Pablo Neruda, United Fruit, American Imperialism

Pablo Neruda
Pablo Neruda

I became familiar with the poems of Pablo Neruda while studying Spanish/Latin American literature at University. Pablo Neruda was the pen name and, later, the legal name of the Chilean poet, diplomat and politician Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto. He chose his pen name after Czech poet Jan Neruda. In 1971 Neruda won the Nobel Prize for Literature. He died in 1973. Throughout his life he was one of the world’s most eloquent freedom fighters in the true sense of the word. You can read a reasonably balanced synopsis of his life here.

One of his most famous poems is called simply, Poem 20, and it’s one of my favorites (and even better in the original Spanish), but the poem by Neruda below is more topical (in terms of this web site) I suppose. It’s a poetic (and accurate) rendering of the history of US corporate and government involvement in Latin America, a history that was defined by CIA coups, death squads and the installation of brutal dictators that would do business the ‘American way’ and not balk at murdering thousands of innocent people.

I suppose I’m just feeling a bit melancholic because there are so few people of the caliber of Neruda left in the world today.

United Fruit Co.

By Pablo Neruda

When the trumpet sounded
everything was prepared on earth,
and Jehovah gave the world
to Coca-Cola Inc., Anaconda,
Ford Motors, and other corporations.
The United Fruit Company
reserved for itself the most juicy
piece, the central coast of my world,
the delicate waist of America.
It rebaptized these countries
Banana Republics,
and over the sleeping dead,
over the unquiet heroes
who won greatness,
liberty, and banners,
it established an opera buffa:
it abolished free will,
gave out imperial crowns,
encouraged envy, attracted
the dictatorship of flies:
Trujillo flies, Tachos flies
Carias flies, Martinez flies,
Ubico flies, flies sticky with
submissive blood and marmalade,
drunken flies that buzz over
the tombs of the people,
circus flies, wise flies
expert at tyranny.
With the bloodthirsty flies
came the Fruit Company,
amassed coffee and fruit
in ships which put to sea like
overloaded trays with the treasures
from our sunken lands.
Meanwhile the Indians fall
into the sugared depths of the
harbors and are buried in the
morning mists;
a corpse rolls, a thing without
name, a discarded number,
a bunch of rotten fruit
thrown on the garbage heap.

6 thoughts on “Pablo Neruda, United Fruit, American Imperialism

  1. Thank you Joe, for this observant piece of literature, most applicable to today's even more widespread gifting by Jehovah to the corporate world. However, we see much to be optimistic about, and there are actions that are growing stronger than the corporations.
    We have seen the Washington DC Tarsands XL Pipeline demonstration. Whether or not's concern about climate change fits your logical conclusions, the amount of pollution generated must surely be enough to demand a stop to this project.
    Secondly, there is the new court case being brought against the BBC for falsely reporting the 9/11 events and subsequent coverup. This should soon spill over to our own PBS and NPR broadcasters who are guilty of the same offense. This is indeed wonderful news for the people, fighting against the evil corruption the corporate empire has been using to control or institutions for their profit. No more will we consent to be "corpses discarded like a bunch of rotten fruit". This is a revolution whose growing numbers, with patient persistence, is now confronting the beast. You, Pablo Neruda, along with the rest of us, will win this one.

  2. Joe, I often visit this website called the JFK education forum its a decent site if you got the JFK “kick”. I admit I’ve had it for years. But, to the point, I have read in many treads over the years on that website that United Fruit Company(cia backed) had members of its company directly and indirectly involved in the coup that killed our last great president. I don’t endorse the website like I would Cass. but its worth checking out if you have any free time. Peace.

  3. Well put Joe…The corporate government has existed for a long time,,,

    "We have met the enemy and he is us" Pogo Possum

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