- What are the key debates between those who argue that geopolitical motivations were central vs. those who argue that economic motivations were central? Which do you find more convincing?
- Why did the Árbenz administration pose a threat to UFCO?
- Why did UFCO hold so much power in the U.S., particularly among high-ranking government officials?
- Why did the U.S. perceive a communist/Soviet threat in Guatemala? Do you think these concerns were valid?
- How and why did U.S. officials “play down” the importance of UFCO to their concerns about Guatemala?
- What role did propaganda play in motivating or facilitating the coup? Which actors were behind this propaganda?
- What were some long-term consequences of the 1954 coup?
- Why is it important to consider the motivations behind the 1954 coup, rather than just the results?
- What connections do you see between this case and current U.S.-Guatemala or U.S.- Latin America relations?
- What can this case tell us about U.S. interventionism more generally?
In this podcast from Harvard Business Review, global business historian Geoff Jones tells the story of UFCO in Guatemala and why the controversies and debates surrounding it still matters:
Jones, Geoff, and Brian Kenny. “The Controversial History of United Fruit.” Harvard Business Review, July 2, 2019. https://hbr.org/podcast/2019/07/the-controversial-history-of-united-fruit.
This TED-Ed video provides context for UFCO’s role in Central America more generally:
The Dark History of Bananas – John Soluri. YouTube, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esvycD1O3cM.
The National Security Archive curated this collection of declassified CIA documents that reveal details about Operation PBSuccess and its brutality:
Doyle, Kate, and Peter Kornbluh, eds. “CIA and Assassinations: The Guatemala 1954 Documents.” The National Security Archive. Accessed May 1, 2021. https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB4/index.html.
These photos are from a collection of UFCO photos by Baker Library Historical Collections. This page shows scenes of UFCO in Guatemala from 1910-1953:
“Hollis Images.” Harvard Library . Accessed May 1, 2021. https://images.hollis.harvard.edu/primo-explore/search?query=any,contains,%22baker%20library%22,AND&query=any,contains,%22united%20fruit%22,AND&query=any,contains,guatemala,AND&tab=default_tab&search_scope=default_scope&sortby=rank&vid=HVD_IMAGES&lang=en_US&mode=advanced&offset=0#searchResultList.
This short documentary explains the state-sponsored violence of the Guatemalan Civil War. Though the war did not officially start with the 1954 coup, the coup ushered in a series of right-wing dictatorships that contributed to sparking the Civil War. (CONTENT WARNING: This video contains upsetting images and discussion of violence and death)
Guatemala’s Disappeared | Fault Lines. YouTube. Al Jazeera English, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0Qu210g3Rk.