Peasant Struggle and the Formation of State and Capital in Ecuador's Coast, 1925-1955

Steve Striffler

The court said that the [disputed] land belonged to [the United Fruit Company]. At this point the company thought it had won -- that the conflict was over. It was just the beginning. We [the peasants] were not leaving vacant land that we had cleared and cultivated through our own efforts. We did not know what to do so we waited, made contacts with [labor organizers]. Then we formed the Mollepongo Commune and renewed our claim with [another branch of government]. When this failed we tried [another branch] (Laughter). All along we controlled the land and kept on good terms with the local police. Only force could remove us from the land (J.L. 5/18/96). (1)

Jose Llivichusca
Founding member of the Mollepongo Commune

Introduction (2)

Almost immediately after purchasing Hacienda Tenguel in 1934, the United Fruit Company became embroiled in a land conflict with a small group of peasants living on the margins of the property. The conflict, which lasted some twenty years, led to the formation of one the first peasant organizations in Ecuador's southern coast -- the Mollepongo Commune -- and contributed to the demise of United Fruit's operations in Ecuador. How did this happen? How was the Mollepongo Commune, a peasant organization comprised of less than a dozen families, able to successfully invade over 3000 hectares of land owned by an extremely large and experienced multinational? The answer, it is suggested, lies in the Ecuadorian state and the relationships that both United Fruit and the Mollepongo Commune were (and were not) able to form with various actors and agencies within its organizational terrain. As Jose Llivichusca suggests, the state was at the center of this territorial dispute from the initial court case in the late 1930s until the commune's final victory in the mid-1950s. The state made legal rulings, passed legislation, determined property boundaries, sent commissions, and ordered police actions, all of which had a direct impact on the commune's formation and its successful invasion of Hacienda Tenguel.

Recent inquiries into the relationship between state formation and popular mobilization have focused on the extent to which the state is able to impose, and popular groups resist, a common discursive framework "that sets the central terms around which and in terms of which contestation...can occur." (3) The battle for and against a common discursive framework can often be ideologically charged, pitting subordinate groups against the state in quite overt and direct ways, including struggles over competing notions of citizenship, the relative value placed on certain identities, or the state's attempt to impose a particular vision of the nation. (4) Following Philip Corrigan and Derek Sayer, (5) this essay suggests that the Ecuadorian state's attempt to establish a common framework was most effective when it was enacted through practices (and not words or other more transparent schemes to manipulate beliefs and achieve ideological consent). As William Roseberry notes,

The power of the state [for Corrigan and Sayer] rests not so much on the consent of its subjects but with the state's regulative and coercive forms and agencies, which define and create certain kinds of subjects and identities while denying, ruling out, other kinds... Moreover, the state accomplishes this not simply through its police and armies but through its offices and routines, its taxing, licensing, and registering procedures and papers. (6)

In fact, it may be the case that "rule" is most effectively accomplished when state forms and agencies are experienced not as coercive, but enabling. (7) The primary form of state regulation examined here was a seemingly innocuous law regulating the formation of communes. Although this law can be seen as part of a larger, albeit ill-defined and incoherent, state project to incorporate rural areas into the nation-state, it was not particularly repressive in intent or implementation. The 1937 Law of Commune Organization (Ley de Organizaciones de Comunas) invited rural population centers of more than fifty people to petition the state to become communes, a legally recognized form of organization (much like a town or city) that formalized the relationship between rural peoples and the Ecuadorian state. The law, then, had to be embraced and enacted by groups of peasants in order to be effective. It could not be implemented or imposed by the state. More importantly, the law allowed peasants, both in Mollepongo and throughout Ecuador, to confront and defeat landlords. Instead of restraining popular action, this state form empowered and enabled the Mollepongo peasants to obtain significant quantities of land from the most powerful landowner in Latin America.

Nevertheless, by embracing the law and forming a commune, the peasants placed themselves in a formal and subordinate relationship to the state. As we will see, the creation of the commune brought the Mollepongo peasants into increasing contact with the routines, rituals, institutions, and offices of state power. That the peasants proved particularly adept at negotiating these modes of rule is an important part of the story; but so too was the insidious way in which domination was unevenly secured. What made this form of rule so effective was the inconspicuous way in which it was accomplished. It was adopted, even manipulated, by the peasants, and enabled them to achieve certain goals. The commune, and the inter-class conflicts that led subordinate groups to adopt this state form, served to organize, even create, organizations and communities of peasants. But it was a peasantry that was organized by and into the state; peasants became increasingly dependent subjects (comuneros) inhabiting a particular geo-political space (the commune) that could be managed, granted rights, denied resources, disciplined, or simply ignored. It was through such laws, and the series of contacts, conflicts, and processes that they entailed and initiated, that rule was enacted and the state itself was physically constructed (in the creation of agencies, ministries, and commissions) and imagined (as an arbiter that stood apart from the inter-class conflicts taking place within "the economy").

