UNITED STATES—The wicked, wicked world had changed in the course of the Second War, and so had the isthmus. There were outward changes: all the exotic crops like pineapples, mangosteens and kiwi fruit imported by Sam Delaney, the bananaman extraordinaire. There were intangible forces, too—the appearance of a new mood characterized by hope. Yes, hope. That is always a harbinger, a harbinger that the reigning fatalism is about to be upheaved, and hold on to your palma hats. Hope, a four-letter word if ever there was. We really believed by the language America had used during the protracted global military struggle: the calls to end repression, colonialism, racism, tyranny.

“Who’s your hero?” the Jesuit priest asked the peach-fuzz cheeked eighth grader.

“Roosevelt, maestro” was the reply, there resonated within after some delay.

“Franklin or Theodore,” the priest asked.


“Why, Fidelito?”

He hated being asked why, above all questions and even he asked it more than anybody else in his elite private school. Fidelito looked around with darting light brown eyes, as if the answer was in the air, along with the buzzing flies. The eight-grader spoke, propping himself up with his pitching arm:

“There are his four freedoms: freedom of expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear.”

Later that day, the savvier classmate, who one day would be a competent cabinet minister under the junta, said, “So you believe that rot.”

“With all my heart,” said the boy with the pathetic attempt to make a beard of pubes and be so ‘different’ while wearing the same hunter green sweater and plaid pants as all the other boys in the Jesuit boarding school.

For those in Bananaland who saw the new reality conjured by Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s sonorous radio voice, but still stuck the rusty old world ruled by Samuel Delaney, a terrible chasm gaped open, between dreams and reality. Isn’t that always the way it is? You expect something and reap the emotional benefits of it beforehand, and then at its forfeiture, pure disconsolate ire, dismay and anger set in. They relentlessly seek an outlet. Retaliation for dreams annihilated. From this womb revolutions are born. The call for increased rights and freedoms was an affront to Allied Fruit, which depended on compliant presidents and cheap labor. What’s more, when the wartime alliance between Stalin and Roosevelt grew stale, irrelevant and, it was then that the new struggle started—the global battle between Moneyism and Stalinism. Which turned the most petty feud into a test of belief systems. The isthmus was awash in fears of implication and precedent.

All you had to do was point and say “Communist” and all the banshees were set loose.

It was in Guatemala , where Allied Fruit prospered and flourished. The country was perfect for bananas, if not a perfect day for fishing bananafish, lush jungle, lots of rain, accommodating dictators. General Uribe Uribe, who had assumed power in 1931 was the banana Republic strongman, kicking ass and kissing up to the gringos. The diminutive Uribe considered himself the reincarnation of Napoleon Bonaparte. He carried a sword and medals festooned his chest, he was obsessed with astrology and mesmerized by the symmetries of numbers. Uribe was eccentric from the beginning. The general banned the words “trade union,” “strike,” “demands” and “worker.” General Uribe told his people there were no workers, only employees. General Uribe Uribe was simply a employee of the Republic.

At times it seemed the good General had one constituent alone, and that constituent was Allied Fruit Corporation. Peasant workers, excuse me, peasant employees were required to work a minimum of 100 days a year for landowners. Anyone who failed to follow the order could legally be killed. Allied Fruit had acquired an outrageous amount of property to keep one step ahead of Panama disease. By 1942 the Company owned 70 percent of all private land in Guatemala, controlled 75 percent of all trade, and owned most of the roads, power stations and phone lines, as well as everyone’s undergarments, the only Pacific seaport, and every miles of railroad.  The contract that drove people especially crazy, perhaps the most lopsided deal in the history of Bananaland, gave Allied Fruit sovereignty on the Pacific Ocean. It had been negotiated by one of the Dallas brothers, then a lawyer with the white-shoe law firm of Sullivan and Cromwell.

To be continued…

Grady is the Wizard of Fiction.

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Hollywood humorist Grady grew up in the heart of Steinbeck Country on the Central California coast. More Bombeck than Steinbeck, Grady Miller has been compared to T.C. Boyle, Joel Stein, and Voltaire. He briefly attended Columbia University in New York and came to Los Angeles to study filmmaking, but discovered literature instead, in T.C. Boyle’s fiction writing workshop at USC. In addition to A Very Grady Christmas, he has written the humorous diet book, Lighten Up Now: The Grady Diet and the popular humor collection, Late Bloomer (both on Amazon) and its follow-up, Later Bloomer: Tales from Darkest Hollywood. (https://amzn.to/3bGBLB8) His humor column, Miller Time, appears weekly in The Canyon News (www.canyon-news.com)