Bailey83221 (bailey83221) wrote,
Journal of Latin American Studies, Vol. 30, No.2. (May, 1998), pp. 395-414.

Fiction as History: The bananeras and Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude *


This article, inspired by a TV interview with the Nobel Prize-winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez, revises the ways that the fiction in One Hundred Years of Solitude has been accepted as history. In particular, it raises some questions about how literary critics and historians have accepted as history Garcia Marquez's rendition of the events during the strike that took place in Colombia in 1928. It examines the repressive nature of the Colombian regime and of the strike itself; it also examines the idea that following the strike there was a sort of 'conspiracy of silence' to erase the truth from the nation's history.

The subject of this article was first suggested to me by an interview Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the Colombian Nobel Laureate, gave to a Channel Four TV programme one evening in 1990. In that programme, the late Colombian journalist Julio Roca goes in search of Macondo, as depicted in One Hundred Years of Solitude. At some point, Garcia Marquez was asked about the 'masacre de las bananeras' - as the repression of a strike against the United Fruit Company in 1928 is now generally known. His answer came as a surprise. Garcia Marquez replied that only a handful of people - three or five - had died during the strike - a far cry from the figure of 3,000 given in his novel and commonly accepted in Colombia today:

... The banana events - Garcia Marquez said - are perhaps my earliest memory. They were so legendary that when I wrote One Hundred Years of Solitude I wanted to know the real facts and the true number of deaths. There was a talk of a massacre, an apocalyptic massacre. Nothing is sure, but there can't have been many deaths. But even three or five deaths in those circumstances at that time...would have been a great catastrophe. It was a problem for me ... when I discovered it wasn't a spectacular slaughter. In a book where things are magnified, like One Hundred Years of Solitude... I needed to fill a whole railway with corpses. I couldn't stick to historical reality. I couldn't say they were three, or seven, or 17 deaths. They wouldn't even fill a tiny wagon. So I decided on 3,000 dead because that filled the dimension of the book I was writing. The legend has now been adopted as history...1

Indeed, the number of casualties are thus first recorded in one of the new dialogues of his novel:

Jose Arcadio Segundo no hablo mientras no termino de tomar el cafe.
- Debian ser como tres mil- murmuro
- ~Que?
- Los muertos - aclaro el -. Debian ser todos los que estaban en la estacion.2

Perhaps more significant to the narrative is the skepticism with which Jose Arcadio Segundo's relevation is received:

La mujer 10 miro con una mirada de lastima. 'Aqui no ha habido muertos', dijo. 'Desde los tiempos de tu rio, el coronel, no ha pasado nada en Macondo'.

This was to become the 'official version':

... La version oficial, mil veces repetida y machacada en to do el pais por cuanto medio de divulgacion encontro el gobierno a su alcance, termino por imponerse: no hubo muertos.3

The tale of a hurricane in the shape of a U.S. banana company that sweeps away Macondo is well known to the readers of One Hundred Years of Solitude: Macondo was a prosperous place until it was exploited, corrupted and destroyed by the fruit company; this wave of destruction reached a peak during a general strike, when 3,000 workers were slaughtered by the Colombian army; this episode was erased from the collective memory - the recollection of the events by one of the survivors was contradicted by the false version accepted by the historians, and repeated in the school textbooks: 'aqui no ha habido muertos'. 4 History became legend. Garcia Marquez reveals to us now that the apocalyptic massacre described in his book did not occur in such dramatic dimensions; but now 'the legend has been adopted as history'.

Two contradictory legends and two contradictory versions of history popularised by the work of a novelist; does it matter? For some literary critics it matters a great deal, as their analysis of One Hundred Years
'emphasize the condensed accuracy of its historical vision'. 5 And of course the question' of how we are to take what is offered to us as "reality'" in the novel is often at the centre of the literary debate. According to Michael Wood, 'the texture of the novel is made up of legends treated as truths - because they are truths to those who believe them - but also... of real facts that no one believes in'. 6 It is not my intention, however, to enquire into the ways Garda Marquez uses history for artful, literary purposes. My concern runs in the opposite direction: to what extent has the fiction in One Hundred Years of Solitude been accepted as history? From this perspective, the subject matters for a variety of reasons.

For a start, Garda Marquez himself has often encouraged the view that his work is a faithful reflection of reality. 'Lo que pasa' - he said in a 1968 interview - 'es que en America Latina, por decreto se olvida un acontecimiento como tres mil muertos. Esto que parece fantastico, esta extraido de la mas miserable realidad cotidiana'. 7 However, regarding the number of casualties, as Stephen Minta has observed, 'Garda Marquez has insisted that accuracy in this instance was never his primary consideration'.8 Nonetheless he has been consistent in his attacks against a supposedly' official history' and in his intentions to lead a new reading of Colombian history.9

There is, as already noted, a school of thought that follows this line of interpretation. According to Gene Bell-Villada, 'behind Garda Marquez's scrupulousness in rendering the history and folklore of his region is a larger fidelity to reality itself'.10 For Gerald Martin, One Hundred Years of Solitude is ' a socialist. . .reading of Latin American history' ; the apocalyptic events of the banana strike 'are patently historical ones '.11 Stephen Minta also considers that the account of the strike and the massacre is 'in rough accord with the known facts', although there is 'a conscious exaggeration of detail '.12 At least two other literary critics ~ Gustavo Alfaro and Lucila Ines Mena - have also argued that Garcia Marquez's description of the bananeras faithfully reflect the historical facts.13 More recently, in his weekly column in Cambio16, Dario Jaramillo Agudelo echoed a view that has been increasingly gaining currency: that the 'true' Latin American history has been rescued by fiction:

Ya desde 1a aparici6n de 10s caucheros en La voragine, de 1as bananeras en Cien anos, 1a verdad de 1a histOria... ha tenido que ser rescatada por 1a ficci6n.14

Historians have been more cautious than literary critics when treating One Hundred Years of Solitude as a historical source.15 Very few have gone as far as Alvaro Tirado Mejia, whose Introduccion a la historia economica de Colombia - in his section on the United Fruit Company - quotes at length Garcia Marquez's description of some of the circumstances surrounding the strike in Macondo. Yet this is a popular text, widely read by Colombian students in secondary schools.16 Fiction here has become a major source for a historian. The most comprehensive and detailed study of the 1928 strike, written by Roberto Herrera Soto and Rafael Romero Castaneda, though still critical of the United Fruit Company, diverges substantially from Garcia Marquez's account of the massacre and its aftermath.17 It is my impression, however, that the interpretation offered by this book has not been given sufficient attention.18 The dominant view among historians still resembles Garcia Marquez's picture of the banana zone - although not necessarily quoting One Hundred Years as a source, and acknowledging some degree of cautiousness in accounting for the number of casualties. Even Judith White's monograph - one of the few detailed modern studies of the strike -, closes quoting that passage of the novel: 'debian ser como tres mil muertos,.19 Though Colombians are not great readers, they are great readers of Garcia Marquez's works. It would not be an exaggeration to say that One Hundred Years of Solitude contains today's 'official version' of the developments in the banana zone in the 1920S. A recent biography of Garcia Marquez by Dalso Saldivar states that since the publication of the novel in 1967:

'la mayoria de los colombianos empezaria a hablar de los tres mil muertos de las bananeras del Magdalena'.

