Copper Keith is born in Brooklyn, New York
|| Captain Lorenzo Dow Baker buys 160
bunches of bananas in Jamaica for a shilling per bunch and sells them
in Jersey City for $2 each. After this success he and the Bostonian
entrepreneur Andrew Preston join efforts to
develop a banana market in Boston.
travels to Costa Rica to work on a railroad project his uncle Henry
Meiggs was building for the national government
when looking for cheap food for his workers, plants banana trees
adjacent to his railroad tracks.
||Extremely difficult working
conditions pay a high toll on Keith's workers.
Nearly 5,000 men die, including Meiggs. Keith
takes charge of the project.
|| Samuel Zmurri is born in
Besarabia, Russia. When immigrating to the United States he changes his
name to Samuel Zemurray.
|| Baker and Preston
establish the Boston Fruit Company as Americans increase their demand
for fruit. Preston takes charge of tropical
enterprises while Baker controls management in Boston.
||After facing incredible
difficulties, Keith finishes the railroad from
San Jose to Puerto Limon. However, the low number of passengers using
the train made it unprofitable. Keith decides
to use it to export bananas from the plantations he had created in the
early 1870s. The first shipments proves to be a great success.
Zemurray arrives to the United States from Besarabia. He settles
with his family in Selma, Alabama
enters in the banana business marketing the fruit in Mobile, Alabama
purchases a 50% of the share in the Snyder Banana Co. which produces
bananas on 6,000 acres at Bocas del Toro, Panama.
war. The United States defeats Spain and occupies Cuba and Puerto Rico.
Keith's bank, Hoadley and Company, goes
bankrupted. Keith loses $1.5 million. In order
to solve his difficult financial situation, Keith
goes to Boston and arranges with Andrew Preston
a merger of his company and the Boston Fruit Company. Prior to the
negotiation Preston, Baker, and Keith control 75% of the banana market in the
U.S. In March 30th, they establish the United Fruit Company.
April. The newly already incorporated United Fruit Company acquires
seven independent companies that have been operating in Honduras.
immigrant Joseph, Luca, and Felix Vaccaro and Salvador D'Antoni begin
importing bananas to New Orleans from La Ceiba, Honduras.
||The Vaccaro Brothers import 6,000
stems of bananas into New Orleans beginning a successful banana import
business independent from United Fruit.
|| The government of Guatemala
hires United Fruit Company to manage the country's national post
Elders & Fyffes Co. is established in Great Britain with the
purpose of shipping and distributing of Jamaican bananas within the
United Kingdom. With British government support, the company becomes a
|| The Hubbard-Zemurray
Company is established in New Orleans.
After a series
of weather catastrophes and financial problems, plus strong competition
from United Fruit, the directors of Elders & Fyffes decide to sell
part of its stock to the American company. United Fruit eventually
acquires 50% of Elders & Fyffes stock opening and opens a door to
the European market.
disease known as "Panama Disease" appears for the first time in United
Fruit's plantations in Panama. The disease attacks the plant's trees
roots cutting off the water supply. Thousands of acres of banana
plantations had to be abandoned.
launches the S.S. Venus, the first refrigerated produce boat.
November. Separatist groups in the Colombian state of Panama declare
independence. The US government, in support of the separatists, sends
part of its Navy to prevent the Colombian government from recovering
the state. As soon as Panama's independence is assured, the US obtains
sovereignty of a strip of land in which it plans on building an
United States troops intervene in Honduras.
United States troops intervene in the Dominican Republic.
||Guatemalan dictator Manuel Estrada
Cabrera grants United Fruit a ninety-nine year concession to construct
and maintain the country's main rail line from Guatemala City to Puerto
goes to Honduras to study the possibility of creating his own banana
purchases 50% of the shares of the Vaccaro Brothers Company which had
operated in Honduras. Vaccaro had organized export plantations in that
country as part of a contract to build a railway between La Ceiba and
the interior of the country.
The United States Army invades Cuba. The American occupation government
remains until 1909.
Brothers incorporate their banana import business in New Orleans.
|| United States troops invade
Nicaragua and establish a protectorate in the country.
United States troops land in Honduras during the war with Nicaragua.
||Through the Anti-trust legislation
the American government forces United Fruit to sell its Vaccaro shares.
||The United States Army invades
With a loan
of two thousand dollars Zemurray buys five
thousand acres along the Cuyamel River in Honduras to establish
plantations. Soon after Zemurray purchases
the land, he discovers that the Honduran President, Miguel Davila,
would not grant him the tax, land, and transportation concessions that
he was seeking. With this disappointment in mind, Zemurray decides to organize and finance a
military coup that would replace Davila with Manuel Bonilla. Slipping
past US agents sent by Secretary of State Philander C. Knox, Zemurray's expedition sails from New Orleans.
The expedition is composed of one small ship captained by Lee Christmas
and Guy "Machine Gun" Molony and one box of arms. Within weeks after
Christmas and Molony arrive at the port of Trujillo, the government
falls and Davila is replaced by Bonilla. The new President awards Zemurray generously and grants him the
contracts he needs to incorporate the Hubbard-Zemurray
Company in Honduras. The new company would soon become a serious
competitor to United Fruit..
United Fruit buys the remaining Elders & Fyffes stock. Elders &
Fyffes acquires 8,000 acres of banana lands in the Canary Islands.
