Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Banana Massacre on Stage in the Parque Nacional

The 1928 banana workers massacre became a landmark event in Colombian history after Gabriel Garcia Marquez made it a key episode in his Nobel prize-winning novel 'One Hundred Years of Solitude'. 

This theater troupe, performing around mid-day in the Parque Nacional, didn't employ much subtlety in portraying the hardships of the banana workers, employed by the United Fruit Company (now Chiquita). Banana prices had declined, causing a drop in pay and benefits. Workers went on strike and the military arrived to back the U.S. company. With union leaders gathered in the plaza of the town of Ciénaga, near Santa Marta, in Magdalena Department, the soldiers started firing machine guns placed on roofs of buildings on all four corners of the plaza. Estimates of the number killed range from a few hundred to thousands of unionists. Afterwards, the corpses were loaded onto the trains used to ship fruit to the coast and dumped into the ocean. 

Some believe that the Colombian military acted because they feared that if they did not, then U.S. Navy ships waiting off the coast would invade. The U.S. Embassy at the time knew about the massacre, and reported it to Washington, but kept quiet publicly.  

The massacre brought fame to then-Senator Jorge Eliecer Gaitán, who made fiery speeches in Congress demanding punishment for the killers. But that didn't happen.

Today's performance portrayed the hungry workers with empty milk cans and starving infants. Death, with a skull head, pursued the workers and even chased Gaitán. Actors waved black and red flags, suggesting anarchism. Workers and Gaitán waved flags and yelled in protest. But a businessman denounced the workers as troublemakers who deserved repression.

For liberty! - if Death does not catch Gaitán.
Our poor starving babies!
The businessman, in grey on left, denounces the protesting workers as troublemakers who deserved what happened to them. 

Death victorious!

Shining shoes.

Who will fill our empty milk cans?

On a different note, a homage to the disappeared.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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