Saldivar also stresses that this tragic event marked 'de forma indeleble la conciencia historica de todo el pais'. 20 According to German Arciniegas, a leading figure who many would identify with the intellectual 'establishment' and the Academia de Historia de Colombia,

'Macondo es punto de referencia para la interpretacion de toda nuestra historia '.21

The purpose of this article is therefore to raise some questions about how literary critics and historians have accepted as history Garcia Marquez's rendition of the events during the 1928 strike, and the impact of the banana industry on the region, in general. As such, I should stress that it does not intend to contest Garcia Marquez's use of history in the novel. It does aim, however, at challenging the use of One Hundred Years of Solitude as a historical source. There are, in particular, three aspects of the subject that merit serious reconsideration:

(1) the extent to which the activities of the United Fruit Company merely brought misery and destruction to the region;

(2) the repressive nature of the regime and of the strike itself;

(3) and the idea that following the strike there was a sort of 'conspiracy of silence' to erase the truth from the nation's history.

As I have dealt with the first aspect elsewhere,22 this paper will concentrate on the latter two points.

The 'matanza de las bananeras'

'It is probable that the last two years have been the least eventful in the history of Colombian internal politics', the British Minister observed in his 'Report for Year ending June 1928'.23 Little could he foresee at the time how significant the events of December 1928 would become for the history of the country. They helped to bring down the Conservative Hegemony, a regime that dominated Colombian politics from 1886 to 1930. They marked the rise of the career of Jorge Eliecer Gaitan – a Liberal who became the outstanding Colombian populist, a leading protagonist in the politics of the country until his death in 1948. They provided the labour movement, and later the Communist Party, with symbols and martyrs in their struggle against capitalism and imperialism. They came to weigh heavily on the country's perception of the army and of the role of foreign capital. And they inspired Garcia Marquez's masterpiece.

The banana strike has been considered as 'the central shaping episode of the entire novel24

(1) How apocalyptic was this event in fact?

(2) To what extent was General Carlos Cortes Vargas - who ordered the shooting against the strikers - the bloodthirsty officer now depicted in the dominant literature?

(3) And how repressive was the Conservative regime? 25

(4) It is possible to distinguish three moments in the development of the strike and its subsequent quelling: the events leading to the adoption of the state of siege on the evening of 5 December; the actual shooting the following morning and its immediate aftermath; the final outcome after the parliamentary debate six months later.

A cursory examination of the first and last moments, before looking at the 'masacre' itself, may help to throw some light on the' repressive' nature of the regime.

The banana strike broke out on 12 November 1928, after the United Fruit Company refused to meet the demands from the Union Sindical de Trabajadores del Magdalena. 26 Next day General Carlos Cortes Vargas, the newly appointed military commander of the banana zone, arrived at Santa Marta and then proceeded by train to Cienaga. He was soon joined by a regiment of troops from Santa Marta, and an additional one from Barranquilla.

News of sabotage against the railway moved the army into action: some 400 strikers were arrested. However, most of them were soon freed by the civilian authorities, to the dismay of Cortes Vargas. 27 According to Ignacio Torres Giraldo, a contemporary union leader and co-founder of the Partido Socialista Revolucionario (PSR), that none of the major leaders of the strike had been arrested by 4 December gave labourers hopes for a settlement regarding their demands. 28

The government indeed took some action against the strikers, but there is little evidence of strong repressive measures before 6 December.

Moreover, the authorities did not seem to be in a position to enforce the law. At the end of November, for example, the Magdalena Governor issued a decree forbidding meetings that could obstruct public roads. According to the alcalde of Cienaga, this decree:

no pudo cumplirse debido a que el mimero de agentes de policia era insuficiente para impedir, aun por medio de la fuerza, los centenares de obreros que obstruian las vias'. 29

Similarly, an arrest warrant against the leaders of the strike could not be enforced:

'Salvaguardiados por los obreros en numero considerable', while they spoke to the crowd, the authorities could only watch them from a distance. 30

A police inspector in Sevilla did effectively impede members of the union from organizing a meeting to publicise their cause, but he allowed:

'que la propaganda se hiciera por medio de carteles murales'. 31

There was no shortage of propaganda during the strike. A recent publication by the CSTC (Confederaci6n Sindical de Trabajadores de Colombia) accuses Cortes Vargas of censuring the press. However, any attempt that may have been made at silencing the press does not seem to have been effective. The same CSTC publication acknowledges that active propaganda against the army officers was carried out by the Diario de Cordoba, and by 'hojas volantes, afiches, pancartas, murales'. 32 Raul Eduardo Mahecha - the predominant leader of the strike, and indeed an active figure in the Colombian labour movement during the 1920s, particularly in the oil industry - made good use of his own printing machine. 33 The Barranquillero newspapers, La Nacion and La Prensa, which supported the strike, circulated in the banana zone, and their reports were echoed by the opposition press in Bogota.

The impact of these publications should not be underestimated. 'In centers such as the banana zone, where but few possess the ability to read' - a document from the State Department noted - 'these leaflets are read aloud to an admiring and incredulous crowd of illiterates whose awe of the printed word leads them to believe anything'.34

If, for a moment, we leave aside the episode of 6 December and its immediate aftermath, the final outcome of the banana strike does not add to a picture of a strong repressive, 'dictatorial' regime - as labelled in some publications. 35 Press censorship might have prevailed in the banana zone from 6 December until the end of the state of siege on 14 March the following year. But elsewhere newspapers attacked the government and the army without any apparent constraint. 36 Much has often been made of some 600 detainees who faced criminal charges in military courts in January 1929. Out of these, however, only 31 strikers were condemned to sentences of between two and twenty five years in prison. 37 Furthermore, all of these were freed nine months later as a result of the parliamentary debate led by Jorge Eliecer Gaitin. 38 One of those freed, Alberto Castrill6n, was launched as the presidential candidate of the Partido Socialista Revolucionario on 6 December 1929, an already symbolic date. 39

Meanwhile Cortes Vargas and his former superior, the Minister of War, Ignacio Rengifo, suffered demotion. A British report did not think much of a government that 'apparently lacks the courage to justify the strong line reasonably taken on the ground of preserving the public peace in the face of an organised and openly subversive outbreak'. The dismissal of Cortes Vargas and Minister Rengifo was described by the British Minister as 'a pitiable act of weakness... a telling sign of the internal decay within the Conservative ranks... an abject submission to the will of selfappointed and unauthorized body of citizens and students'. 40

This apparent weakness has not been fully acknowledged by some historians, who tend to interpret the nature of the regime through the measures that the government, in a campaign led by the Minister of War, took against the 'Red Menace'. Fearing a communist revolution, the government issued in 1927 decree 707, known as the "Ley Heroica", conferring on the Police strong repressive powers against communist suspects.

In 1928, the government introduced vanous projects to Congress, labelled as 'proyectos liberticidas' by the opposition. One of them became law later that year. These measures, however, did little to deter a growing opposition against the regime, not only from the Partido Socialista Revolucionario but perhaps more significantly from Liberals and even fellow Conservatives. As Malcolm Deas has observed, this campaign against the Red menace was' unsuccessful and much ridiculed'.41 Moreover in the Atlantic Coast, as the union leader Torres Giraldo acknowledged,

'las gentes no tenian en cuenta el Decreto Liberticida'.

