Banana Massacre

Banana Massacre
Workerbananamassacred.png
Leaders of the banana plantations workers' strike. From left to right: Pedro M. del Río, Bernardino Guerrero, Raúl Eduardo Mahecha, Nicanor Serrano and Erasmo Coronell. Guerrero and Coronel were killed by the Colombian army.

The Banana Massacre (Spanish: Matanza de las bananeras or Spanish: Masacre de las bananeras[1]) was a massacre of as many as 3000 United Fruit Company workers that occurred between December 5 and 6, 1928 in the town of Ciénaga near Santa Marta, Colombia. The strike began on November 12, 1928, when the workers ceased to work until the company would reach an agreement with them to grant them dignified working conditions.[2] After several weeks with no agreement and no work, costing the company severe financial losses, the conservative government of Miguel Abadía Méndez sent the army in against the strikers, resulting in the massacre.

After U.S. officials in Colombia and United Fruit representatives portrayed the workers' strike as "communist" with a "subversive tendency" in telegrams to the U.S. Secretary of State,[3] the United States government threatened to invade with the U.S. Marine Corps if the Colombian government did not act to protect United Fruit’s interests. The Colombian government was also compelled to work for the interests of the company, considering they could cut off trade of Colombian bananas with significant markets such as the United States and Great Britain.[4]

Gabriel García Márquez depicted a fictional version of the massacre in his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, as did Álvaro Cepeda Samudio in his La Casa Grande. Although García Márquez references the number of dead as around three thousand, the actual number of dead workers is unknown.

Strike

The workers of the banana plantations in Colombia went on strike in November 12, 1928. The workers made nine demands from the United Fruit Company:

  1. Stop their practice of hiring through sub-contractors
  2. Mandatory collective insurance
  3. Compensation for work accidents
  4. Hygienic dormitories and 6 day work weeks
  5. Increase in daily pay for workers who earned less than 100 pesos per month
  6. Weekly wage
  7. Abolition of office stores
  8. Abolition of payment through coupons rather than money
  9. Improvement of hospital services [2]

The strike turned into the largest labor movement ever witnessed in the country until then. Radical members of the Liberal Party, as well as members of the Socialist and Communist Parties, participated.[5]

These were not socialist demands. The workers wanted to be recognized as employees, and demanded the implementation of the Colombian legal framework of the 1920s.[6]