I. New Country, Old Problems

United Fruit did not come to Ecuador in the 1930s by coincidence. Agricultural diseases hit the company's Central American plantations with renewed intensity during this period and were exacerbated by growing difficulties with national governments and labor forces. By the 1930s, Central America governments were no longer the compliant agents of foreign banana companies that they had once been. Labor laws were strengthened in virtually of the banana producing countries, (8) and the absurdly generous land concessions and tax policies that companies like United Fruit had come to expect were now sources of considerable debate and contention. These changes were due in part to the massive lay-offs, deteriorating working conditions, and popular political pressures associated with the Great Depression. Plantation workers were not only increasingly difficult to control, but were at the forefront of national labor unrest and popular movements in places like Colombia, Costa Rica, and Guatemala. In short, because the very way in which United Fruit produced and exported bananas was being threatened at traditional production sites, the multinational sought to extend its empire further into South America. (9)

At least on the surface, Ecuador seemed like an ideal alternative when United Fruit first began to explore possibilities in the mid-1920s. The three basic problems that the company faced in Central America -- agriculture diseases, labor, and governments -- were either absent or almost nonexistent. Ecuadorian labor organizations were not only relatively underdeveloped, but cacao production, the export of which had sustained both the economy and the state during the first two decades of the century, had recently collapsed, leaving large quantities of fertile land and unemployed labor available in the coastal region. The rapid end of the cacao boom also meant that both elites and the state were desperately searching for an export alternative. (10) Finally, because Ecuador had never produced bananas on a large scale, the Panama Disease was virtually absent and workers had no experience in dealing with foreign banana companies. (11)

The expansion and rapid collapse of the cacao boom had, however, not only generated an economic disaster, but a crisis of authority that would definitively alter the political landscape by the mid-1930s and make life particularly difficult for foreign corporations. (12) Coastal landowners had dominated the country both economically and politically during the cacao boom (1895-1925). (13) When the crop collapsed, their economic power disintegrated and their political authority quickly came under attack from a number of sources. The military implemented a short-lived coup (14) and landowning elites from the highlands tried to regain control of the central government. More importantly, it was in this context of elite fracturing and economic crisis that Ecuador's ultimate populist, Velasco Ibarra, emerged on the scene. In the same year that United Fruit purchased Hacienda Tenguel and initiated banana exports (1934), Velasco Ibarra was elected President for the first of five times on a wave of popular political activity. A populist force on the Ecuadorian political scene for much of the twentieth century, Velasco was the first Ecuadorian president to be brought to power on the basis of popular support. (15) His rhetoric, campaign, and election both signaled and stimulated a populist mass politics that presented the first serious challenge to Ecuador's traditional elite. (16)

Popular organizations formed at an unprecedented rate during the 1930s as Velasco's rise to power and the broader crisis of authority opened up key spaces. Labor unions, for example, were literally born during this decade. Before 1929 there were four unions in all of Ecuador; by 1939 there were almost seventy. (17) Urban-based worker strikes became an institutionalized feature of Ecuadorian life, centering on the expansion of the national labor code and the improvement of working conditions. (18) Even more troublesome from United Fruit's perspective was the fact that rural popular organizations also began to form during this period. (19) In 1929, there were thirty-four legally formed popular organizations. (20) Despite a decade of repression, nearly 800 popular organizations formed in the 1930s, most of which were constituted in rural zones by peasants and agricultural workers. (21) As in urban zones, this organizing surge intensified when Velasco returned to power during the "May Revolution" of 1944. (22) Labor unions began to form on many of the region's larger haciendas and peasant organizations multiplied throughout the 1940s.