Even the authorities....

'sobre todo en las ciudades Ie miraban sin darle ninguna importancia'.

Only in some villages of the banana zone - but...

'claro que no en Santa Marta ni en Cienaga',

...the authorities occasionally managed to limit the activities of the likes of Torres Giraldo. 42 Historians and literary critics looking for a repressive regime would be better advised to cross the frontier to Juan Vicente Gomez's Venezuela: in Colombia there was no La Rotunda - the infamous jail where Gomez imprisoned his opponents with leg-irons. 43

There is no doubt, however, that the army, led by General Cortes Vargas, took repressive measures on the eve of 6 December, which ended in bloodshed and persecution of the strikers and their leaders. The exact number of casualties will probably never be known. Herrera Soto has put together the various estimates given by contemporaries and historians, ranging from 47 to 2,000. 44 And, of course, there is the figure popularised by Garcia Marquez - 3,000.

Cortes Vargas took responsibility for 47 casualties, in itself a significant number, an almost unprecedented bloody affair of this nature in Colombian history.

For Jorge Eliecer Gaitin, then a young Congressman, the number of casualties was 'not as important' as other charges against the army :45

(1) that the action of the army was cowardly and pre-planned;
(2) that the wounded were' rematados con la bayoneta';
(3) that the dead bodies were thrown into the sea;
(4) that the officers, including Cortes Vargas, were drunk;
(5) that women from Cienaga were forced to attend orgies;
(6) that the army acted not to protect Colombian but US interests. 46

Gaitan's serious allegations were widely publicised by the contemporary press.47 His account seems to have been a major source for Garda Marquez's story. How reliable was Gaitin? The question has hardly been raised. On the contrary, some literary critics such as Lucila Ines Mena who argue that One Hundred Years of Solitude keeps faithfully to reality based their argument on Gaitin's account:

'la fuente de informacion mas veraz ... acerca de la matanza'. 48

Nevertheless, the union leader Ignacio Tores Giraldo recalled in his memoirs, on a sarcastic note, how Gaitan claimed to have 'almost concluded the investigation' the very first day of his arrival in Cienaga. 49 Gaitan, after all, was politically motivated, and as such he had good reasons to exaggerate; his diatribes recall the earlier insulting rhetoric of the Liberal pamphleteer Jose Maria Vargas Vila. 50

In contrast to Gaitan's, General Cortes Vargas's account of the events has been given very little credibility or even attention.51 Garda Marquez seems to have used it when describing some details of the massacre:
(1)the short warning to leave the plaza as the army prepared to shoot,
(2) the responses from the crowd, and
(3) the final order of fire.

There is indeed some naivete in the way Cortes Vargas described his decision in taking such a ruthless step. He did not question his course of action: he received news of the decree conferring on him state of siege powers on the night of 5 December; he prepared the troops to face the crowd; at 1:30 in the morning, after some drum beatings, one of his officers gave the crowd five minutes to leave the plaza; then he ordered' Fuego!'.52 Why did Cortes Vargas decide to open fire? Any enquiry into the means used by Cortes Vargas in repressing the strike and his motives for choosing them would have to examine in detail at least two further questions: what were the circumstances surrounding the strike?, and under what conditions did the army face the strikers?

Estimates, varying a great deal, put the figures of strikers throughout the banana zone at between 11,000 and 30,000 people. These were not only banana workers. What might have started as a sectorial labour dispute evolved into a general strike, which counted on the support of the local population. As Charles Kepner described it, the strike 'was a far reaching mass movement, covering the entire banana district, and aided by planters, merchants and others who were not workers'.53 In addition, the involvement of the Partido Socialista Revolucionario (PSR) - which had taken over the leadership of the strike54 gave a revolutionary undertone to the events. Raul Eduardo Mahecha - a co-founder and leading member of this party, signed the' pliego de peticiones', as the 'Secretario de debates' of all the unions which called for the strike in 1928. 55 Alberto Castril16n, a PSR activist recently returned from Moscow, joined the movement together with some other PSR members sent by the party from Bogoti and Girardot. 56 Mahecha would later reveal the existence of divisions between him and the central leadership in Bogota, where news of the outbreak of the strike was received with some surprise, as it was thought premature. But a national assembly of the PSR had met in July 1928, which approved the launching of a general insurrection to coincide with a labour strike in the banana zone - originally planned to take place in 1929. The PSR leadership later met in Choconta with veteran Liberal revolutionaries - who had fought in the Guerra de los Mil Dfas (1899-19°2), including General Leandro Cuberos Nino, and Venezuelan

forces to coordinate an insurrection in both countries. 57 News in November 1928 that the PSR had been accepted as a branch of the Communist International added to the governmental fears of an 'amenaza bolchevique'. 58 On 18 November, the PSR had warned Mahecha 'no confundir la huelga con la insurreccion', but as the events unfolded it instructed its members to 'lanzarse a la accion directa,. 59

With the benefit of hindsight it is easy to argue that the government over-reacted to the 'insurrectionary threats'. Indeed contemporary publications of the opposition against the Conservative regime, such as EI Espectador, accused the government of creating an 'imagined revolution'. Medofilo Medina also refers to the 'novelon del go bierno " 'una farsa montada.60 But the evidence above, mostly from sources close to the PSR, suggests that the 1928 strike was no simple industrial dispute. The authorities not only feared social unrest as a result of a 'communist insurrection' - real or imagined; they probably feared even more a Liberal rebellion. 61 For those facing the strike, the concern for the consequences of a continuing general breakdown of law and order therefore was probably genuine, particularly bearing in mind the weak position of the state forces.

With barely 15 men policing Cienaga, the Police was palpably weak. 62 Thus the government had to rely on the Army. Cortes Vargas initially counted on the support of 200 trained soldiers, plus an equal number of young conscripts without much experience. They were later joined by a regiment of 300 Antioqueiios63 This small number of troops - referred to as a 'gran contingente del ejercito' by some historians64 was spread throughout the banana zone, though Cortes Vargas was reluctant to divide them. In Cienaga, where from 1,500 to 4,000 strikers took over the plaza on 5 December, Cortes Vargas was backed by 300 soldiers. These troops probably shared the general conditions of the Colombian army described in a 1928 British report as 'a half-trained, half-organised and illequipped handful'. Their level of armaments was considered' inadequate', the training' elementary in the extreme'. In addition, there were rumours of disaffection within the ranks in Barranquilla - a Liberal stronghold. 65

