Final Project

December 18th, 2012

Guatemala, United Fruit and the CIA
Why did the United Fruit Company use the CIA to overthrow the Arbenz government in Guatemala?
Last semester I took Geography of Latin America there was a book I read that piqued my interest in a time period and region that I had previously shunned. It is common knowledge that most countries of Central and South America have had many obstacles and difficulties when establishing their governments after they won their independent. Many countries suffered from ruthless dictators, massive debt and low literacy rates or uneducated lower classes. After reading “Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World” by Dan Koeppel I learned that in many countries corporations from the United States and the US government itself often exacerbated or caused most of these problems. After reading the book I did more research on my own reading about the banana and the United Fruit Company.
After reading some more books on the topic I decided to narrow my research on Guatemala. I had knowledge of the CIA coup that overthrew the Arbenz government in the 1950’s. As most coup carried out during the cold war I became a little suspicious. After reading about Jacobo Arbenz and his predecessor Juan Arevalo and the positive direction they were taking the country I became even more confused. Then I read “Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala” by Stephen Schlesinger and Stephen Kinzer, and the answer became simple: The United Fruit Company. What reason would this company have to overthrow a government that not only first democratically elected one in Central America but also genuinely cared about the citizens of their country? Money.
The first map shows all of the ports of call for the Great White Fleet of the United Fruit Company. The Great White Fleet was refrigerated ships (the first of their kind) that were used to transport bananas between ports in North and South America. The United Fruit Company pretty much controlled the banana market in Latin America. They had ports in the majority of countries in Central America, with some countries having more than one.
The second map shows the CIA backed invasion of Guatemala called Operation PBSUCCESS. The CIA supplied “rebels” with arms, planes and ammunition. The rebel forces were staged in Honduras and attacked from over the border. Due to the fact that the Guatemalan army outnumbered the rebel forces, the CIA also distributed pamphlets, and posters as well as spread political rumors. In addition, the CIA also carried out air raids in the capital area, railroad routes and gasoline storage. All of these elements combined made Operation PBSUCCESS quick and effective. After only 9 days of fighting President Jacobo Arbenz surrended and resigned his post.
The timeline shows the development of the Guatemalan government from a dictatorship that catered to the United Fruit Company’s ever need to a democratic government that worked for the people. It was during the “10 year of Spring” when Arevalo and Arbenz enacted laws to protect workers and build up the middle and lower class that the United Fruit Company began to plot their fall. The laws that Arevalo and Arbenz enacted were seen as a direct threat to the company’s profits and assets. They began a PR campaign against the Guatemalan government in the United States to rally support to have them overthrown.
The graphs really show why the company was felt so threatened by the Guatemalan government. United Fruit had devalued their land in order to reduce their tax liability. After decree 900 was enacted, in which all unused and fallow land was seized by the government and redistributed among the citizens. The Guatemalan government offered the company 627,572 in bonds based on the declared tax value. The U.S. State Department demanded 18,854,849 in bonds claiming the evaluations was not fair or just.
The second graph shows how much the Guatemalan government offered per acre based, how much the United Fruit Company originally paid per acre and finally how much the U.S. State Department demanded per acre.
The Wordle pictures are compiled from articles about Edward Bernays, the main architect of the company’s PR campaign against Guatemala and the CIA’s relationship with Guatemala respectively. In the first picture, United Fruit and Guatemala are obviously mentioned the most. Public and Arbenz are mentioned a fair amount was well. In the second picture PBSUCCESS was obviously mentioned frequently. United and Fruit were mentioned a fair amount as well showing the ties of the company to the agency. Communist was another word that mentioned often. That word is important because the “claim” and subsequent “belief” that Arbenz and many in his government were communist was the main reason for the invasion.
There is a picture of a Google Ngram of Guatemala. You can see that books about the county peaked when there were period of political upheaval. I also included banana in search because the fruit was so closely tied to the country. It appears that as the fruits popularity increased so did writings about it. An increase can been seen in recent decades but that is probably due to the threat of Panama Disease and extinction.
My research has shown that the CIA coup of Guatemala was not over communism or an unstable government but it was largely due to the money and greed of the United Fruit Company. Jacobo Arbenz was the president of a nation that was finally putting the needs of the people first. Unfortunately for him, the needs of the people did coincide with the needs of a corporation.
Due to the fact that most of this project is largely interactive, printing it would take away from its impact. I definitely want to keep this up on my blog for preservation but also much on my information was I got from books and archives.

