A Detailed Critical Analysis of La United Fruit Co. by Pablo Neruda
Neruda seems to be familiar with the avant-garde and some have even pointed to Surrealism of T.S. Eliot and of other poets in his work. Nonetheless, whatever else might have played a hand, Neruda offered a strong opinion and commented and contrasted in inimitable ways. He refused to be pigeonholed intellectually but just allowed himself to put pen to paper naturally. Insomuch, La United Fruit Co. is Neruda through the power of the pen, taking on a large multinational cooperation, taking them to task on the treatment of their host countries.
La United Fruit Co. is a descriptive narrative of the impact of a multinational cooperation on Central America. It goes into depth on how the United Fruit Company had been blessed with something but has used it to curse the people. It can be seen as providing social commentary on an ongoing situation at that time. However, the poem may also have proved to serve as a warning to Nerudas Chilean government. It must have told them to be weary of the promise of hope from multinational cooperations. Even in the wider scope, it must have also warned his South American peers of what has happen to Central America.
As aforementioned Neruda never saw himself being loyal to a specific school of poetry, his work spanned many schools and periods of poetry. La United Fruit Co. was published in the book Canto General which Neruda completed while exile. Persuaded by political occurrences such as his leftist affiliations, he attempts to break out of the elitism of Spanish poetry and create a contemporary political commentary. For this reason, it is seen as a post modernistic work. The avant-garde style coupled with the critique of universalism of business and trade may cause one to see Neruda moving out of the modernism and advancing his borders.
Attributed to Neruda erotic poetic tendencies, one can feel the mood of the poem is likened to that of rape and despair:
Entre las moscas sanguinarias
la Frutera desembarca,
arrasando el caf y las frutas,
en sus barcos que deslizaron
como bandejas el tesoro
de nuestras tierras sumergidas.
Neruda portrays the United Fruit Company as ravenously taking the resources of the land then having gotten what it wanted, it departs without any attachments. Consequently, this assures hopelessness in that these Repblicas Bananas are locked in a vicious cycle. The hopelessness in itself brings about:
enajen los albedros
regal coronas de Csar,
desenvain la envidia, atrajo
la dictadora de las moscas.
If the situation does not change, thing would not get any better as situation itself keeps ensuring its furtherance. This cart blanche approach can be said to give the poem a generic mood.
The poem commences with a biblical tone, lending the poem to an epic or mythical feeling. The words that Neruda uses are of a formal social context as to address the thinkers of the present society. Had the diction been informal, it would have spoken to mostly the common man, the very common man which the poem proved to have already fallen prey to what it presages.
This religious language, juxtaposed against the names of icons of consumerism like Coca Cola, Ford Motors and The United Fruit Company reveals a sarcastic disdain towards the arrogance of the North. At the same time, Neruda weaves in the quasi-religious language of Democracy employed by the companies in popular culture to cover up their immoral behaviour. The exploited Central American countries bautiz in the propaganda of the North as Repblicas Bananas, a euphemistic phrase, derogatory in the sense that it belittles the ideas of democracy in Latin America as limited and primitive. Additionally, it conveys the not so subtle message that by selling off their natural resources, the Repblicas Bananas could be elevated from their primitive conditions towards a more modernized and democratic level of existence.
Neruda uses the image and language of fruit as an extended metaphor for the Central American countries, using adjectives like jugoso and dulce. As neruda describing the coastline of the region as la dulce cintura of a woman, Neruda likens the plundering of Central America to the act of rape. For Neruda, the Central American countries are like a fresh, virginal fruit, consumed by the North then carelessly cast aside to rot. By invoking the memory of los hroes inquietos, over whose graves the North American companies erect their operations, Neruda both comments on the irreverent attitude of the northern companies towards the cultures and histories of the exploited lands, but also points to the history of imperial conquest that has manifested Central American history from the time of the great indigenous empires like the Incas and Mayas, to the conquistadors of Spain.