Thus Cortes Vargas counted on only a small force - ill trained and ill equipped - to counter what was perceived as a general insurrection. He had motives to doubt the loyalty of his troops. On 2 December, a leaflet signed by the PSR leader Tomas Uribe Marquez, incited the strikers to 'organizar un movimiento de simpatia hacia los soldados'. The following day EI Estado, an influential newspaper from Santa Marta, published an interview with the Secretario de Gobierno of Magdalena Department, who said that the contingent of Antioqueiios had been brought into the zone because the army commander could not trust the local soldiers. 66 Public order deteriorated, forcing Cortes Vargas to divide his forces to patrol the zone. Uribe Marquez's leaflet called the strikers to' organizar la accion directa sorpresiva mediante el sabotaje de las comunicaciones..., la intervencion forzada al trabajo rompehuelgas, la destruccion de zonas bananeras " although he stated that these were defensive actions and that they should not become' conducta abierta de rebeldia en guerra'. He also suggested that the strike should be turned into an anti-imperialist movement. 67

Incidents of direct confrontation between the strikers and the army were limited. There were, however, some violent encounters. Strikers blocked communications and transport. Confrontations between strikers and strike-breakers, as would be expected, were particularly bitter. On 4 December there was damage to property, as the Fruit Company attempted to resume work. A group of strikers surrounded and disarmed 30 soldiers on a banana plantation; the news was reported the following day in EI Estado as 'una asonada bolchevique, que pi de a grito herido la intervencion pronta y ehcaz del gobierno nacional'. 68 Reports like this encouraged a perception of general disaster among the authorities; and perceptions were probably more crucial than reality in determining the sequence of events. Both Cortes Vargas and the Minister of War continually received alarming news. So did other local authorities. On 4 December the Inspector of Sevilla reported that '[ el] pueblo ha salido armado [para] impedir embarque'. The following day, a dispatch from the alcalde in Cienaga read: 'Inspector Corregimiento Riofrio ha tenido necesidad de abandonar poblacion en vista obreros discurren calles, amenazantes, armados machetes'. 69 Also on 5 December, a railway employee reported that 5,000 men armed with machetes had left Santa Marta. During the previous two days, the Governor had cabled Minister Rengifo with news of 'graves desordenes', again referring to men armed with machetes. Cortes Vargas might have exaggerated when he described

'el movimiento de amotinados, armados de machetes, revolve res y escopetas '. 71

And machetes were probably carried by banana workers in the normal course of their work. Machetes were, none the less, visible. Salvador Bornacelli - the general secretary of the union in Aracataca - recalled years later how on 5 December, as they travelled by train from Santa Marta,

'donde quiera que pasabamos se veia gente con machete',

although according to Santander Aleman, a worker on the railway, some 7,800 machetes were collected by the leadership of the movement and locked away that day. 71

The task of guaranteeing public order was not eased by the discrepancies between the military commander and the civilian authorities, particularly the Magdalena Governor, who was the highest authority in the region until the state of siege was adopted on the eve of 6 December. The military commander was originally of the view that, with the support of civilian authorities, he was capable of controlling the strike. 72 Yet as early as 14 November there were clear disagreements between Cortes Vargas and the Governor on how to handle problems of public order. Cortes Vargas complained that his initial policy of a firm hand with the leaders of the strike was frustrated by the Governor's orders; that the actions of the Governor had been counter-productive. Judges freed those imprisoned by the army. So did the Governor. The Alcalde in Cienaga, according to Cortes Vargas, supported the strikers - an accusation that the alcalde later rejected. 73 National authorities in the distant capital were not that helpful. The Governor himself, who opposed the firm hand policy pursued by Cortes Vargas, had earlier complained that the national government 'no se ha penetrado [del] grave peligro [de la] zona bananera, donde han encontrado campo propicio agitadores comunismo'. 74 The President, according to one contemporary observer, seemed unaware of how serious the problems were, 'perdido quiZd en sus suenos...'. 75 Cortes Vargas would later complain about the ambiguous position taken by the civilian authorities. He saw his major responsibility as that of restoring order for both internal and external reasons: a further deterioration of law and order could have caused' mayores males', including a US intervention on Colombian soil.

Whether or not Cortes Vargas had to order to fire the way he did at dawn on 6 December is indeed questionable. But the charges, raised among others by a CSTC publication, that Cortes Vargas consciously let the situation deteriorate so he could' resolver a su antojo la situacion', as a preconceived act - 'un asesinato plane ado conjuntamente por el y los altos directivos de la United Fruit Company' - seem unsubstantiated. 76

A conspirary of silence?

A careful revision of the 'masacre de las bananeras' along the lines suggested above may still come to the conclusions that the casualties were too high; that Cortes Vargas and the army behaved ruthlessly; that had labour demands been met, the strike would have ended peacefully; that in the final analysis the arrogance of the United Fruit Company and its reluctance to come to terms with labour demands were ultimately responsible for the tragic outcome. There will always remain contested views and interpretations. However, the thesis that there was' a conspiracy of silence' among the Colombian elite to suppress the truth from the collective memory - supported mainly by those who attempt a historical reading of One Hundred Years of Solitude - does not stand up to even a cursory examination of events. 77

Certainly those who were directly involved as major protagonists did not remain silent. On 20 July 1929, Alberto Castrillon, one of the leaders of the strike, sent from prison a full report giving his version of the strike to Congress, soon published in book form that year - I20 dias bajo el terror militar.78 General Carlos Cortes Vargas, in turn, edited a set of documents with his own explanation and defense - Los sucesos de las bananeras - also in 1929' Following Gaitan's accusations in Congress, Cortes Vargas again replied in the columns of El Nuevo Tiempo, and his refutation was reprinted as a pamphlet - El General Cortes Vargas Contesta al representante Gaitdn. 79 The Alcalde of Cienaga, Victor Fuentes, who had been accused by Cortes Vargas of supporting the strike, also published his own version in July 1929; so did the Magdalena Governor, Jose Maria Nunez Roca. In 1931, Gregorio Castaneda Aragon, a Magdalenense poet who held an official position during the strike, published his Papeles de la huelga del Magdalena en 1923, also containing accusations against Cortes Vargas.

Jorge Eliecer Gaitan has of course received all the credit for exposing the massacre. This was not a minor, private venture. He arrived in the banana zone on 18 July 1929, and stayed there the following ten days. He held mass interrogations and gave' speeches before the crowds'. On his return journey to Bogota, he stopped 'whenever he could to tell the growing crowd about the massacre,. 80 On 3 September, after a motion presented by the Liberal representative Gabriel Turbay, Gaitan started a debate in the Lower House which lasted for 15 consecutive days. 'The galleries', as described by Sharpless, 'were filled with spectators; crowds waited outside in the Plaza de Bolivar to accompany Gaitan home after each session; newspapers carried full accounts of the speeches'. 81 Any 'conspiracy' to silence the dead was frustrated by Gaitan's successful campaign. As Herbert Braun noted, Gaitan 'made sure that that would not happen'. 82

Gaitan acquired fame on this occasion, but he was not the only one to accuse the army and the government of slaughtering the strikers. Nor did he start the accusations. According to Torres Giraldo, three lawyers from Magdalena - Manuel Robles, Rafael Campo and Lanao Loayza - 'empezaron a hacer luz sobre el horrendo crimen'. 83 Some of their articles, published by the Conservative press in Barranquilla, were echoed elsewhere in the country, particularly by the Bogotano Liberal newspapers. 'Ni siquiera se sabe a cuantos centenares ascendieron los muertos en esa carniceria unilateral', EI Tiempo commented in July 1929. 84 On 4 September that year, after one of the congressional debates, the Bolivian Ambassador visited EI Tiempo, the headquarters of the political opposition. There Arguedas greeted Gaitan, 'el orador de la tarde', who was next to Eduardo Santos, the newspaper's Director and an already influential figure in the Liberal party. Arguedas could also hear the Congressman Camacho Carreno reconstructing in dictation his speech in the Chamber on the bananeras, to be published by EI Tiempo, together with that of Gaitan, the following day. 85 The work of cartoonists, such as that of Ricardo Rendon86 like that of writers and politicians - is also evidence of the lack of 'silence' surrounding the event.