Nicholas Cullather, Operation PBSUCCESS: The United States and Guatemala, 1952-1954 (Washington, D.C.: CIA, 1994)

Mintz, S., & McNeil, S. (2012). Digital History. Retrieved December 18 2012. from

Larry Tye, Watch Out For Top Banana. Cabinet Magazine 2006. Retrieved December 10 2012.  from




Week 14 – “The Art of Programming”

November 26th, 2012

Scratch is an amazing program. I think it’s great for kids and adults attempting to learn the basics of programming. It was very easy to use and understand. It is fun to play around and create your own story or game. It is a little frustrating sometimes because I often had these large ideas that I couldn’t always bring to life. Overall I think Scratch is a great learning program that allows you to explore your imagination but also challenges you at the same time.

I think programs like these are really important because they teach children the basics and beginnings of technical skills at a young age. It’s really important because as we discussed earlier in the semester kids in my generation and younger grew up being “tech savvy”. Using computers, smartphones, ipods and other devices are second nature to us. However many of us don’t understand the technology or programming behind them. I have no problem navigating the web; I’ve being doing it nearly 2/3 of my life. But if you asked me how to read a webpage in html what goes into making a website, you’d be out of luck. Programs like scratch that are targeted a young age group are very valuable because the basics and importance of programming at a young age.

Week 12 “Data Mining and Text Mining”

November 8th, 2012

Data Mining has made my college years so much easier. When I read the following passage I admit that had been nightmare from a young age, “Borges’s nightmare, of course, is a cursed vision of the research methods of disciplines such as literature, history, and philosophy, where the careful reading of books, one after the other, is supposed to lead inexorably to knowledge and understanding.” When doing research in middle school and high school I was always overwhelmed by the sheer amount of literature that there was available to. I always thought there’s no way I can comb through all of these books and article, what if I’m missing a critical or important piece of information. As I got older and as technology advanced, my prayers were answered.

While it is not a perfect science Data mining and Text mining have greatly increased the ease and accuracy of research in social science fields. Programs are able to scan for more pages than the human eye for phrases and information. Using these programs I’ve found have increased that quality of my work in college. Instead of being bogged down with multiple books and wondering which source would have the best data, I am able to scan through 10 times as many articles and books to find 10 times more quality information. While these programs are not yet perfect that have increased the ease of doing research especially in the social science fields. I think they are making history more attainable and readable to a variety of people.


Week 11

November 5th, 2012

I thought Edward Tufte’s “PowerPoint is Evil” was very interesting however I don’t necessarily agree with all points. I do agree that PowerPoint puts presentation of content. Many of the most visually appealing PowerPoints often lack in content and information.  Being that society and education is becoming increasingly intertwined with technology children are being taught this from a very young age. They are learning to put presentation over content which can present numerous problems as they get further in their academic career.

There are a few points that I do not agree with Tufte on. I do not think audience boredom is mostly related to content failure. As I said earlier some of the most visually appealing slides often lack in content but having good content with a bland, one dimensional presentation isn’t appealing either. The “Good” information table does not grab my eye and I don’t think many people will absorb the information. While I agree the “Bad” tables are confusing and jumbled, I think showing just one of those charts would grab the audience attention and effectively communicate information as well. I would much rather look at visualization from many eyes then a simple black and white columns with rows of numbers.

“PowerPoint is Evil” was a great article because it articulated many issues that I didn’t know I had with PowerPoint. I think that after reading this I will become more critical of how I use PowerPoint and that way I chose to present my information.

“Week 9 Maps, Spatial Analysis and History”

October 31st, 2012

I thought “we attempt to translate the fundamental components of professional scholarship-evidence, engagement with prior scholarship, and a scholarly argument-into forms that take advantage of the possibilities of electronic media.” was the most important sentence. I have always loved history. I love reading about it, writing about it and learning about it. What I have found from many of my peers is that history is boring and a lot of reading. There are so many new forms of electronic media that makes history interactive and appealing to audiences. It brings history alive to an extent. Electronic media also helps make history easier to grasp. They are no longer just words on paper.

