Poetry Corner: The United Fruit Company by Pablo Neruda

The United Fruit Company by Pablo Neruda , 1950.

Pablo Neruda was a prominent Chilean Communist, as well as a Nobel prize-winning poet in both literature and peace (slightly more deserving than the current warmongering president of the US). Neruda played key roles in two Chilean governments and experienced the outlawing of Communism in 1948 and later became a close adviser to the Socialist President Salvador Allende only to die in hospital of cancer at the time of Pinochet’s US-backed coup.

Better known nowadays only for his poetry, he was a hugely popular poet in Chile at the time and remains popular throughout the world today. Neruda’s work reminds me of a line from Billy Bragg’s Waiting for the Great Leap Forward which reads:

‘Mixing Pop and Politics he asks me what the use is’

To me Neruda managed to excel at both and shows that the artistic arena is a good a place as any to bring politics to bear.

The following poem rails against the imperialism rife in Latin America AKA ‘the back-yard of the USA’. A threat which is all to relevant for the peoples of the region to this day.

Owain Holland

*

Pablo Neruda, 1904 – 1973

When the trumpet sounded, it was
all prepared on the earth,
the Jehovah parcelled out the earth
to Coca-Cola, Inc., Anaconda,
Ford Motors, and other entities:
The Fruit Company, Inc.
reserved for itself the most succulent,
the central coast of my own land,
the delicate waist of America.
It rechristened its territories
as the ‘Banana Republics’
and over the sleeping dead,
over the restless heroes
who brought about the greatness,
the liberty and the flags,
it established the comic opera:
abolished the independencies,
presented crowns of Caesar,
unsheathed envy, attracted
the dictatorship of the flies,
Trujillo flies, Tacho flies,
Carias flies, Martines flies,
Ubico flies, damp flies
of modest blood and marmalade,
drunken flies who zoom
over the ordinary graves,
circus flies, wise flies
well trained in tyranny.

Among the blood-thirsty flies
the Fruit Company lands its ships,
taking off the coffee and the fruit;
the treasure of our submerged
territories flow as though
on plates into the ships.

Meanwhile Indians are falling
into the sugared chasms
of the harbours, wrapped
for burial in the midst of the dawn:
a body rolls, a thing
that has no name, a fallen cipher,
a cluster of dead fruit
thrown down on the dump.

Pablo Neruda

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