Quite the contrary. What happened in Cienaga on 6 December 1928 was almost immediately the focus of public controversy. Soon afterwards the 'masacre' became a political symbol, skilfully exploited by the opposition, Liberal and Revolutionary Socialist alike, against the Conservative regime. Even disaffected Conservatives used it to attack the government: on 19 May 1929, EI Espectador published an interview with the Conservative cacique Pompilio Gutierrez, who referred to Cortes Vargas as a 'fiera', responsible for the killing of 1,000 people. 'Abajo el asesino de las bananeras' read the placards carried by mass demonstrators in Bogota the following June. According to Maria Tila Uribe, the bananeras coloured all political events in Colombia during 1929 and 1930. 87

Certainly the first anniversary of the' masacre' did not pass unnoticed. On 4 December, EI Tiempo published in full Gaitan's report accusing President Abadia of constitutional responsibility for the' matanza de las bananeras'. 88 On 6 December, the same newspaper reported that the Union Obrera de Colombia, among other labour organisations, had invited workers to join in the 'primer aniversario del salvaje asesinato perpetrado en millares de vidas de nuestros hermanos de la Zona Bananera'. 89 On the evening of that day, at 5 :00 p.m., 'una gran masa de obreros y de elementos izquierdistas' gathered in the Parque Santander, from where they marched along the Calle Real to reach the Capitolio - the Congress building. Here they were delivered a speech by Felipe Lleras

Camargo, a member of the Liberal Bogotano elite but himself a socialist sympathiser. The demonstration then found its way to the Teatro Municipal, where Alberto Castrillon, one of the leaders of the banana strike, was launched as a presidential candidate for the 1930 contest. 90

Rather than a 'conspiracy of silence', the masacre de las bananeras was followed by press accusations, congressional debates, and street demonstrations. The activities of the opposition were not fruitless. Both the Minister of War, Ignacio Rengifo, and General Carlos Cortes Vargas were removed from their official posts - although this did not happen immediately. The political rewards for the opposition went to the Liberal party not to the PSR. As noted, Jorge Eliecer Gaitan's career was largely built on the reputation he gained for his intervention in the' matanza de las bananeras' debate. Perhaps more significantly, the regime did not remain politically immune. On 9 February 1930, a Liberal, Enrique Olaya Herrera, defeated a divided and demoralised Conservative Party, bringing an end to half a century of Conservative hegemony.


In 1989, when his novel on Simon Bolivar - EI general en su laberinto - was published, Gabriel Garda Marquez acknowledged that he had never before worked with historical data. 'Lo habia trabajado periodisticamente'- he added. 'Pero eso de rastrear hasta el fondo no 10 habia hecho'. 91 Yet some literary critics, such as Gene Bell- Villada, still want us to believe that One Hundred Years of S o/itude is 'quintessential Latin America history'. The idea that novels are truer to history than history itself has a long tradition in the region. 'La novela latinoamericana', wrote German Arciniegas in 1952, 'es en 10 general un documento mas exacto que la historia'. 92

There are historiographical and literary trends sustaining that there should be no distinction between history and literature, for which all readings of the past are equally fictitious. 93 However, as Alan Knight has observed, 'historical narratives are not the equivalent of fictional texts; they are a different genre': 'magical realism may work for literature, but it is the kiss of death for history and the social sciences...'. 94 The historian's approach towards the past has to be different. 'The poetry of history', G. M. Trevelyan pointed out, 'does not consist of imagination roaming at large, but of imagination pursuing the fact and fastening upon it,. 95 The poetry of One Hundred Years of Solitude, in contrast, rests on imagination exaggerating the facts. As Garda Marquez himself admitted in the Channel Four interview that inspired this article, he could not' stick to historical reality' regarding the outcome of the 1928 strike. 96

This does not mean that literature and history should be fully disassociated. Nor does it imply that One Hundred Years of Solitude cannot convey a sense of the Colombian past. However, as this article has shown, it does raise serious questions about the extent to which the novel can be used as a piece of historical evidence - as a source, in particular, to interpret the complex events of the 1928 strike and its aftermath. 'Nos complacemos en el ensuefio de que la historia no se parezca a la Colombia en que vivimos, sino que Colombia termine por parecerse a su historia escrita " Garda Marquez observed in one of his recurrent indictments against a supposedly' official history' of the country. 97 The paradox here is that, since the publication of One Hundred Years of Solitude in 1967, Colombians' perceptions of the bananeras started to resemble not the 'Colombia en que vivimos' but the' historia escrita' by the novelist.
'It is never safe to forget the truth which really underlies historical research', Herbert Butterfield concluded in a classical essay: 'the truth that all history perpetually requires to be corrected by more history'. 98 Seven decades after the events of the bananeras took place, it may be time to put passion aside and attempt to rewrite the whole episode. The result of the enquiry may be equally tragic, but we may get a more balanced view of the nation's history, less apocalyptic, without heroes and villains, and a better understanding of the conflicts faced by Colombians in their past.


* An original version of this article was first presented at the Anglo-Colombian Society in Canning House in February 1997, and at St Antony's College, Oxford, in May 1997, where I received very useful and encouraging comments. I wish to thank the three anonymous JLAS referees for their constructive criticism and suggestions. Gilma Rodriguez, at the Banco de la Republica in Bogota, Malcolm Deas, at Oxford, and Ramon Illan Bacca, at the Universidad del Norte in Barranquilla, provided me with helpful material. They of course do not bear any responsibility for the views expressed in this article.

1 My Macondo, Dal Weldon, dir., (Channel Four, London, 1990), in British Film Institute, London.

2 Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Cien anos de soledad (Barcelona, 1995), p. 37 5. '- Eran mas de tres mil- fue to do cuanto dijo Jose Arcadio Segundo -. Ahora estoy segura que eran todos los que estaban en la estaci6n'; idem, p. 382. See also idem, pp. 408, 423, and 429.

3 Idem., p. 377.

4 Idem., pp. 423-4.

5 As Michael Bell observes, there are two main lines of interpretation around One Hundred
Years of Solitude: one stresses the imaginary dimension, the other the historical vision - the latter 'usually by regional specialists'. See Bell, Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Basing stoke and London, 1993), p. 2.

6 Michael Wood, Garcia Marquez. roo Years of Solitude (Cambridge, 1990), p. 58.

7 Quoted in Anna Marie Taylor, 'Cien afios de soledad: History and the Novel', Latin American Perspectives, 6/3 (1975), p. 106. '...Lo que yo escribo en mis libros no es literatura, sino la expresion de una verdad profunda, una realidad desesperada...', Jean Pierre Richard, 'Garcia Marquez y la mujer', in Juan G. Cobo Borda (ed.), Repertorio critico sobre Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Bogota, 1995), p. 47.

