A first-of-its-kind study of the working-class culture of resistance on the Honduran North Coast and the radical organizing that challenged US capital and foreign intervention at the onset of the Cold War, examining gender, race, and place.
On May 1, 1954, striking banana workers on the North Coast of Honduras brought the regional economy to a standstill, invigorating the Honduran labor movement and placing a series of demands on the US-controlled banana industry. Their actions ultimately galvanized a broader working-class struggle and reawakened long-suppressed leftist ideals. The first account of its kind in English, Roots of Resistance explores contemporary Honduran labor history through the story of the great banana strike of 1954 and centers the role of women in the narrative of the labor movement.
Drawing on extensive firsthand oral history and archival research, Suyapa G. Portillo Villeda examines the radical organizing that challenged US capital and foreign intervention in Honduras at the onset of the Cold War. She reveals the everyday acts of resistance that laid the groundwork for the 1954 strike and argues that these often-overlooked forms of resistance should inform analyses of present-day labor and community organizing. Roots of Resistance highlights the complexities of transnational company hierarchies, gender and race relations, and labor organizing that led to the banana workers strike and how these dynamics continue to reverberate in Honduras today.
Winner of the 2021 Sara A. Whaley Prize of the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA)
- Abbreviations and Acronyms
- Introduction: Honduran Workers—New Voices, Old Memories
- 1. Intersecting Projects: Contested Visions for the North Coast
- 2. Revolutionary Antecedents to the 1954 Strike: Liberals, Rebels, and Radicals
- 3. Life and Labor in Banana Fincas
- 4. The Making of a Campeño and Campeña Culture: Race, Gender, and Resistance
- 5. “Mujeres que cuidaban hombres y vendedoras ambulantes”: Gendered Roles and Informal Work on the North Coast
- 6. ¡La Gran Huelga del 1954! Labor Organizing in the Banana Labor Camps
- 7. Contemporary Movement Leaders Reflect on the Legacy of the 1954 Strike
- A. Los 30 Puntos: Tela Railroad Company Worker Demands
- B. Central Strike Committee 7 Demands of Company and Honduran Government, May 17, 1954
- C. Standard Fruit Company Worker Strike Demands, May 7, 1954
- D. Signed Contract between Standard Fruit Company, Agúan Valley, the Members of the Central Strike for Labor Relations
- E. Program of the Honduran Revolutionary Democratic Party
- F. Brief Selected Chronology of Labor and Political Events in Honduras
- G. Table of Early Signs of Worker Actions and Strikes in Honduras
“Suyapa Portillo Villeda advances a bold argument about the relationship between the Honduran resistance to the destructive coup of 2009 and its roots in the deep Caribbean capitalist history of this so-called classic banana republic. She does so by scrutinizing the relationships between race, gender, and labor, understood with broad subaltern sensibilities before and after the great banana plantation strike of 1954. She has discovered new documentation, but its pioneering evidentiary base originates in her use of rich oral histories, especially from women, that enliven her analysis. In this regard, Roots of Resistance engages not only the older historiography of the United Fruit Company in Central America and the Caribbean but also with debates about social movements, their legacies, and memories across generations.”
Darío A. Euraque, Trinity College, author of Reinterpreting the Banana Republic: Region and State in Honduras, 1870-1972
“Grounded in oral histories that revolve around the great strike of 1954 led by banana workers, Roots of Resistance offers a much-needed intersectional approach to histories of labor activism in Honduras by integrating race, class, and gender. Suyapa Portillo Villeda relates her stories with an underlying sense of urgency driven not only by her interest in documenting past struggles, but by a desire to show their relevance for the future of Honduras and Hondurans.”
John Soluri, Carnegie Mellon University, author of Banana Cultures: Agriculture, Consumption, and Environmental Change in Honduras and the United States