Disease" appears in the banana plantations of Nicaragua, Guatemala, and
Company changes its name to Cuyamel Fruit Company
Guatemala Railroad Company becomes The International Railways of
Central America (IRCA)
After a fierce price competition against the United Fruit Company, the
Atlantic Fruit Company declares bankrupcy. Atlantic had been United
Fruit main competitor in Costa Rica; after the bankruptcy United Fruit
takes control of the country's banana exports.
The United States Army sends troops to Cuba.
The United States marines land in Panama during the presidential
The United States Army intervenes in Honduras.
gets two railway and land concessions in Honduras. They are managed by
the company's subsidiaries the Tela Railroad Company and the Truxillo
Railroad Company. These concessions allow the company to begin to
produce bananas in large scale in Honduras. Concessions include 162,000
hectares of land from which 71,000 were granted in change of the
Finance Committee of the United States includes bananas in the proposed
Underwood-Simmons Tariff. Bananas would be taxed at five cents a bunch.
This initiative faces strong opposition from the New York Times, the
Tariff Reform Committee of the Reform Club, The Banana Buyers'
Protective Association, and the Housewives' League. The lobby made by
these organizations eventually succeeds and the US government permits
the tax free import of bananas to continue.
|| The United States Navy fights
against rebels in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
The United States Army invades Haiti.
Zemurray's company becomes United Fruit
buys most of the ice factories in New Orleans. The ice was needed to
refrigerate the banana ships. After this, the company's president
Joseph Vaccaro became known as the "Ice King."
The United States Army invades Haiti.
||The United States Army invades
the Dominican Republic.
States Army invades Cuba. The American occupation lasts until 1933.
The US War
Trade Board proposes a complete embargo on bananas in order to free the
United Fruit and Standard Fruit ships for military purposes. The
embargo plan was eventually dropped.
||The workers of the banana
plantations in Northern Colombia go on strike. They demand six-day
labor week and eight-hour labor day plus health care. The strike does
The United States Army intervenes in Panama and keeps a police force in
|| The United States marines land in
Honduras during presidential campaign.
|| The United States Army lands in
Guatemala and fights for two weeks against the so-called unionists.
||Improvements in banana-drying
technology encourage United Fruit to promote consumption of dried
banana chips. The company wanted to use this as a way to market
discarded bananas or plantains.
||The song "Yes, We Have No Bananas"
by Frank Silver and Irving Cohn reaches incredibly high levels of
popularity, selling 25,000 copies a day. Afterwards, Silver tours the
country with his Banana Band.
Brothers re-organize their old company and establish the Standard Fruit
November 7. The Guatemalan government gives a concession to the United
Fruit for all the uncultivated lands in a 100 kilometers territory.
Haas makes it public that bananas are a good cure for children
suffering from celiac disease. United Fruit used this finding to
promote banana consumption in the following decades.
subsidiary Fruit Dispatch Company publishes a recipe book promoting the
consumption of bananas with dry cereal, suggesting in particular corn
flakes with bananas and milk. This combination proved to be an
incredible success among consumers. In the following years cereal
companies made deals with United Fruit to advertise this new breakfast.
One of them was to include a coupon for bananas in cereal boxes.
The United States Army intervenes in Honduras during elections.
||The United States Army lands in
Panama during a general strike.
||The Vaccaros change their company
from Standard Fruit Company into the Standard Fruit and Steamship
||The Guatemalan government
establishes a $14,000 annual rent for the 100 kilometers it gave to
United Fruit in 1924.
United Fruit purchases the California-Guatemala Fruit Corporation which
exported fruit from the Guatemalan Pacific Coast to Western USA
The workers of
the banana plantations in Colombia go on strike in December. They
demand written contracts, eight-hour days, six-day weeks and the
elimination of food coupons. The strike turns into the largest labor
movement ever witnessed in the country and radical members of the
Liberal Party and members of the Socialist and Communist Parties
participate strongly. The national labor union bigwigs Carlos Mahecha
and Maria Cano traveled to the banana zone to organize the strike. They
counted with the help of Italian and Spanish anarchist immigrants for
Garcia Marquez is born in Aracataca, a town in the banana zone of
(Colombia). The banana worker strike continues and gets national
attention since it is supported by the Liberal Party. The Conservative
Party, which controls the government, decides to send the Army into the
Banana Zone. During a demonstration in the main plaza of the city of
Cienaga the Army, commanded by Carlos Cortes Vargas fires on the
strikers and leaves an undetermined (and disputed) number of strikers
dead. The government declares a state of siege in the Banana Zone and
the strike eventually ends. One Liberal politician, Jorge Eliecer Gaitan denounces the government's
action at the National Congress, on the radio, and public speeches. Gaitan's denounciations help undermine the
Conservative Party's reputation and the party is defeated in the next
May 1st (Honduras): The Communist Party creates the Federacion Obrera
HondureÐa. This federation creates "Action Committees" among the
November: After an unsuccessful price war against Zemurray's Cuyamel Fruit Company, United Fruit
decides to buy Zemurray out. United Fruit
sells Zemurray $31,500,000 in the company's
stocks in exchange for all Cuyamel stock. Zemurray
becomes the biggest shareholder of United Fruit.
subsidiary, Fruit Dispatch, hires a group of consultants to do a market
research on American banana consumption. The consultants' results says
that bananas were consumed by a large sector of the country's middle
class and were considered the perfect food for babies. After this
report, United Fruit doubled Fruit Dispatch's advertisement budget and
begins an aggressive campaign in national newspapers and magazines
targeted to middle class families.
establishes the Education Department in addition to the Advertising
Department. The Education Department prints educational materials for
classroom use promoting banana consumption.
|| Louisiana's governor Huey Long
denounces Samuel Zemurray in the U.S.