Being a geography major I always underscore the importance of mapping and Spatial Analysis. It helps in so many ways. Maps help us understand data by displaying it visually. They are great tools to help analyze and re-examine  history. New techniques can help find new patterns or correlations.


Week 5 “Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues in a Digital Age: Owning and Mining the Past”

October 31st, 2012

Copyright has become a huge issue as of late. Watching “Copyright Criminals” made me think of my middle and high school days when illegal downloads of music was very popular. I remember for me it go to a point where it was almost unheard of to buy music. When Napster and Limewire were shutdown many people my worried over where they would get their music from. It made me think of the impact that the internet has had in music.

Illegal downloading was an obvious downside but the internet has made music easily accessible to so many people. There are so many types of music that I sampled on the internet that I would have never thought I would like or that weren’t played on radio stations that I listened to. The internet has also made sharing music so much easier; I’m able to send a song that I like to my friend who I’m talking to on Skype  New artist are able to share their music quickly and easily over their websites. Never has music been so accessible to so many people.

While there are many ways the internet dramatically increased data sharing and accessibility, Copyright infringement has become an increasingly serious side effect.

Week 6 Securing Information

October 2nd, 2012

Last week I tried to transfer funds from my PayPal account into my bank account and I forgot my password and had go through a three step process including a phone call to prove my identity and location. At the time I thought the whole process was unnecessary hoops to jump through but after reading “How Apple and Amazon Security Flaws Lead to My Epic Hacking” I couldn’t have been more thankful. I thought what if PayPal had the same system as Apple and Amazon, not only would I be out 50 but the hacker could have access to my bank account without me ever knowing.  The thing that I found most unnerving about this article was the fact that the hackers were only after the twitter handle. I can only imagine the amount of damage they could have done if they were after important pieces of information the a social security number or bank account numbers.

On one hand cloud systems like the one apple uses makes things easier because lets face it we all have the h remember 5 different users names and 5 different password that need symbols, upper case letters and lower case letters. However the security flaws like the ones shown by Apple and Amazon have in a way made hacking easy enough for anyone with a computer to do. When hacking first became a widespread issue it took a lot of skill and very advanced programs, but after reading how this hacker did it, its something that a kid in middle school could do on a rainy day, and again the damage that is done could have huge financial ramifications.

Week 4- The Reliability of Digital Sources, and the Analog Sources They Come From

September 17th, 2012

I enjoyed this week’s articles by Errol Morris because they were both thought provoking and interesting but at the same time a little disheartening. Both articles underscored the importance of the use and effect photography in the past print media and in the current world of digital media. “Photography as a Weapon” touched on a subject area that is very important as society is becoming increasingly engulfed into the digital world.  “Which Came First” in a way made me second and become more critical of the photography of the past.

I’m part of a generation where technology didn’t play a large role in my life until I was in middle school. The photography I grew up with was sole print based for the most part. I’ve always been enchanted by the power that one photograph can have. After reading “Which Came First” I started thinking about some of the more powerful and compelling photos I saw in the past and questioning whether or not they could have “staged” as well. While most of them probably weren’t knowing that it could have been a possibly suddenly takes some of the magic away.

“Photography as a Weapon” brought up an issue that I have had to deal with constantly as a college student: reliability.  We have to constantly be aware and critical of where we get our sources. With programs and technologies made specifically for photo alteration, photography has to be looked at with the same critical eye as other sources in way that we haven’t had to do before.

Historical Archives

September 13th, 2012

I found several right news articles about President Arbenz in the early 1950’s in the ProQuest Historical Newspapers database. Two were from the Christian Science Monitor and one was from the LA Times. These are great articles for my research because they describe the president and his goals for Guatemala at the time. They also give a good US POV of Guatemala shortly before the CIA invasion. I also found a picture of M.S. Williams and the Guatemala President, General Ydigora in Gautemala from May of 1960. Its not directly related to my research but its getting to the time period that I’m looking for.

Final Project Proposal

September 10th, 2012

Why was the United Fruit Company’s interference in the Guatemalan government so devastating to the country?