Previously posted in www.planningmexico.com
Bananas has been a hot topic in Sweden the last couple of years after the documentaries Bananas!* a film about plantation workers in Nicaragua and the follow up Big Boys Gone Bananas!* telling the following story when a small documentary filmmaker was sued by a multi-billion dollar company.
Personally I haven’t eaten bananas in a few years as my own personal protest. This, of course, has been a basis of discussions and – I believe – a source for many jokes in Mexico. Especially here in Tabasco where platanos come with the mother’s milk.
When it got known I was going to Tabasco I was invited to visit a plantation to see with own eyes how they grow bananas around here.
My day at a plantation was long, hot and very interesting.
How bananas are grown and treated of course depends on who runs the farm, if it is a big company or a small private owner.
What is small by the way? Harvest 20 to 40 metric tons a month seems like a lot to me, but in the banana world it is a pretty small production.
Tabasco, and the surroundings of Tepa, are covered with these so-called small plantations. Going from the airport in Villahermosa, the state capital, to Teapa you pass kilometer by kilometer, mile by mile of banana plants. It becomes clear this is the main industry in the area.
Plantation owners in Tabasco treat the nature and environment with respect. This is what they live on and this is what they will pass on to their children.
Around here there is no need for anything else than natural nutrient, a banana plant are ready for harvest in about eight months just by nature.
The film Bananas!* reveal how Dole food company used banned pesticide causing sterility. I am sure they use some kind of pesticide in Tabasco, but I don’t think it is very harmful to humans or animals.
Back in Sweden I had a discussion with Fredrik Gertten, the man behind Bananas!* and Big Boys Gone Bananas!*, about this and he has his doubts. I respect his mistrust and he may very well be right, he do have more knowledge about the subject than I do.
But, being here, walking around, meeting the people, I trust my eyes and my instinct.
They have cultivated bananas for 40-50 years. There should be some evidence of poisoning, but as in most poor catholic countries everybody has too many children, the elderly are mostly vital and still working. Nothing indicates sterility or cancerous deceases. And I was really looking for anything pointing to chemically damages.
If nothing else they feed their livestock with the damaged, non-saleable bananas. This is carnivore country, they would do nothing to jeopardize their meat.
I was supposed to have an interview with Jorge, my host, unfortunately this was a busy week. The day I spent on the plantation was also the day for their first harvest. Between the harvest, paperwork, preparing a road for a banana loaded truck and mending peace between tired workers I hardly got a ride off the loading site, not to mention an hour for an interview.
As it turned out I was there for the whole chain, from the harvest to setting up the first bodega, warehouse, in Toluca.
Yes, I did eat platanos. Locally grown, organic and delicious.
After a week being served platanos to every meal I can stand to wait a few years for my next banana.