Senate for being involved in corrupted businesses in Central America
July (Honduras): The Action Committees of the Federacion Obrera
HondureÐa organize a strike in the banana plantations. The strike
has little support from the workers and is cracked down easily.
|| April (Honduras): The government
declares martial law on the north coast after workers attack military
barracks at Trujillo and Tela. The rebellion is orchestrated by former
Secretary of War General Gregorio Ferrera.
June (Honduras): Ferrera's rebellion ends with his dead in a skirmish
with Government troops.
||The United Fruit transfers its
railroad in Colombia to the national government which, in turn, leases
it to the company for thirty years more.
Honduras: Labor unrest among United Fruit workers follow the company's
decision to fire 800 workers.
Guatemala: Juan Pablo Wainwright, leader of the 1930 banana workers'
strike in Honduras, is assassinated.
The United States Navy intervenes in the Marti Revolt, El Salvador.
||During the first years of the
Great Depression the shares' price of United Fruit fall dramatically
and its profits decrease from $44.6 million in 1932 to 6.2 in 1932. The
members of the board of directors vote to name Zemurray
general director of the company. Two weeks later the price of the
company's stock doubles. Zemurray's first
move is to replace the existing tropical managers with experienced
managers and former employees of Cuyamel. He also improves transport
and intra-company communication while reorganizing the company with a
clear hierarchy of employeespecialization.
During the 1930s Zemurray uses his fortune
in several philanthropic works such as a large donation to the New
Orleans Child Guidance Clinic and financial backing of The Nation
||Anastasio Somoza takes power in
Nicaragua. His family continues to rule until the late 1970s.
||An epidemy of Sigatoka (a fungus
that attacks the leaves of the banana plant and causes the fruit to
ripen prematurely) appears in Standard Fruit's Honduras plantations and
threatens to wipe out the entire crop. The companies begin large-scale
spraying programs. The first experiments with Bourdeaux mixture (made
up of copper sulfate, hydrated lime, and water) prove to be successful
at controlling the disease but extremely expensive.
||United Fruit Company signs an
ninety-nine year concession with Guatemala President General Jorge
Ubico and opens its second plantation in the country in the region of
||United Fruit merges with Minor Keith's International Railways of Central America
||United Fruit's Home Economics
Department publishes the school teacher manual entitled "A Study of the
Banana: The Everyday Use and Food Value." The manual gave a detailed
description of the food value of bananas and gave suggestions of
preparation. The success of this manual led the company to publish
other school manuals in the following years for elementary to
|| Samuel Zemurray,
President of the United Fruit, establishes the Escuela Agricola
Panamericana in Honduras. The institution is intended to be a free
higher-education school financed by the company specialized in
agricultural research, and attended by Central American students.
||During World War II United Fruit
reduces its operations to the minimum level because of the presence of
German submarines in the Caribbean.
||United Fruit hires cartoonist Dik
Browne (the creator of Hagar the Horrible) to create a cartoon based on
the Latin American singer and movie star Carmen Miranda. The cartoon
was baptized as Miss Chiquita Banana and was part of the advirtisement
campaign the company was preparing for when the war was over.
Arevalo takes power as the new President of Guatemala. He pushes United
Fruit to improve the working conditions at its plantations. The company
makes some concessions after a series of strikes from its workers.
of Miss Chiquita Banana debuts in the technicolor movie advertisement
"Miss Chiquita Banana's Beauty Treatment" in which she sings to revive
an exhausted houwewife.
||The Guatemalan government
establishes a Labor Code. The company denounces it as "Communistic" and
threatens to leave Guatemala. The code forces the company to make
further concessions to the workers in the strikes that followed.
lets one of the company's ships to participate in the settlement of
Jews in Palestine after the war. The ship was re-baptized with the name
of Exodus and carried the first wave of Jewish immigrants to the Middle
||Senators Claude Pepper (Florida),
Alexander Wiley (Wisconsin), and Mike Mansfield (Montana) accuse the
Guatemalan government of failing to safeguard United Fruit's businesses
in that country.
January (Honduras): After being the dictator of Honduras for thirteen
years, President Juan Vicente CarÕas voluntarily gives the
presidency to his vice-President and former lawyer of United Fruit,
Juan Manuel Galvez. Galvez restores guarantees to political exiles and
begins social reforms. Many exiles return to the country and this
reinforces his opposition. Yet even under Galvez, the left-wing
newspapers kept criticizing the governmental concessions given to
Honduras: During Galvez's government the Honduran Congress passes labor
regulations for children and women and establishes an eight-hour
working day. This is a monumental change in Honduras' labor laws.
||Nobel-awarded Chilean writer
Pablo Neruda publishes his epic work "Canto General" about the history
of Latin America. One of its chapters is entitled "The United Fruit
wins the Presidential election in Guatemala and promises to change the
agrarian structure of the country.
||The Guatemalan Congress approves
the Decree 900, the Agrarian Reform Act.
||Using the Agrarian Reform Act Arbenz government declares that 209,842 acres of
uncultivated lands of United Fruit should be expropriated and
distributed to landless peasants. The Guatemalan government promises
the company an indemnification of $627,572 in governmental bonds. The
value of this indemnification was based on the company's declared tax
value of the land. During this year Zemurray
hires a public relations company to begin an aggressive campaign
against Arbenz in the American media.
