Blood Oranges – written on honeymoon 02/02/2005

“Spices, luxury goods, drivers of colonial expansion, wars on land and water. How strange, how sad that our sweet nothings transform the world, with terrible consequences for many people.”

Watching “The Spice Trail” on BBC2, inspired me to dig out my honeymoon travel diary which I’d mentioned in my previous blog post:

So here it is, unedited:

Of all the things to fight about. I’ve always seen fruit as quite innocent. Sure, people would fight about land, water, oil, gold … but fruit? Healthy little treats that taste like sweets but with vitamins, and don’t make you feel sick if you eat too many. Of course they’re a luxury and a byproduct of colonialism, but could they be a reason for colonial nastiness and so valuable that they incite violence and human rights abuses?

It seems so. A short history of the bloody past of most Latin American countries from Mexico to Venezuela seems to implicate the United Fruit Company. UFC seems to have been a major force in politics backed up by US weapons. Overthrowing governments and repressing democracy throughout the region. Just to bring a fruit cocktail to the breakfast tables of Europe. Banana Republics indeed.

Still today, people’s health and livelihoods are destroyed by barbaric corporate acts in these countries, merely because there is money in small luxuries.

A pineapple costs 40 cents on the streets of Panama City (3 for a dollar), and maybe 5 dollars on Tesco’s shelves in Hackney. In between, profits must be protected. At whatever cost. If it means destroying small farms, sinking competitors’ ships, a coup or a death squad, the Man From Del Monte, he say “So what?”

I’m not sure why, but I find it more disturbing that my fruit is full of blood than my clothes, my oil or my hamburgers. There seems to be a logic to things that are unnecessary, selfish, dirty and unhealthy coming from questionable companies usi dubious practices, who cynically con both producer and consumer. But fruit is different, it’s supposed to be clean and fresh, holier than thou, natural.

How can I eat my five portions a day without choking?

Shouldn’t our government ban the import of fruit from such sources? Hasn’t Max Havelaar proved it’s possible to do it differently?

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