Bananas

On our way to Tortuguero, we stopped at a banana farm and got a quick tourist’s tour. First we saw lots and lots of bananas growing. The fruit grows in a blue plastic bag, to protect it from insects and fungus and I think bats.
Banana fruit growing protected in blue bags
When the bananas are a month from ready, they are picked to process and ship. The bunches are placed on a line, and a man pulls around twenty of these huge bunches along a track.
Worker pulling chain of banana bunches to be processed
Then the bags are removed and the fruit is ready for processing.
Banana bunches
Which involves, as I understand it, washing . . .
Washing bananas
. . . and sorting . . .
Women sorting bananas
. . . and treating with fungicide . . .
More banana processing
. . . and bagging for sale.
Bagging bananas
Most folks in Costa Rica work really, really hard. Many we met have a six-day work week. Work starts at five or six o’clock in the morning. Many work far from their families and lodge where they are employed. It seems like a rough road, yet everyone we met was so cheerful. I never heard anyone complain. Perhaps as tourists we didn’t get the full picture. But the peacefulness and cheer was so prevalent, the “pura vida” as they say there, that I suspect that perspective isn’t far off. Working on bananas must be some of the hardest work in Costa Rica. Conditions have improved over the years–now at least the banana companies provide housing for their workers and schools for workers’ children. But it is backbreaking and hot work. I recommend reading the story “In the Shadow of the Banana Tree” (excerpted from Carlos Luis Fallas’s novel Mamita Yunai, published in 1941) in Costa Rica: A Traveler’s Literary Companion, edited by Barbara Ras.
There were some entrepreneurs outside the banana factory who worked to profit from the numerous tour buses stopping. There were folks with pet elephant beetles, which they let tourists handle and pet.
Elephant beetle
Here’s the Professor modeling one. The beetles were very gentle giants, fond of their sugar cane. I did not hold one, but I did pet it.
The Professor and his friend the Elephant beetle
Alongside the beetle handlers were pipa stands. Here, for a dollar, the men would pick out a nice coconut, hold it in one hand while they whacked the tip off with a huge machete, then stick a straw in it for you to drink. I found this gentleman so charming.
Fellow selling pipas to drink
From here we went to where the turtles lay and hatch, though we weren’t there the right time of year to spot any turtle action. It was a gorgeous, tranquil place. More on that soon.

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