Standard Fruit introduces the first experimental plantings and
shipments of the Panama Disease resistant Cavendish-type banana. This
type eventually adapted by United Fruit to replace the Gross Michel
type in the 1960s.
April 20. United States Secretary of State John Foster Dulles sends a
protest note to Arbenz declaring that the
idemnification value calculated by the Guatemalan government was not
fair. Arbenz, however, continued with his
Agrarian Reform Program. Dulles calls John Peurifoy, the American
ambassador in Guatemala, to get detailed information of the Guatemalan
situation. Peurifoy said to the Congress that Guatemala was spreading
"Marxist tentacles" in Central America.
Zemurray approves the
publication of a book called "Report on Guatemala" which claimed that Arbenz Agrarian Reform had been planned in
Moscow. The book was distributed to Congressmen
March. The Conference of the Organization of American States in Caracas
finishes with a resolution in which the member countries show their
concern about the "Communistic infiltration" in the continent.
May: Arbenz proposes a non-aggression treaty to
Honduras. The Honduras government refuses.
June, 18. Using military bases in Nicaragua Guatemalan Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas attacks Guatemala in
what his supporters called "the Liberation war against Communism." The
operation was backed by all the other Central American governments and
the United States. Castillo succeeded at
forcing Arbenz to go on exile and immediately
ended the legal actions against United Fruit under the Agrarian Reform
Law. Twenty-five year old Argentinean Ernesto
Guevara (later known as el "Che") witnesses the coup and becomes
convinced that radical changes in Latin America are only possible
through an armed revolution. Guevara is
living in Guatemala at the time working as a doctor and book-seller and
he volunteers to organize resistance militias against Castillo's army. When facing an inevitable
defeat he later escapes from Guatemala to Mexico where he meets another
political refugee who will become one of his closest friends: Cuban
July 2. A US Court begins legal action against the United Fruit Company
for violating the Sherman Anti-trust Act and the Wilson Act.
July 13. United States President Dwight Eisenhower gives official
recognition to Castillo's government.
July 19. Castillo establishes the National
Committee of Defense Against Communism to seek out any remaining of Arbenz supporters. He also sets back the labor
laws created under Arbenz government.
Arbenz begins his long exile in
Mexico, France, Switzerland, Soviet Union, China, Cuba, Uruguay, and
May 5. The workers of the United Fruit Company go on strike demanding
higher wages and are followed by the Standard Fruit workers. This
strike paralyzes all banana operations and peaks with 25,000 striking
workers (around 15% of all the country's labor force)
May 7: United Fruit manager J. F. Aycock declares that the company
would not negotiate as long as the workers are on strike. That day, the
strike expands to La Ceiba, Standard Fruit center of operations.
Contrary to United Fruit, Standard offers to negotiate with striking
By the second week of May 11,000 Standard Fruit Company employees join
the strike. Simultaneously, laborers in others sector of the economy go
on strike too, including miners, brewers, and textile workers.
May 16: The strikers present their "pliego de peticiones" to manager
Aycock in La Lima. They quote the Universal Declarations of the Rights
of Man and demand an increase in wages. At the same time, the workers
of Coca-Cola in La Ceiba and Puerto Cortes strike.
Shortly after the protests began, the Honduran President Manuel Galvez
expels two Guatemalan consuls charging them of instigation.
May 9. The American ambassador in Honduras says that the country's
strike had been inspired by Guatemalan communists. In addition, U.S.
Secretary of State John Foster Dulles suggests that Guatemala Arbenz's government might be behind the Honduran
May 18: Standard Fruit opens negotiations with the workers under
governmental arbitration. The company agrees to increase wages and
improve working conditions, making this the first time in Honduran
history that a private corporation negotiates a collective agreement.
The workers committed themselves to go back to work on May 21.
May 21: After the Standard Fruit workers go back to work, the United
Fruit workers harden their position. The number of strikers increases
to 100,000 United Fruit.
May 25: A governmental commission arrives to La Lima and is accepted as
an intermediate by both the workers and management of United Fruit.
May 31: Breakdown in the talks between United Fruit and the strikers.
June 5: The workers try to create a new delegation to negotiate, but
United Fruit tells the Honduran media its opposition to further
negotiations. In the weeks to follow the strikers' peaceful attitude
win them the sympathy of the Honduran media, politicians, and even
Henry Wallace, a former US Vice-President.
July 9. The banana workers' strike in Honduras ends. Although the
strikers do not manage to get what they initially wanted, the company
does change the working conditions and the government is forced to
create a more progressive labor legislation. The workers demanded a
wage increase of 72% but only won a 21% raise. The company also agrees
to provide medical care for the workers' families.
A hurricane hits the Honduran plantations and United Fruit fires 10,000
and 1962 United Fruit published around 15 million pieces of literature
for students in elementary grades through high school to promote the
learning of bananas and the health benefits of their consumption. These
manuals were also distributed in schools around the world.