8 Stephen Minta, Garcia Marquez, Writer of Colombia (New York, 1987), p. 170.

9 'Nos han escrito y olicializado una version complaciente de la historia'; Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 'Por un pals al alcance de los nifios', in Presidencia de la Republica, Colombia: AI ftlo de la oportunidad (Bogota, 1994), p. 6. See also his interview with Maria Elvira Samper in Semana, 14 March 1989. For how Garcia Marquez has ignored recent Colombian historiography in his campaign against the 'historia olicial', see Jacques Gilard, 'Garcia Marquez 0 la otra historia olicial', in Revista Universidad Nacional, 2 I (1989), pp. 43-7, and Eduardo Posada Carbo, 'Usos y abusos de la historia. Divergencias con anotaciones de Garcia Marquez', Lecturas Dominicales. EI Tiempo, 15 January 1995, reprinted in Cobo Borda, (ed.), Repertorio critico sobre Gabriel Garcia Marquez, pp. 81-8.

10 Gene H. Bell- Villada, Garcia Marquez. The Man and His Work (Chapel Hill and London, 1990), p. 107.

11 Gerald Martin, Journeys Through the Labyrinth. Latin American Fiction in the Twentieth Century (London and New York, 1989), pp. 227, 229.

12 Minta, Garcia Marquez, p. 169.

13 Gustavo Alfaro, Constante de la historia de Latinoamerica en Garcia Marquez (Cali, 1979);and Lucila Ines Mena, 'La huelga de la compania bananera como expresi6n de 10 'real maravilloso' en 100 anos de soledad', in Bulletin Hispanique, LXXIV (1972), pp. 379-4°5; and her Lajuncion de la historia en Cien Aiios de Soledad (Barcelona, 1979), pp. 63-99.

14 Dario Jaramillo Agudelo, 'Su mejor novela', CambioI6, 13 January 1997.

15 See the observation by Catherine LeGrand in her article, 'El conflicto de as bananeras', in A. Tirado Mejia, (ed.), Nueva Historia de Colombia, vol. 3 (Bogota, 1989), p. 183.

16 The book was first published in 1971; by 1978, it had reached its 9th edition. Alvaro Tirado Mejia, Introduccion a la historia economica de Colombia (Bogota, 1978), pp. 308-12.

17 Roberto Herrera Soto and Rafael Romero Castaneda, La zona bananera del Magdalena. Historiay Lexico (Bogota, 1979). See also C. D. Kepner and J. H. Soothill, The Banana Empire: A Case Study of Economic Imperialism (New York, 1935), C. Kepner, Social Aspects of the Banana Industry (New York, 1936); P. Gilhodes, 'La Colombia et l'United Fruit Company', Revue Franfaise de Science Politique, 17, April 1967; Miguel Urrutia, The Development oj the Colombian Labor Movement (New Haven and London, 1969); Judith White, Historia de una ignominia (Bogota, 1978); Confederaci6n Sindical de Trabajadores

de Colombia (CSTC), (eds.), Bananeras, 1928-1978) (Bogota, 1978); Catherine LeGrand, 'El conflicto de las bananeras', in A. Tirado Mejia, (ed.), Nueva Historia de Colombia, 3 (Bogota, 1989), and 'Campesinos y asalariados en la zona bananera de Santa Marta, 19°0-1935', in G. Bell Lemus, (ed.), EI Caribe colombiano (Barranquilla, 1988), pp. 183-197).

18 None of the recent literary critics whom I consulted, and who argue for the historical faithfulness of One Hundred Years of Solitude, seem to have bothered with this bookI refer to Martin, Journ'!J's; Bell Villada, Garcia Marquez; and Minta, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. An exception is Maurice P. Brungardt who praised La zona bananera del Magdalena as 'el mejor trabajo sobre la huelga'. Brungardt was not commenting on Garcia Marquez's work, but on Alvaro Cepeda Samudio's La casa grande. See Brungardt, 'Mitos hist6ricos y literarios. La casa grande', in A. Pineda and R. Williams, De ficciones y realidades. Perspectivas sobre literatura e historia colombiana (Bogota, 1989), p. 63.

19 White's Historia de una ignominia (Bogota, 1978) was originally written as a B.Phil. Oxford thesis: 'The United Fruit Company in the Santa Marta Banana Zone, Colombia: Conflicts of the 20S' (1971).

20 Dasso Saldivar, Garcia Marquez. EI viaje a la semilla (Madrid, 1997), pp. 60-1.

21 G. Arciniegas, 'Macondo', EI Tiempo, 27 February 1997.

22 See the relevant sections in my The Colombian Caribbean: A Regional History, IS70-I9JO (Oxford, 1996). [Available on] New historiographical trends have opened fresh perspectives on the role of banana companies elsewhere in the continent. See Dario Euraque, 'El imperialismo y Honduras como "Republica bananera": Hacia una nueva historiografia', paper presented at the LASA Conference, Guadalajara, 17-19 April 1997. See also his Reinterpreting the Banana Republic. Region and State in Honduras, 1870-1972 (Chapel Hill, and London, 1996). Catherine LeGrand, from a different angle, also poses new questions regarding the role of the United Fruit Company in the Colombian Caribbean.

23 'Colombia. Report for Year ending June 1928', Public Records Office, London (PRO), F037I/13477.

24 Martin, Journeys through the Labyrinth, p. 229, See also Gene H. Bell- Villada, 'Banana Strike and Military Massacre: One Hundred Years of Solitude and What Happened in 1928', in A. Gimenez and G. Pistoriou, (eds.), From Dante to Garcia Marquez,' Studies in Romance Literatures and Linguistics Presented to Anson C. Piper (Williamston, 1987), p. 391; and Alfaro, Constante de la historia, p. 89. For other Colombian novels based on the bananeras, see David H. Bost, 'Una vista panonimica de las respuestas literarias a la huelga de las bananeras', Revista de Estudios Colombianos, 10 (1991), pp. 12-23. A short story, not considered by Bost's review, also based on the bananeras is: Ramon Illan Bacca, 'Si no fuera por la zona caramba', in his lHarihuana para Goering (Barranquilla, n.d., possibly 1978).

25 The Conservative Hegemony, particularly the last two decades of its rule, remains one of the relatively less studied periods in Colombia's political history. See my 'Limits of Power: Elections under the Conservative Hegemony, 1886-193°" Hispanic American Historical Review, 77: 2 (May 1997), pp. 245-79, where I review the nature of Colombian politics during this period. For decades the standard essay for the Conservative Hegemony has been Jorge Orlando MelD's 'La Republica Conservadora', originally published in Ideologiay Sociedad, 12 (1975), and recently reprinted in Melo, (ed.), Colombia hoy. Perspectivas hacia eI siglo XXI (Bogota, 1995), pp. 57-102. See also Malcolm Deas, 'Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela, c. 1880--193°" in L. Bethell, (ed.), The Cambridge History of Latin America, vol. 5 (Cambridge, 1986), pp. 641-82, and C. Abel, Politica, iglesiay partidos en Colombia, ISS6-I8J} (Bogota, 1987).

