1928 – The government of Colombia sends military forces to suppress a month-long strike by United Fruit Company workers, resulting in an unknown number of deaths.
The United Fruit Company was an American corporation that traded in tropical fruit (primarily bananas), grown on Central and South American plantations, and sold in the United States and Europe. The company was formed in 1899, from the merger of Minor C. Keith’s banana-trading concerns with Andrew W. Preston’s Boston Fruit Company. It flourished in the early and mid-20th century, and it came to control vast territories and transportation networks in Central America, the Caribbean coast of Colombia, Ecuador, and the West Indies. Though it competed with the Standard Fruit Company (later Dole Food Company) for dominance in the international banana trade, it maintained a virtual monopoly in certain regions, some of which came to be called banana republics, such as Costa Rica, Honduras, and Guatemala.
United Fruit had a deep and long-lasting impact on the economic and political development of several Latin American countries. Critics often accused it of exploitative neocolonialism, and described it as the archetypal example of the influence of a multinational corporation on the internal politics of the banana republics. After a period of financial decline, United Fruit was merged with Eli M. Black’s AMK in 1970, to become the United Brands Company. In 1984, Carl Lindner, Jr. transformed United Brands into the present-day Chiquita Brands International.
Banana massacreMain article: Banana massacre
One of the most notorious strikes by United Fruit workers broke out on 12 November 1928 on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, near Santa Marta. On December 6, Colombian Army troops allegedly under the command of General Cortés Vargas, opened fire on a crowd of strikers gathered in the central square of the town of Ciénaga. Estimates of the number of casualties vary from 47 to 3000.[clarification needed] The military justified this action by claiming that the strike was subversive and its organizers were Communist revolutionaries. Congressman Jorge Eliécer Gaitán claimed that the army had acted under instructions from the United Fruit Company. The ensuing scandal contributed to President Miguel Abadía Méndez’s Conservative Party being voted out of office in 1930, putting an end to 44 years of Conservative rule in Colombia. The first novel of Álvaro Cepeda Samudio, La Casa Grande, focuses on this event, and the author himself grew up in close proximity to the incident. The climax of García Márquez’s novel One Hundred Years of Solitude is based on the events in Ciénaga.
General Cortés Vargas, who issued the order to shoot, argued later that he had issued the order because he had information that US boats were poised to land troops on Colombian coasts to defend American personnel and the interests of the United Fruit Company. Vargas issued the order so the United States would not invade Colombia. This position was strongly criticized in the Senate, especially by Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, who argued that those same bullets should have been used to stop the foreign invader.
The telegram from Bogotá Embassy to the U.S. Secretary of State, dated December 5, 1928, stated: “I have been following Santa Marta fruit strike through United Fruit Company representative here; also through Minister of Foreign Affairs who on Saturday told me government would send additional troops and would arrest all strike leaders and transport them to prison at Cartagena; that government would give adequate protection to American interests involved.”
The telegram from Bogotá Embassy to Secretary of State, date December 7, 1928, stated: “Situation outside Santa Marta City unquestionably very serious: outside zone is in revolt; military who have orders ‘not to spare ammunition’ have already killed and wounded about fifty strikers. Government now talks of general offensive against strikers as soon as all troopships now on the way arrive early next week.”
The Dispatch from U.S. Bogotá Embassy to the U.S. Secretary of State, dated December 29, 1928, stated: “I have the honor to report that the legal advisor of the United Fruit Company here in Bogotá stated yesterday that the total number of strikers killed by the Colombian military authorities during the recent disturbance reached between five and six hundred; while the number of soldiers killed was one.”
The Dispatch from U.S. Bogotá Embassy to the U.S. Secretary of State, dated January 16, 1929, stated: “I have the honor to report that the Bogotá representative of the United Fruit Company told me yesterday that the total number of strikers killed by the Colombian military exceeded one thousand.”
The Banana massacre is said to be one of the main events that preceded the Bogotazo, the subsequent era of violence known as La Violencia, and the guerrillas who developed in the bipartisan National Front period, creating the ongoing armed conflict in Colombia.
1520 – Barbara Radziwiłł, queen of Poland (d. 1551)
Barbara Radziwiłł (Polish: Barbara Radziwiłłówna, Lithuanian: Barbora Radvilaitė; 6 December 1520/23 – 8 May 1551) was Queen of Poland and Grand Duchess of Lithuania as consort of Sigismund II Augustus, the last male monarch of the Jagiellon dynasty. Barbara, a great beauty and already widowed, became a royal mistress most likely in 1543 and they married in secret in July or August 1547. The marriage caused a scandal; it was vehemently opposed by Polish nobles, including Queen mother Bona Sforza. Sigismund Augustus, assisted by Barbara’s cousin Mikołaj “the Black” Radziwiłł and brother Mikołaj “the Red” Radziwiłł, worked tirelessly to gain recognition of their marriage and to crown Barbara as Queen of Poland. They succeeded and Barbara’s coronation was held on 7 December 1550 at Wawel Cathedral. However, her health was already failing and she died just five months later. Even though it was brief, her reign propelled the Radziwiłł family to new heights of political power and influence.
Her contemporaries generally viewed Barbara in a negative light, accusing her of promiscuity and witchcraft. Her life became surrounded by many rumors and myths. She was a heroine of many legends in a wide range of literary works. From the 18th century, the life of Barbara became romanticized as the great tragic love affair. It has been used as an example of “love conquers all” with Bona Sforza often acting as the chief villain. It caught public imagination and has inspired many artists to create poems, plays, films, and other works. That made Barbara Radziwiłł one of the best known and most recognized women in the history of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Kingdom of Poland.
McClure was unable to repay him at the time, instead deciding to set up a GoFundMe campaign for Bobbitt Jr. with the target goal of $10,000 to put toward an apartment. The campaign went viral and raised nearly $389,000 in 25 days, instead. The money will now go into two trust funds, one that will deposit money to a bank account every month for Johnny to use, and another that serves as a retirement account.
Bobbitt Jr. has purchased a house, a computer and a truck, and wants to donate to people and groups that have helped him in the past, according to updates to the GoFundMe page.
The GoFundMe features plenty of photos from Johnny’s past life, as well as his new one if you’d like to check it out and feel a little better about the world.
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