UNITED STATES—“I am unhappy here,” Juana said.
“You should go back to your land,” Antonio told Juana.
“It isn’t there anymore. The has been sold to the Company.”
Juana was dimly aware of countries now that they had come from their pueblo. Only recently the boundary with Nicaragua had been settled by leaders and surveyors through the leadership of the Presidente. She said nothing but was thinking about those mysterious lines that nobody could see between the departments. The country was slow and easy. Nobody who was there had any idea of the wealth of the silt-filler land when it could be cultivated. They very land itself leaned toward an idleness.
Antonio was all fired up about workers’ rights, about what was going on in the country to the north and the country to the south. The gringos were running the show, and the mestizos who worked for them, were their lapdogs. Being in the middle, one of the managers adopted a stew of language that wasn’t fish or fowl, but a Frankenstein tongue, infantile and defying grammar. You could not say that he had “forgotten his Spanish.”
“Me hablar bien. This is president’s day.”
Juana learned from who got Antonio all fired up about right about what was going on in the country to the north (they got rid of Zalaya) and the country to the south. The colossus to the north was exporting all its plantations. “There is something that smells bad here,” Juana said. “And they take advantage of us because we are small and there’s a balcony over a square and a man in a top hot or a military uniform comes out every few years to wave a new flag…”
They were fatigued, she and Antonio, the break of day around the edges of the rectangle in the rectangle signaled the end of the cherished embrace with the dark piece of the tomb and the dread march to the banana forest. Cling to that shred of night. They would trudge off together, but Antonio was marched away by the managers, and taken away to the train that puffed off with its thunderous sound of iron and clanking of dragged chains. Goodbye, goodbye, sweet moonlight, the locomotive and its cars swallowed by the giant spaces of the giant turf of Bananaland.
Juana was left alone, with unsettling notions about baby nations such as theirs that got chopped up between, France and Britain and Uncle Sam’s Bananaland. Something played around the fringes of her mind, these gringos with their power and coldness. On the way to the banana forest, she passed the commissary and sounds of music and men’s loud voices spilled out where the managers were drinking. Union and rights, rights and union. It helps to have four bees in your bonnet instead of one… “They’re Bananaland…It’s their favorite fruit, they’re sucking all the bananas up and got us on our knees…”
“There must be a better way…to form a union…”
After Antonio was shipped off to God knows where, Juana was alone in the barracks, alone in the huts where they washed the bananas. This discontent festered. Juana knew that to be patriot in their land meant being a traitor to the vision that could save them from the Octopus to the north, the United States Fruit Co., that in turn would be swallowed by the tentacles of a larger pulpo. Juana was driven to action, an action to which only those fanatical souls —men mostly— consumed by the messianic zeal of an all-consuming mission.
Juana did not know, could not know, that long ago been a Federal Republic of Central America. The flag showed azure two strips, separated by a white band representing the two oceans on the country’s two coasts. The coat of arms shows five mountains for the five provinces surmounted. The exact date of the republic was dissolved remains unknown, needless to say it began with a civil war and ended with an uncivil one.
The Marines were sent down with Admiral Dewey to the coast of Bananaland, helping the fleeing President to escape through a secret tunnel from underneath the Presidential Palace and letting the presidents recognized by Americanland, whilst the abdicating leader was taken to his retirement in New Orleans.
The cowboy clown-sage, Will Rogers, mused in newspaper ink:
Here we go again! America is running true to form, fixing some other country’s business for ’em just as we always do. We mean well, but will wind up in the wrong as usual. Indians and primitive races were the highest civilized because they were more satisfied and they depended less on each other and took less from each other. I can see why you little countries aren’t so happy with us.
To be continued…
Grady is the Wizard of Fiction.