Select Committee on Small Business, undertakes a investigation of "the
problems of small business" and calls on United Fruit to testify on its
commercial distribution of bananas within the US. The State Department
immediately requests that the Senate hearings be closed to the public
and press. It explains that "distorted or sensational reporting of
these hearings in the Latin American press might reflect unfavorably on
a large American company having extensive operations in the area, and
might easily be used by the Communists for propaganda purposes to
damage the prestige of the United States." Several days later, however,
the State Department finds "nothing objectionable" and allows the
release of the transcripts to the press.
||The US government's anti-trust
against the company is finally settled. The United Fruit Company agrees
to sign a consent decrees that allows the company to admit to no
wrongdoing but still allows the government to force several important
changes to the structure of the company. The largest change facing the
company is that it has to carve out a competitor, from its own holding,
by 1970, will be one third of its current size. It begins by selling
its Guatemala holdings to both Standard Fruit and to Guatemalan
entrepreneurs. United Fruit also sells Meloripe and Banana Selling
Corporation, its two large American fruit distributing subsidiaries, to
private banana jobbing firms. The lawsuit, at least symbolically, marks
the decline of the fruit company.
United Fruit does, however, expand its business in other directions by
acquiring the rights to explore petroleum and natural gas in Colombia,
Panama, and Ecuador.
November. Fidel Castro takes power in Cuba after a successful guerrilla
war against President Fulgencio Batista. Batista leaves the country.
begins his agrarian reform and seizes the sugar properties of United
Fruit in that country.
Thomas Sunderland becomes the
new President of the United Fruit Company. His main goals are to reduce
cost and effectively handle the changes brought about by the increased
competition of the Standard Fruit Company and the Ecuadorian
corporations. He also has to handle the drastic changes following the
consent decree. Sunderland begins to
promote the larger sized Cavendish banana over the Gros Michel, and the
company begins to transport the bananas in cardboard boxes instead of
free bunches. He also pushes the Chiquita brand-name by having labels
placed on the bananas.
The second half of the 1950s witnesses a process of divestiture of the
company. Slowly, the company has removed itself from directly growing
bananas on its plantations and has concentrated on marketing its
against the United Fruit Company is filed in a New York state court.
The court rules that the fruit company had forced its partly owned
subsidiary, International Railways of Central America (IRCA), into
setting prices that had only favored its own banana transportation. The
prices had been set too low, harming IRCA and its American
shareholders. A verdict is passed in 1959 and United Fruit has to pay
$4.5 million in damages to IRCA's shareholders.
||Nov. 2. The first serious strike
of the banana workers in Panama. The workers of the Bocas del Toro
Division demand higher wages and better working conditions. Shortly
after they are joined by the Armuelles workers. The strikers paralyze
all the export activities for two months. United Fruit gives
recognition to the elected union leaders as the workers' legitimate
|| A group of Cuban exiles
unsuccessfully attempts to invade Cuba and depose Fidel Castro.
provides American school teachers with a package that included student
lesson sheets on bananas and the Central American countries, a folder
of banana recipes, a wall chart, a sound motion picture, a film-strip,
and an eight-page teacher's manual on how to get and use these aids.
This educational material was recommended for geography, history,
social studies, health and nutrition, elementary and general science
and biology classes. The kit had a cost of $4.
creates the individual banana sticker label. The small blue stickers
with the Chiquita logo are affixed to the fruit and the company makes a
strong advertisement campaign to promote the consumption of its branded
writer Alvaro Cepeda Samudio publishes his novel "La Casa Grande"
inspired in the banana workers strike of 1929 in Magdalena, Colombia.
Cornuelle becomes the new President of the United Fruit Company. He
begins a process of diversification of United Fruit's investments in
order to reduce its dependence on bananas. During this process the
company acquires A&W Root Beer Company, Foster Grant.
Kentucky, celebrates the first International Banana Festival sponsored
by Standard Fruit and Dole (with no participation of United Fruit), and
declares itself the Banana Capital of the United States. The festival
includes cultural and artistic expressions of banana exporting
countries, a carnival and a beauty contest (the International Banana
Princess). The event is praised by President Kennedy and President
Johnson as an important manifestation of friendship among the peoples
of the Americas and counted on the active help of the Alliance for
|| Castle and Cook buys the Vaccaro
family (owner of Standard Fruit).
|| The United States Army sends
troops to the Dominican Republic during its election campaign.
originally a producer of milk-bottle caps, acquires a third of the
common shares of John Morrell & Company, a meat packer. By the end
of that year, AMK acquires John Morrell completely. AMK's President Eli
Black begins an aggressive campaign to dominate the American food
builds a banana puree factory in Honduras in order to find a market for
discarded bananas. The factory has a limited success in the following
years, and has to wait until the 1980s to see acceptable results.
Banana puree is used in ice-creams, eggnog, and yogurt.
acquisition of the West Indies Fruit Company, Del Monte Corporation
enters in the international banana business.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez publishes the first edition of "Cien AÐos de
Soledad" (One Hundred Years of Solitude) in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Part of the novel is inspired on the strike of the Colombian banana
workers against United Fruit in 1929.
