chiquita.

Fruity boat

If you think capitalism’s rising tide lifts all boats, you’ve got the wrong metaphor. Capitalism’s tsunami wave overwhelms most anything that lacks the political or financial power to get out of the way. And to understand just how far back this goes, check this history of the United Fruit Company, Chiquita’s predecessor.

You can see today just how enmeshed corporate agriculture is in the economies of Costa Rica and Panama; these images are just from my bus/boat/taxi/plane rides there in 2012 but vast swaths of the land look just like this — plantations, pesticides and underpaid workers all in the name of foreign export. It’s the same in a number of other countries in Latin America. Certainly some things have changed, but control remains highly concentrated in the hands of a few.

Where your bananas come from

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Nature, giving me the what-for

Not something man can create

I love peaches. They are, to my taste, so perfect that they demonstrate the limits of our great abilities to create and alter and remake according to our whims.

No matter how hard we try, we can’t create such perfection. I think tomorrow I shall go in search of peach pie.

मेरी आडू | मुझे चाहिये |

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Fruit, glorious fruit!

Guava

Mostly just testing the color capacity of my new point-and-shoot. Fresh guavas near the start of winter.

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Fruit, glorious fruit

Batidos

Ecuadorians love their fruit smoothies — batidos. I particularly love a blackberry batido. Batido de mora and granola made a fantastic breakfast.

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Fresh fruit, piled wonderfully high

Succulent

Weeks in the jungle with only the occasional runty orange made these, at street shop in Baños, absolutely delectable.

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Throw some rodents on the barbie

It once scurried...

That would be very large grilled cuy. It’s a traditional dish of Ecuador and Peru. It’s basically Guinea pig.

I’ve had it in Peru, but as I don’t eat meat anymore, well…

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Heavenly fruit bowl

You are what you eat?

A lot of my time in the states seemed to revolve around food. At least most of it, such as the wonderful cherries above, was healthy.

Still wish I had a chance at really good peaches.

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Fruit, glorious fruit!

Anurag gets messy

Once or twice a week, we get fruit. The kids love it and it surely helps their diet. Watermelon is a favorite and relatively cheap. Something like Rs. 15 per kilogram.

The kids also routinely break into a song about fruit sung to the tune of “Frère Jacques.”

The first stanza: “Watermelon, watermelon / Papaya, papaya / Orange, apple, mango; orange, apple, mango / Fruits they are; fruits they are.”

More fruity pictures below:

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Fruited plains

Bazaar fruit. Not bizarre fruit.

Papaya, from the crowded bazaar lanes in Fatehpur Sikri, once the headquarters of the Mughal Empire on the hot Uttar Pradesh plains. The word bazaar, comes from Persian and subsequently Hindi, by the way.

The smoke in the photo is from the incense that many wallahs burn near their stalls.

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Fruit wallah

Hot day, heaven on wheels


Either I’ve built up some immunity or I’ve just been lucky. But I now eat roadside stall fruit with impunity. This guy was pretty clean about it all, as you can see below.

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