Issue of the week: Fruit Salad

April 9, 2007

“The human being is the supreme end of society and of the State.
Everyone has the obligation to respect and protect the person.
The dignity of the human being is inviolable.”

(Article 59, Constitution of Honduras)

Last week I posted a link to the article “Life in the banana republic”, which was picked up by La Gringa. This has prompted some interesting discussion, which reminded me of an interview I did in the course of my research in Honduras 2 years ago. I promised a post on the issue and the interview, so here it is.

Unfortunately the interview transcript is buried in a box full of notes and other transcripts that I put away after I finally submitted my thesis. I only have a few notes on my computer about it, things that were pertinent to the research I was doing and not things I want to blog about nearly 2 years later! However the gist of the conversation, and the desperation of the interviewee remain clear in my mind.

The research I was doing was about the role of medical missions in health care in Honduras. The interviewee was a pastor in El Pino (a village near La Ceiba in Honduras) whose church had hosted several medical teams. I interviewed several pastors and other team hosts in the course of my research but the tone of this interview was quite different. This pastor didn’t seem so interested in medical teams as sources of free health care and medicines, nor in using them to evangelise his community. He saw the teams as a means of spreading another message, a plee for help against the fruit companies.

Pineapple plantation near La Ceiba, Honduras.

El Pino is in the middle of pineapple country. Field after field of pineapple for absolutely miles. Most of the community is reliant on the plantations for work, and but it is work that is slowly poisoning them and the land they live on. During the interview the pastor talked at length about how he blamed the fruit companies for many health problems in the community, and about their powerlessness in the face of the company. He told me about the use of child labour in the fields, despite it’s illegality. He spoke of bullying tactics and a lack of interest from the company and the government towards the problems faced by the workers and their families.

Despite the constitutional statement above it is difficult to believe that the Honduran State is willing or able to respect or protect it’s own people. The fruit companies have a long and dubious history in Honduras and they continue to wield much power. Economically the country remains dependent on the fruit export business, and I’m sure many individual political and economic fortunes are closely linked to the fruit companies. Unfortunately it seems that the health and wellbeing of the communities who live and work amongst the fruit plantations comes a remote second to the needs of the companies and their profits.

I am sad now that didn’t have a lot of time to talk to the pastor about these issues as we only had one afternoon and I had questions I needed to get through. I wish I had had the guts to put aside my question list and really talk to him. Bullied and abused by the company, ignored by their own government, it is understandable that the community would reach out for help from whoever might listen. I might not have listened as well as I ought but I was there. And I’m going to do what I can do spread their message.


One Response to “Issue of the week: Fruit Salad”

  1. […] light of my last post, and La Gringa’s on the cost of bananas, this makes me feel a little […]

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