Castle & Cooke Corporation wholly acquires the Standard Fruit and
distributes 90,000 full-color illustrated recipe cards for Chiquita
banana and peanut butter sandwiches to schools in the United States,
promoting these sandwiches for lunch.
||Sept. 24. Eli Black makes the
third largest transaction in Wall Street history up to that moment by
buying 733,000 shares of United Fruit in a single day. Black becomes
the largest shareholder of the company.
chairman John Fox and Eli Black negotiate the merger of United Fruit
and AMK-John Morrell. After negotiations with the Federal Trade
Commission they merger and name themselves United Brands Company in
June 30th. The company reports operation losses of two million dollars.
Black cuts the research expenses.
insecticide to control mites and nematodes is introduced in the market
by Rhone-Poulenc. This chemical proved to cause headache, stomach
problems, blurred vision, and disorientation among the workers who
worked with it.
||January 27. Jacobo Arbenz dies in exile in Mexico City at the age
United Brands reports a loss of 24 million dollars; the highest in its
December: Alleging violations of the Sherman Acthe U.S government
orders United Brands to divest themselves of a banana-producing
division capable of 9 million stems . The company sells the division
Compania Agricola de Guatemala, to West Indies Co. (a Del Monte
In an attempt
to pay its high debts United Brands begins to sell several of the
conglomerate's companies and tropical land assets.
destroyes the capital city of Nicaragua, Managua. Black organizes a
United Brands sponsored aid to the victims.
Sigatoka fungus attacks the leaves of the Cavendish plantations in
$16 million in profits this year giving the hope of recovery for the
the first time in history, Dole moves to the first place in United
States sales ahead of United Brands, with 45% of the market, versus 35%
for United Brnads.
||March: The governments of
Honduras, Costa Rica, and Panama sign the Panama Agreement which
imposes banana export taxes of $1 per 40 pound box. United Brands
considers this new tax unfair and confronts the local governments.
July-September: Workers in the United Brands Company go on strike and
refuse to export bananas from Panama unless the local government ends
its consideration to nationalize the company's Panama assets. This
means an interruption of 45% of the total of Panama's exports.
September 17. The governments of Costa Rica, Colombia, Honduras,
Guatemala, and Panama form the Union de Paises Exportadores de Banano
(UPEB) -Organization of Banana Export Countries- to defend the
interests of the member countries, raise and maintain high prices, and
adopt common policies. United Brands threatenes unsuccessfully to pull
out. Ecuador, the world's largest producer, decides not to join the
September 18. Hurricane Fifi destroys 70% of company's plantations in
Honduras and causes losses of more than $20 million. The hurricane
decreases the country's annual exports from 45.4 million boxes in 1973
to 35.3 in 1974, and 20.4 million in 1975.
Black organized relief teams to help the victims of Fifi. Financial
losses are not recovered.
United Brands' subsidiary John Morrell reports losses of $6 million.
The total losses of United Brands that year are $70 million.
In a new attempt to alleviate the company's troubles, Black sells on
December Foster Grant for almost $70 million. The operation is
considered to be a great success
Black commits suicide by jumping from his office in Panam building in
New York. The investigations following his death reveal a bribery
scandal in which Black and United Brands are involved. In April the SEC
accused United Brands of bribing the President of Honduras, Osvaldo
Lopez Arellano with $1.25 million, with the promise of another $1.25
million later, in exchange for a reduction in the export taxes Honduras
committed under the light of UPEB rules. The investigation also reveals
that during Black's presidency United Brands had bribed European
officials for $750,000. The trade of United Brands stock is halted for
almost a week, and some shareholders bring lawsuits against the
company. In the meantime, the Honduran Army removes the President on
suspicion of participating in the bribe, despite Lopez allegations of
innocence. The scandal also rushes the Costa Rican President to
threaten United Brands with a cancellation of all contracts if the
company did not reveal all the names of local officials involved in
bribes. Finally, a federal grand jury brings criminal charges against
United Brands in the United States.
May. Wallace Booth, chairman of United Brands Company succeeds in a
series of reforms that include tightening management control,
streamlining banana delivery systems, and updating meat-packing
technology at John Morrell.
conversion from Gros Michel to Cavendish is completed in all Latin
American plantations, with the exception of some area in Northern
Ecuador grown for domestic consumption.
||Carl Lindner, one of the biggest
investors of the company, becomes the new President.
January. A federal judge grants SEC permanent access to United Brands
records to avoid further violations of the law from this company.
April. United Brands sells 190 miles of railroad track to the Honduran
government for $0.50 and then leases it back for $250,000 a year. It
also commits itself to the maintenance and operation of the railroad
||United Brands admits that it had
paid a bribe of $2.5 million to the former Honduran minister of
economy, Abraham Bennaton Ramos. The company is fined with $15,000 and
the case is closed.
States bans the use of dibromochloropropane (DBCP) for the effects it
has on human health. DBCP had been developed by Dow Chemical and Shell
Oil as a pesticide to kill nematodes (microscopic worms that feed on
the roots of banana trees). DBCP had used widely in the Central
American plantations since the 1960s and caused damages in the banana
workers' testicles. Although prohibited in the United States this
pesticide continued being used in the banana-producing countries.
purchases Del Monte.
increases dramatically his stake in the company.
