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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Saga of the Banana Plantation

Dear Family and Friends,

This post is about our visit to a banana plantation.

Lourdes and William took us to visit Lourdes' mother. She lives right in the middle of a very large banana plantation. We were able to get up close and even walk into and through the banana plants.

I had Chuck hold up a banana leaf just to show how long they are. You will notice that there are bananas growing on the plant behind him. They are covered in plastic to protect them from insects. The stalk of bananas are about as long as Chuck is tall. These bananas are grown for export. In fact, if you live in the U.S. you could have possibly eaten a banana grown right here.

The bananas are picked, washed, fumigated and packed right next to Lourdes' mothers house.

After the bananas are harvested, they are washed. William shows us some bananas in the bath.

They are then put in plastic bins and sent down the conveyor rollers where they are fumigated to kill any insects. They are packed while they are still green.

This is the other end of the process, where the bananas are packed into boxes.

While this is going on, boxes are being made next door to hold the bananas. Here, Lourdes and Ivan are showing us how they put the boxes together in this machine.

Look familiar???

Actually, there were boxes from many different brands. Most of them I did not recognize. These bananas are shipped to many different countries.

What I found funny is that when I bought bananas in the U.S., I thought the Del Monte, Dole or whatever brand was a unique banana.....maybe from a different place. HA! They are all the same. It just depends on who they are packing for that day. Same bananas, different stickers.

After the bananas are boxed, they are fumigated again. Yes, the bananas you buy in the grocery store are quite toxic on the outside. I do not have any idea if the chemicals seep through the banana peels.

Right along the edge of the bananas fields cocoa plants are growing. Yes! Bananas and chocolate....yum!

Here is what cocoa looks like growing on the tree.

I had Chuck put his hand on one so you can see the size of the pods.

There was a pod on the ground that had dropped off the tree. William cracked it open so we could see the cocoa beans inside. The beans are white before being fermented and dried.

Here is a picture I posted about a month ago. It is of cocoa beans drying along the side of the highway.

Lourdes' mother fed us dinner. Seco de pollo, rice and cucumber salad.

After dinner, Lourdes' mother took us into her house. She shared with us her most prized possessions. A few photographs of her children and a stack of diplomas and awards her children had received from their schools.

Now, the down side. Unfortunately, there is a down side and it must be shared.

Out of necessity, the people who live on these banana plantations wash their clothes in the river, just as many folks do right here in Cuenca. But, unlike Cuenca, their river is full of chemicals and toxins that is run off from the banana fields. It is killing them.

At this moment, Lourdes' mother is suffering from toxic poisoning. She got this from washing clothes in the river. I pray that she will be okay. She has stopped washing clothes in the river. Her children are hoping to buy her a washing machine. In the mean time, her sons are doing the laundry....and not in the river I hope.

We saw the river. There were children playing in the water, women washing clothes and Lourdes tells me some people even bathe in it. She said the incidence of cancer is very high. She told me of her mother's friend, who bathes in the river and washes her hair in the river, is now losing her hair.

All this so that when we go to the store to buy bananas we will have nice pretty bananas that are without blemish.

So there you have it, the pretty and the ugly of the banana saga.



  1. Thank you Nancy, well said. I must also note that in a cannery they do the same thing with say... green beans. They are all the same, they just put a label on the can for whoever they are processing for that day.

  2. With all of the chemicals used in food these days, I think it is important to seek out organic when offered. The only produce I will spend my money on is organic even if it means I pay more for less. I want to do the best I can to NOT contribute one more dime to the chemical poisoning of the innocent! I am proud to say I only purchase organic bananas from Ecuador! (even though I do look a little silly reading the where from labels on the banana bunches!)
    I would be interested to know if they chemically "de-bug" the organic produce after it is "grown organic", I would think not, hmmmm?

    Thank you for all of your great information!

    Stuck here in the great Pacific NW

  3. I had no idea that this was going on... how to stop the poisoning? Thanks to you for telling this story....

  4. Hey mom, Just Thursday I got me two Big bunches of Bananas at the store and yes there were green and I have already eaten all but one of one bunch. This was a great story for those who love Bananas which I do, thanks for both sides of it as well! Matt Byrd your loving son

  5. See you next weekend. Your loving mom.

  6. I haven't purchased a banana since your story - I had no idea. Thank you for sharing ...

  7. Vladimir (RUS)
    Thank you Nancy and Chuck for your interesting topic. It is really interesting information about Ecuador. Increasingly people think about the quiet retirement. I think, Ecuador one of country which can be suitable for them today.

    Best whishes


Comments are welcome.