26 For an account of the origins of the strike, and a discussion of these demands, see the works by White, Historia de una ignominia; Herrera Soto and Romero Castaneda, La zona bananera del Magdalena, and LeGrand, 'El conflicto de las bananeras'.

27 Carlos Cortes Vargas, Los sucesos de las bananeras (Bogota, 1979), pp. 30--1, 68, 79, 28 Ignacio Torres Giraldo, Los inconformes. Historia de las rebeldias de las masas en Colombia, 5 vols, (Bogota, 1978), vol. 4, p. 948.

29 Victor Fuentes, Los SIIcesos de las bananeras (Santa Marta, 1929), p. 10.

30 Fuentes, Los sucesos, p. I I.

31 G. Castaneda Aragon, Papeles de la huelga del Magdalena en 1923 (Barcelona, 193 I), p. 10.

32 CSTC, Bananeras, 1923-1973 (Bogota, 1928), p. 95. Cortes Vargas referred to the Diario de Cordoba as 'el alma mater del movimiento, sus ediciones eran devoradas por el pueblo', Los sucesos, p. 69. Historians, however, have not yet been able to locate any surviving copies of this newspaper; I owe this reference to one of the anonymous JLAS readers.

33 Jose Maria Valdeblanquez, Historia del departamento del Magdalena y del territorio de la Gu,!jira. Desde el eiro de JS9! hasta eI de 1963 (Santa Marta, 1964), p.2j2. For a biographical note on Mahecha, see Carlos Arango Z, Sobrevivientes de las bananeras (Bogota, second edition, 1985), pp. 127-58.

34 'Difficulties of the United Fruit Company in Colombia', 17 December 1930, National Archives of the United States (USNA), Washington, RG59/82I.6Ij6. On newspapers being read aloud in the plantations, particularly EI Estado, see Herrera Soto and Romero Castaneda, La zona bananera, p. 39.

35 See, for example, Bananer'as, 1928-1978, p. 88.

36 On his arrival at Barranquilla in June 1929, the Bolivian Ambassador and man of letters, Alcides Arguedas, was impressed by the harsh language employed by newspapers in their attacks against President Abadfa. See his La danza de las sombras (Bogota, 1983), p. 25. '... freedom of the press and freedom of speech are the order of the day', in 'Colombia. Report for year ending June 1928'.

37 Torres Giraldo, Los inconformes, vol. 4, p. 959; Cortes Vargas, Los sucesos, pp. 167~68.

38 Fifty years later, Josefa Maria Blanco Perez gratefully recalled Gaitan's actions. See, C. Arango, Los sobrevivientes de las bananeras (Bogota, first ed., 1981), p. 99.

39 'Hoy a las cinco de la tarde sera proclamado candidato comunista', EI Tiempo, 6 December 1929. That Castri1l6n was candidate in the 1930 presidential election has passed almost unnoticed among Colombian historians. See also Torres Giraldo, Los inconformes vol. 4, p. 10°5; Uribe, Los anos escondidos. Suenosy rebeldias en la dicada del veinte (Bogota, 1994), p. 310; and M. Medina, Historia del Partido Comunista de Colombia (Bogota, 1980), vol. 1, pp. 150-1.

40 'Colombia. Annual Report 1929', PROjF0371jI4221.

41 Deas,' Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela', p. 66 I. For a critical view of these measures, see Gerardo Molina, Las ideas liberales en Colombia, 191J-19J4 (Bogota, 1974), pp. 176~87. On the civilian successful opposition to the Minister of War's campaign, see Abel, Politica, iglesia y partidos en Colombia, pp. 229~3 1.

42 Torres Giraldo, Los inconjormes, vol. 4, p. 898.

43 See Manuel Caballero, Gomez, eI tirano liberal (Caracas, 1994); and Deas, 'Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela', pp. 678-80.

44 Herrera Soto and Romero Castaneda, La zona bananera, p. 79.

45 Quoted in Torres Giraldo, Los inconjormes, vol. 4, p. 966.

46 1928. La masacre de las bananeras, pp. 116-18, 123.

47 Gaitan's speeches were published in full by the major national newspapers. See 'Comenzo ayer en la Camara el sensacional debate sobre las bananeras', 'El regimen militar cometio abusos fiscales en la zona', 'El R. Jorge Eliecer Gaitan hizo ayer terribles revelaciones sobre las bananeras', 'El R. Gaitan termino ayer sus gravisimos denuncios sobre los crimenes de las bananeras', in EI Tiempo, 4, j, 6 and 8 September 1929. These speeches were later compiled as 1928. La masacre de las bananeras (Bogota, Ediciones Los comuneros, n.d.), a little book that ran into various editions, readily available today in Colombian book stores. See also' La responsabilidad constitucional del Presidente Abadia en la matanza de las bananeras', EI Tiempo, 4 December 1929.

48 Mena, 'La huelga de la compania bananera', p. 73. Saldivar's biography of Garcia Marquez is the most recent example of how Gaitan's account is accepted as an unchallengeable truth; Garcia MarqueZ' EI viaje a la semilla, p. 71.

49 Torres Giraldo, Los inconformes, vol. 4, p. 966.

50 On the possible influences of Vargas Vila on Gaitan, see Malcolm Deas, 'Jose Maria
Vargas Vila', in Del poder y la gramatica (Bogota, 1993), pp. 296-99' In the prologue to the second edition of his Sobrevivientes de las bananeras, Carlos Arango Z. quotes Vargas Vila: '... el odio al yanqui debe ser nuestra divisa; pues ese odio es nuestro deber; renunciar a el es renunciar a la vida', pp. 14-1j. An exceptional note of cautiousness on the fidelity of Gaitan's account is found in Urrutia, The Colombian Labor Movement, p.108.

51 White, for example, hardly cites Cortes Vargas's Los sucesos de las bananeras. Mena does quote this source in a couple of occasions, while Saldivar does not seem to have bothered to consult the book. Before being commissioned to the Coast, Cortes Vargas was head of the History Department at the Army's Estado Mayor General, from 1920 to 1926. During this period, in 1924, he published a three volume history book, Participacion de Colombia en la Libertad del Peru. For a sympathetic biographical note on Cortes Vargas, see Roberto Herrera Soto's prologue to Los sucesos de las bananeras, pp. 11~I7.

52 Cortes Vargas, Los sucesos, pp. 87-90.

53 Kepner, Social Aspects oj the Banana Industry, pp. 193-4.

54 Medina, Historia del partido comunista, p. Ip. Founded in 1926, the PSR became the Communist Party in 1930. On its foundation, see Torres Giraldo, Los Inconjormes, vol. 4, pp. 837-48.

55 Herrera Sota and Romero Castaneda, La zona bananera, pp. 28-30. On Mahecha, see Arango, Sobrevivientes de las bananeras (Bogota, 2nd. edition, 1985), chapter 6; Medina, Historia del Partido Comunista de Colombia, vol. I, pp. 131-3.

56 See Uribe, Los ai/os escondidos, p. 261. Other members of the PRS involved in the leadership of the strike included Russo, Erasmo Coronel and Sixto Ospino; Medina, Historia del Partido Comunista, p. 132. For PSR's involvement, see also CSTC, Bananeras, p. 104.