Sigatoka begins to spread from Honduras to all over Central America in
in Panama and Costa Rica damage the banana crops. United Brands faces
this loss at the same time it was dealing with strong losses of John
loses ground sharing only a third of the banana market. The other two
thirds were in hands of Del Monte and Standard Fruit.
The Unites States Army invades Grenada.
||August. Lindner takes over as
chairman of United Brands. He transforms the company from its large,
diversified operations into a company with a narrower focus. He works
to stabilize profits.
With a new
team of directors Lindner doubles the company's cash flow from 1985 to
1988. Lindner sells some of the company's operations, such as soft
drinks, animal feeds, and international telecommunications. He moves
the company's headquarters from New York to Cincinnati.
Lindner widens the use of the name "Chiquita" to other fruits such as
grapefruits and pineapples. He manages to recapture the first place in
banana trade from Dole.
buys Castle and Cook (the owner of Standard Fruit) and re-names the new
company as Dole Corporation. Dole had business in a wide variety of
fruits, vegetables, and elaborated food, besides bananas.
||The workers of John Morrell meat
packing houses in the United States go on strike. The conflict is
settled in one year.
fungus reaches Ecuador.
American banana growers spend this year $100 million to control Black
||John Morrell workers sue the
company claiming that they were not paid for work involving safety
equipment that they were required to perform on their own time. The
Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration levies
a fine of $4.3 million.
decides to change the name of the company from United Brands Company
into Chiquita Brands International Incorporated. He justified this by
saying that popular name recognition would help the whole conglomerate.
States Environmental Protection Agency recommends the ban of Aldicarb,
a chemical to control mites and nematodes, in banana plantations for
the bad effects this insecticide had on people's health. Aldicarb,
however, is not banned.
The United States Army invades Panama and arrests President Manuel
of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe brings hopes to the
different banana companies of a larger market. Chiquita begins to
invest in buying land again, after a long process of divestiture that
began in the 1950s.
recovers the number one place of the banana companies (33% of the
share), followed by Dole (22%).
that 40% of its food division profits came from banana sales.
||The United States Environmental
Protection Agency reported that a few bananas imported to the US were
tainted with Aldicarb (a pesticide with proven hazzardous health
effects). Although there were no reports of possible health effects due
to eating bananas with Aldicarb the manufacturer, Rhone-Poulenc
withdraws the product from the market for use on bananas. Aldicarb had
been withdrawn from potatoes already, but remained in use in citrus,
soybeans, coffee beans, sweet potatoes, sugar beets, pecans, tobacco,
cotton, and alfalfa seeds.
||Fulton City, Kentucky, celebrates
the last International Banana Festival. The decision to kill the
festival was because of a decreasing interest by the participating
countries, the US government, the banana companies, and the local
A Texas court
settles out a multimillion dollar suit filed against several American
companies by thousands of Costa Rican banana workers in the 1980s who
claimed that they had been made sterile by exposure to DBCP, an
possibility of an international boycott on bananas because of the
damage certain pesticides caused to the workers, the Costa Rican
government and the multinational corporations begin research on
pest-resistant and more enviromentally-friendly banana varieties. This
initiative is promoted by the Banana Amigo Project and sponsored by the
US-based Rainforest Alliance and the Costa Rican Fundacion Ambio and
Union establishes a quota system for banana imports giving preference
to those produced in their former colonies in Africa and the Caribbean.
The Latin American growers face tariffs and no quota in their exports
to Europe. The European Union argues that without this policy the
banana export industry of its former colonies would collapse.
||Given that Chiquita does not have
any investment in the the former European colonies' producing areas,
the company accuses the European Union quota policy as unfair. Senator
Robert Dole says in the U.S. Senate that the European initiative was
going against the most basic rules of free market and proposed
retaliation. During his presidential campaign against President Bill
Clinton, Senator Dole receives a $155,000 contribution from Chiquita
and uses a company's airplane for his campaign tour around the United
||NBC television show "A Word from
Our Sponsor" includes "Chiquita Banana" among the all-time top-ten
Cincinnati Enquirer publishes a series of articles written by Mike
Gallagher and Cameron McWhirter exposing Chiquita's questionable
business practices that included bribery, abusive corporate control in
Honduras and Colombia, the use of harmful pesticides, and repressive
actions against workers. Chiquita's shareholders sue the company, and
Chiquita sues the newspaper claiming that the reporters illegally
obtained voice-mail tapes. The Enquirer was forced in court to fire the
reporters and to apologyze to Chiquita. The company, however, never
challenged the facts reported by Gallagher and McWhirter.
United States protests at the World Trade Organization against the new
European policy around bananas, and threatens to slap 100% tariffs on
several European products unless the European Union stops its
preferential treatment for Caribbean, African, and Pacific producers.
The European Union claims that the American demand does not make sense
because its policies did not affect a single American job. European
Union's trade commissioner, sir Leon Brittan claims that the sanctions
are product of the strong lobby of Chiquita and Dole.
Hurricane Mitch destroys 90% of the entire banana industry of Honduras.
At the time, Honduras was the fourth largest banana producer in the
world. Chiquita lays off 7,400 of its workers, but promises to continue
providing the workers with medical insurance, housing, utility service,
two months of financial assistance, and interest-free loans. Dole
contributes with shipments of food and medicine.
joins the banana war when the European Union bans the imports of
genetically modified beef from the United States. The American
government threatens with more sanctions adding more fire to an already
heated debate. The World Trade Organization finds the European decision
unlawful and sides with the US.
