Mario Vargas Llosa is a beast. As a writer, in the figurative sense, and as an ideologist, in the literal sense. Or he is a cynic, like many of the characters that he develops in this his most recent novel. As for the first, there need be no discussion. There is his novelistic work, above all, configuring a creative region of unattainable comparison. As for the second, a facet paid for by his literary success, there is the perception that this bestiality, translated into a remarkable record of personal contradictions, is the consequence of his narcissistic temperament. Having reached the status of a cultural 'jet set' figure, Vargas Llosa ended up forced to warm his speech, becoming a kind of champion of unnecessary causes.
But it would still be necessary to probe the possibility, as a result of the publication of a novel such as "Hard Times" (2019), of speaking only of a fake. Of someone who lies in the eyes of all without flinching, of the magician to whom the trick is revealed in front of the audience without the slightest hint of shame, of the preacher who exclaims "do what I say but not what I do." The writer is a huge paradox, but there he is, adding a new creation to the literary heritage of humanity. How cruel it is for progressive readers (most of those who read?) That it is he and not a like-minded author who retells a chapter of our history, so much in need of being told to the Latin Americans of the XNUMXst century .
And what is it that counts? Just one more of the wide catalog of horrors with which the United States has been subduing the peoples today located south of the Rio Grande: the history and the intricacies of the coup d'état suffered by Jacobo Árbenz in Guatemala in the 50s. And he also tells it without mincing words. That is, showing the tricks concocted by the agents of US imperialism in the implosion operation of one of the most progressive governments of its time.
And then in what does Vargas Llosa lie or manipulate? He does so by recomposing the facts as an argument for his particular thesis: “The North American intervention in Guatemala delayed the democratization of the continent for decades and cost thousands of deaths, as it contributed to popularizing the myth of the armed revolution and socialism throughout Latin America. ”. In other words, if the United States had not acted in the Central American country, the Cuban revolution would not have existed, nor would the hundreds of revolutionary negotiations that have taken place since then made sense, given the inevitable democratic course and consequent well-being that sooner or later the region would have taken. . A reasoning, let's not say banal, but already openly paphilous.
A single piece of evidence suffices to refute it. The bloody balance of murders, persecutions, impoverishment and marginalization of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children in Guatemala, but also in Colombia, Honduras, Costa Rica and Nicaragua, had as its essential objective - a treacherous crime and for futile motives - the protection of the United Fruit Company and its intention to operate freely throughout the continent, without competition, taxes or unions. That is, the miserable demand for easy wealth by a select, and heartless, group of American entrepreneurs. The parallels that continue to take place today in Latin America - changing some names - prove that economic reasons above all continue to justify the overwhelming actions of the northern giant.
The reader is warned, however, of this absurd pirouette of the writer, it is possible to surrender to the reading of a novel with all the ingredients that the Peruvian author's fictions always had, including the masterful creation of characters that contribute to weave a full plot in intrigues that heightens his interest beyond the historical facts already sufficiently unusual.
Five almost unknown novels about the "Frutera" (the United Fruit Company)
"Mamita Yunai", Carlos Luis Fallas (1941)
The narrative is partially autobiographical since, during his youth, Fallas worked as a lineman for the United Fruit Company in the province of Limón. It is a denunciation of social injustices and the miserable conditions in which the workers of the American transnational lived.
"Bananas", Emilio Quintana (1942)
In this testimonial work, Quintana, the protagonist, emigrates from Managua to the banana plantations in the southern part of Costa Rica in search of a better salary. Through his experience and those of other workers, he realizes that the working conditions and the bonanza advertised in the newspapers are false: they earn bad wages, eat poorly nutritious and spoiled food, get sick, do strenuous work, observe the death of many compatriots and they are exploited by the banana company system.
"The eyes of the buried", Miguel Angel Asturias (1960)
The novel, written in 1956 and published in 1960, describes life on the banana plantations of the United Fruit Company in Guatemala and is the outcome of the plot that began in “Viento Fuerte” and “El Papa Verde”. Historically it ranges from the strike on the Atlantic coast in Guatemala to the fall of the pro-fruit regime of General Jorge Ubico in July 1944. It is based on the three acts of the “Popol Vuh”, the sacred book of the Guatemalan indigenous people, and on real episodes in the history of Guatemala.
"The big house", Álvaro Cepeda Zamudio (1962)
This is the story of the banana massacre, which occurred in Colombia in 1928, a crime perpetrated by the Colombian government itself, which ordered the execution of the day laborers who worked in the banana fields and who had gone on strike, against the working conditions imposed by the United Fruit Company. In parallel, the story of the family that lives in La Gabriela, the big house, in which each member of the family - the Father, the Sister, the Brother - will find an irrevocable destiny.
"The scars of the wind", Francisco Martín Moreno (1989)
Using historical research and narrative, Moreno develops in this novel the history of the United Fruit Company, the immense North American monopoly that exploited and overwhelmed Central America, several Caribbean countries and Colombia for more than half a century. Before the reader, the abuses committed by "the octopus" or "the fruit company" are exhibited, as the most powerful banana company in the world was known in the nations in which it operated, known as banana republics. Likewise, a documented complaint is made of the complicity and servility of the banana governments, always manipulated with efficiency –military and bureaucratic– from the highest political and commercial spheres of the United States.