Why did the banana wars happen/time/place/causes/consequences/winner

Banana Wars (1898 – 1934)

In these Banana Wars that spanned several decades where the United States as a government policy, even using international treaties or laws, managed to occupy and control some Central American and Caribbean countries , using politics, trade, and often military force. Why did the banana wars happen?

When did this happen and which countries were affected? Why should a nation that has it all use its might against smaller and weaker nations? What were the causes that drove this war and what were the consequences? Who was involved in this? We invite you to look in this summary on the Banana Wars for those answers.

When and where did the Banana Wars take place?

A chain of military, political and economic actions carried out by the United States in Central America and the Caribbean is known as Banana Wars. This North American expansionism, let’s call it that, is what has been repeated ad nauseam with every emerging power in the world.

This period began precisely in 1898 with the Cuban War  that ended in the Treaty of Paris, which granted the United States control of Cuba and Puerto Rico and the military occupation of Haiti. This period called the Banana Wars officially ends in 1934 when the US military occupation of Haiti ends . Why did the banana wars happen?

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The Banana Wars took place in:

  • Panama in the years 1846,1856, 1903 , and then the concession for the Panama Canal.
  • Nicaragua , with an occupation from 1912 to 1933.
  • Cuba , where the island was occupied by the Americans from 1899 to 1902.
  • Haiti , with a military occupation from 1915 to 1934.
  • Dominican Republic , where there were actions in 1903, 1904 and 1914 until the occupation from 1916 to 1924.
  • Honduras , with interventions throughout the years 1903 to 1925.
  • Mexico , with the occupation of Veracruz in 1914 and the military incursions between 1906 and 1917.
  • Colombia , this is where the so-called banana massacre of 1928 takes place.

Who participated in the Banana Wars?

On the part of the United States, although on some occasions both the army and the navy intervened, it was really the marines who generally served as the spearhead for these occupations and wars. One of the most prominent and active military in these so-called Banana Wars was Major General of the United States Marine Corps Smedley Butler , who was in charge of these projects for more than 30 years. Other Marines were Evans Carlson, James Devereux, Merritt Edson, Logan Feland , among others. For the army, Robert Eichelberger, James Gavin, Walter Krueger, Douglas MacArthur . Why did the banana wars happen?

North American companies were also behind the scenes, for which the name of Banana Wars arose, such as the United Fruit Company, the Haitian American Sugar Company, the Standard Fruit Company , companies that controlled the export of bananas and sugar. We must also mention the American presidents behind these movements or promoting these policies such as James Monroe, John Q. Adams, Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft and Franklin Roosevelt .

On the other side of the war are the nations that the United States intervened, occupied or invaded for years: Panama, Nicaragua, Haiti, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Honduras .

Causes of the Banana Wars

Every war has its causes, some valid and other simple excuses to use power to subjugate and subdue. In the case of the Banana Wars, its name says it all, the root or fundamental cause can be attributed to the economic interests of powerful US companies that were installed in the territory of the Central American and Caribbean countries.These companies commercially exploited agricultural production of items such as bananas, tobacco, sugar cane and other products, hence the name “banana”. So it seemed that in its eagerness to protect the “interests” of North American companies and their citizens, the government took the right to intervene, if it considered that these interests were in danger, either by a government, revolution or revolt in some of the those countries. Why did the banana wars happen?

Another undeniable cause is politics, where we must once again mention North American expansionism . Once these nations were liberated through the wars of independence from the European powers and colonialism, to which they were subjected, the emerging power wanted to increase and maintain its influence and power, which in turn would have an impact on the economic growth of the great American nation, There is no doubt that the Central American and South American countries had great resources to exploit.

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An obvious consequence of the Banana Wars was the growth of North American power both in commercial and military sense , it became a nation that did not represent a real danger in the face of European powers, to be a formidable military and political power that had to be taken into account. It counts when trying to invade or subject some of the small nations emerging from colonialism to European rule. Why did the banana wars happen?

Another consequence that arises from these wars and occupations was the diplomatic protest of the other powers, which gave rise to negotiations, doctrines and adoption of international treaties : Monroe Doctrine, Dollar Diplomacy, Rio de Janeiro Protocol, Platt Amendment.

Another direct consequence of these occupational wars and of the political and commercial game can also be mentioned, which although it is a subject with certain controversy, it becomes true that from these arose the separation of the state of Panama from the Republic of Colombia , and therefore Hence, the North American control of the canal area arises, which lasted up to the present day, the term of which only expired in the year 2000.

One of the consequences of this American expansionist or banana war is the mark or mark that it left as a rejection of the policy of this great nation that came to use its power for its own ends . Some Latin American leaders even today have come to use this as propaganda in favor of their causes, often with ignoble ends.


Although in this summary we have not made direct mention of any specific war by US forces in some of the countries mentioned, there were certainly fighting, deaths in confrontations such as in Haiti, even naval bombardment such as the one in Nicaragua, or even massacre such the one that occurred in Colombia and known as the Banana Massacre of 1928. Why did the banana wars happen?

The winner of this so-called Banana War was the United States who, using mainly the Marine Corps, achieved its objectives for decades, to dominate, control, negotiate and take advantage of the material resources of the countries where these abusive actions were fought.

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