April 7: The
World Trade Organization determines that American commercial interests
had suffered losses of $191.4 million in each of the years the European
Union regime had existed, making a total of $1 billion harm. The
European Union refuses to bring its system into the World Trade
Organization conformity and suffers American retaliation in the form of
sanctions against European businesses directly involved in the banana
In spite of
the WTO rule, the European Union refuses to change the quota system.
Sir Leon Brittan, EU's trade commissioner, insists again that the whole
conflict is orchestrated by Chiquita and Dole who paid important
politicians to lobby on their favor. US Trade Representative, Charlenne
Bershefsky, claims that EU's policies will hurt poor countries like
Honduras or Nicaragua more than the multinational corporations.
Bershefsky says that the US government is losing its patience and might
impose economic sanctions to Europe.
||The United States imposes economic
sanctions to Europe as part of the banana war. The sanctions meant
heavy tariffs to luxury goods imported from Europe at the cost of
April 11: The
European Union and the United States settle their differences and end
with the banana war. United States drops the economic sanctions and the
Europeans drop their first-come-first-served import system and replace
it for a transitional system that will lead to a tariff-only system in
2006. Under the agreement, EU import licenses will be allotted based on
the way they were distributed during a 'historical reference period' of
1994-1996. The European Commission will also initiate the necessary
procedures to propose to the EU Council of Ministers an adjustment to
expand access for Latin American bananas and to secure a market share
for a specific quantity of bananas of ACP (African, Caribbean, and
agreement between the US and the EU is praised by Chiquita who had sued
the European Commission for US$525 million in damages it said it had
suffered due to EU banana restrictions. The agreement, however, faced
the opposition of Ecuador and Dole who saw this as an arrangement to
assure Chiquita a fixed market share in the protectionist European
market. Ecuador threatens to protest at the World Trade Organization.
Chiquita starts restructuring its debt protected by the US bankruptcy
legislation, permitting it to emerge from Chapter 11.
Chiquita sells its main interests in the US Midwest after selling all
its interests in the Castellini Group.
Chiquita adopts a new code of conduct that follows the standards
required by the Social Accountability International’s SA8000 labor and
human rights standards.
Chiquita has a meeting considered “historic” with members of the
International Labor Federation (ILO) and COLSIBA, a Latin American-wide
banana labor union umbrella. For the first time in its history,
Chiquita sings an agreement with the labor unions of all its divisions
and agrees on improving workers’ conditions.
the Ethical Trading Initiative, an international set of standards on
fair trade and human rights.
Progressive Investor names Chiquita one of the top 20 “green stocks”
for its environmental record.
acquires the Atlanta AG Group, a leading banana market company in
Chiquita decides to focus on its fresh fruit market by selling its
processed food divisions to Seneca for $110 million in cash and debt
assumption. After this transaction, fresh produce amounted 98% of all
the company’s operations.
Chiquita receives the “Corporate Conscience Award” from Social
Dole Foods acquire the Costa Rican pineapple division of Maui Land
David Murdock, Dole’s CEO, acquires Dole and becomes the company’s sole
Chiquita announces its bid to acquire the East Africa Coffee
May: Chiquita admits that it had paid “protection money” to different
terrorist groups in Colombia, including right-wing paramilitary groups
responsible for several massacres and murders of union leaders.
Thereafter, the US Department of Justice starts an investigation in
stops its operations in Colombia and withdraws from that country. The
company sells its Colombian division to the local company Banacol for
$52 million. Chiquita says that their withdrawal is part of its new
policy of focusing efforts in African production. The Colombian unions
say that the company’s policy responds to lower labor costs in Africa
and the European banana policy that favors African producers.
Oct. The European Commission announces an increase of 75 Euros to 230
Euros per ton for bananas imported from places different from Africa,
the Pacific, and the Caribbean (ACP). The policy is planned to start in
January 2006. Chiquita says this policy puts it at a disadvantage while
the ACP countries propose a higher tax of 354 Euros/ton.
The new European system leads the Latin American producing countries
(Ecuador, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama) to
request arbitration from the WTO.
agrees to acquire Performance Food Group's Fresh Express division for
$855 million and completed the deal in June 2005. Fresh Express
controls 40% of the American packaged salads market. This operation
increases the company’s North American revenue base from 26% to 44%.
Jan: Chiquita announces that 100% of its Latin American plantations had
been certified by independent auditors to International Labor Standards
and the environmental standards of Rainforest Alliance.
June: Chiquita accuses itself of violations of the European quota
regime. The company starts and investigation on the employees involved
in the case, avoiding a sue from the Europeans due to its voluntary
acknowledgement of the problem. Other companies involved included Del
Monte and Dole.
Jun 10: Wal-Mart, Chiquita’s biggest customer in the United States,
announces a decrease in its banana purchases. This means a decrease of
33% of Chiquita banana
sales in the U.S. Chiquita blames cheaper bananas from other
Jun 16: Chiquita says that the problems with Wal-Mart were a result of
the extremely low price demands from the retailer.
July: The presidents of the main Latin American banana producing
countries meet in a summit in San Jose (Costa Rica) to condemn the
existing European quota system as discriminatory and plea for a WTO