57 Representing the Venezuelans were Arevalo Cedeno, General Carabano, and Pedro Elias Aristigueta. See Uribe, Los aiios escondidos, pp. 242-52. The anti-Gomez forces launched a frustrated revolution in 1929. See Caballero, Gomez. EI tirano liberal, pp. 289-326.

58 Torres Giraldo, Los inconjormes, vol. 4, p. 939; CSTC, Bananeras, p. 104.

59 Quoted in Arango, Los sobrevivientes, (2nd edition), pp. 146, 165-6.

60 Medina, Historia del partido, p. 135.
61 LeGrand,' EI conflicto de las bananeras', p. 206. On the threats of Liberal rebellions elsewhere in Colombia during the late 1920S, see M. Jimenez, 'At the Banquet of Civilization: The Limits of Planter Hegemony in Early Twentieth-Century Colombia', in W. Roseberry et aI., (eds.), Coffee, Society and Power in Latin America (Baltimore and London, 1995), pp. 262-94. 'Si nosotros no hacemos la revolucion' - Mahecha pleaded to his camarades in a Congreso Sindical Latinoamericano gathered in Montevideo months after the strike - 'es seguro, pero absolutamente seguro, que la haran los liberales'; Arango, Sobrevivientes (second edition), p. 143.

62 Victor Fuentes, Los sucesos de las bananeras (Santa Marta, 1929), p. 10.

63 Natives from the interior department of Antioquia.

64 Mauricio Archila, 'La clase obrera colombiana, 1886-1930', A. Tirado, ed., Nueva Historia de Colombia, vol. 3, p. 236.

65 The army was also described as 'distinctly inferior to that of Peru and Venezuela, and barely equal to that of Ecuador'; see' Colombia. Report for the Year ending 1928'.

66 Cortes Vargas, Los sucesos, pp. 62, 66.

67 Cortes Vargas, Los sucesos, pp. 66, 67. LeGrand raised doubts about the authenticity of this letter, suggesting that it might have been fabricated by Cortes Vargas. LeGrand, 'Las bananeras', p.210. Maria Tila Uribe, Uribe Marquez's daughter, however, reproduces the text of this letter in her memoirs. She also claims that this and other letters by Uribe Marquez were widely read by the strikers; Los aiios escondidos, pp. 262-3.

68 EI Estado, 5 December 1928, quoted in Valdeblanquez, Historia del departamento del Magdalena. See also Herrera Sote and Romero Castaneda, La zona bananera, pp. 47, 5 I.

69 Fuentes, Los sueesos de fas bananeras, pp. 12-13.

70 Cortes Vargas, Los sueesos de fas bananeras, p. 80.

71 See their recollections in Arango, Sobrevivientes de fas bananeras, pp. 68 and 74. Later, in June 1929, Mahecha acknowledged that during the confrontations that followed the shooting at the plaza on the eve of 6 December, strikers counted on 'ciento siete rifles Gras y unas cien escopetas pesimamente municionadas, y algunos centenares de machetes'; Arango, Sobrevivientes (second ed.), p. 141.

72 Cortes Vargas, Los sueesos de fas bananeras, p. 31.

73 See Fuentes, Los sueesos de fas bananeras, and Cortes Vargas, Los sucesos de fas bananeras. The complaints against civilian authorities in the latter figure prominently.

74 Castri1l6n, I20 dias bqjo el terror militar, p. 38.

75 Castaneda, p. 19.

76 CSTC, Bananeras, p. 100.

77 See Bell- Villada, Garcia Marquez, p. !OJ; and Martin, journeys through the labyrinth, pp. 230 and 38j.

78 A. Castri1l6n 120 dias bqjo el terror militar 0 la huelga de las bananeras (Bogota, first ed. 1929; reprinted in 1974). In this text Castri1l6n appealed to the legislators to do justice as representatives of the republic in a democratic country. His line was condemned by the Communist International: '... ha dirigido al parlamento colombiano una suplica en la cual no habla con la altivez de un militante revolucionario de la clase obrera... sino en la forma de un vii cortesano que implora la gracia de la burguesia'; Communist International Bureau to the PSR, Moscu, February 1930, in Arango, Los sobrevivientes de las bananeras (wd. ed), pp. 178-9'

79 These two works were reprinted in one volume in 1979 as Los sucesos de las bananeras.

80 H. Braun, The assassination of Gaitan : Public Life and Urban Violence in Colombia (Madison,
1985), p. 58. 'He stopped at every major populated area along the way, attacked the government for its illegal action and corruption, and urged the people to give him support in the coming congressional debate', Sharpless, Gaitan of Colombia: A Political
Biography (Pittsburgh, 1970), p. 58.

81 Sharpless, Gaitan of Colombia, p. 58.

82 See Braun's observation on Garcia Marquez's novel and Gaitan's actions, regarding the tale that silence surrounded the dead of the massacre, in Braun, The assassination of Gaitan, p. 2II, fn. 23.

83 Torres Giraldo, Los inconformes, vol. 4, p. 963.

84 Quoted in G. Colmenares, Ricardo Rendon. Una fuente para la historia de la opinion pubica (Bogota, 1984), p. 261. 85 Arguedas, La danza de las sombras, pp. 78-80.

88 See Colmenares, Ricardo Rendon. Una fuente para la historia de la opinion publica.

87 Uribe, Los anos escondidos, p. 293.

88 'La responsabilidad constitucional del Presidente Abadia en la matanza de las
bananeras', EI Tiempo, 4 December 1929.

89 'Hoy a !as cinco de la tarde sera proclamado candidato comunista', EI Tiempo, 6
December 1929.

90 'El candidato comunista fue proclamado en el Municipal', EI Tiempo, 7 December 1929. Castri1l6n's speech was published here in full.

91 Interview with Maria Elvira Samper, Semana, 14 March 1989.

92 German Arciniegas, Entre la libertad y eI miedo (Bogota, 1996 - published first as TheState in Latin America in 1952), p. 39.

93 See, for example, Hayden White, Tropics of Discourse. Essays in Cultural Criticism (Baltimore and London, 1978). For a critical account of the distinction between history and fiction, see Richard J. Evans, In Defence of History (London, 1997).

94 Alan Knight, Latin America. What Price the Past? An Inaugural Lecture delivered before the University of Oxford on I8 November 199J (Oxford, 1994), p. 32.

95 Quoted in Evans, In Defence of History, p. 250. See also Trevelyan's 'History and Literature', History, vol. IX, No. 34 (1924), pp. 81-91.

96 My Macondo, Dan Weldon, dir., (Channel Four, London, 1990), in British Film
Institute, London.

97 Garcia Marquez, 'Por un pais al alcance de los niiios', p. 6.

98 H. Butterfield, The Whig Interpretation of History (New York and London, 1965), p. 131. 'The knowledge of the past is something progressive which is constantly transforming and perfecting itself', M. Bloch, The Historian's Craft (Manchester, 1992), p. 48.


Sibling Rivalry on the Left and Labor Struggles in Colombia during the 1940s W. John Green
Latin American Research Review Vol. 35, No. 1 (2000), pp. 85-117
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