Although this period, from about 1925 to 1948, represents a key moment in the restructuring of power relations between and within the state, dominant classes, and popular sectors -- a period when traditional elites saw their authority questioned, the central government changed hands over twenty times, (23) and the political activities of working and middle classes became increasingly important -- it has received relatively little attention from historians, particularly on the local-rural level. There are few detailed histories that explore the local conflicts and contacts between rural peoples, the state, and landowning elites during the 1930s and 1940s. (24) This absence, all the more glaring when one turns to rural zones in Ecuador's coast, is due in large part to the fact that the period has been seen as one of stagnation, recession, and transition -- as an almost history-less moment sandwiched between the two major forces driving the political-economy of both the region and the country. This twenty-five year period between the early 1920s and the late 1940s occupies an ambiguous, though crucial, place between the cacao boom (1880s-1920s), a period when Ecuador was definitely incorporated into the world economy, and the banana boom (1948-1970s), a period that was characterized by state and economic expansion, military repression, peasant unrest, agrarian reform, and "progress." In a region whose history has often been told from the perspective of two export crops, the period between 1925 and 1948 occupies an awkward place.

Fortunately, United Fruit's Hacienda Tenguel is an excellent place from which to contribute to a local history of Ecuador's coast during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. The broad processes and currents that defined the national political landscape were played out in Tenguel in multiple, often conflicting, ways. On the one hand, Ecuadorian elites looked to United Fruit, or the development of the banana industry more generally, to provide the economy with a boost and the central government with a source of income. By introducing and developing a new agricultural export, United Fruit and foreign capital would stimulate the economy, initiate a new period of progress, and rescue the central government from its on-going fiscal-political crisis. As a result, some sectors of the dominant classes were staunch supporters of United Fruit and aided the multinational in its efforts to develop the banana industry, control land and labor, and obtain favorable export policies. On the other hand, certain, more populist, factions within the state believed that agriculture -- as the primary source of national wealth and development -- should not be put in foreign hands; they often received vocal encouragement from both the media and labor organizations. (25) As a result, although the state did not want to scare off United Fruit, and often gave the company a free reign when dealing with workers, it would have had difficulties evicting a group of Ecuadorian peasants on behalf of a foreign company -- even, as in the case below, where the peasants challenged property rights and questioned the state's authority.

At the same time, the state's conflicting goals and ideological impulses were further complicated by its lack of resources, constant financial crisis, and unprofessionalized chain of command. The state's presence in rural zones such as Tenguel was quite limited, often restricted to one or two local officials. As we will see, parish and provincial-level officials, such as the teniente politico or the intendente, not only wore multiple hats and took orders from a wide range of differentiated regional and national authorities, but acted (and failed to act) with considerable autonomy. Even during those rare moments when United Fruit managed to secure the political commitment of national authorities in Quito, the state lacked both the resources and professionalized chain of command that might have allowed it to act with any coherency in rural zones during this period. Such incoherencies were not, I would argue, simply the result of a "weak" or unprofessional state apparatus; they were the product (and partial regulator) of intra- and inter-class conflicts that took place within, above, below, and through the organizational terrain we call the state, a terrain that was not only shaped by the broader political instabilities, populist impulses, and economic crises that defined the period, but by struggles such as the one outlined below.

Indeed, it was within this atmosphere of heightened political activity that United Fruit's principal agricultural enterprise -- Hacienda Tenguel -- found itself under attack from both peasants and workers. For their part, peasants, most of whom had been pushed into the coast by land shortages in the southern highlands, occupied uncultivated margins of the company's immense property. Although they posed little initial threat to the core of the property, such invasions became increasingly important as older banana groves were inevitably ravaged by the Panama Disease. Unable to expand production into the (disease-free) areas of the property occupied by the squatters, United Fruit was forced to lay off more and more of its the labor force as production declined. Consequently, the labor union at the core of the property became increasingly militant, began to threaten the hacienda's productive operations during the 1950s, and eventually took over the entire property in 1962.

The Mollepongo peasants' success in challenging a major multinational was due in large part to their ability to contact urban/regional intermediaries, the nature and presence of whom were directly tied to the political turmoil of the 1930s and 1940s. The labor organizations that the peasants contacted throughout the course of the conflict had either recently formed or had just begun to make inroads into rural areas during the surge of popular political activity associated with Velasco and the 1930s and 1940s. Similarly, although the lines of state power had always been a bit confused and fragmented, the peasants ability to contact and manipulate state functionaries in local, regional, and national offices was directly tied to the political pressures that popular groups throughout Ecuador were placing on the state. Unfortunately, both space, and the absence of detailed historical research on either the state or state-peasant relations for this period, make it impossible to fully trace all of the contacts that the Mollepongo peasants made during the course of the decades-long conflict. Nevertheless, the sources used here provide a unique view of the relationships between peasants, state, and capital. Interviews conducted with the peasants, as well internal correspondence between United Fruit officials writing at the time of the conflict, demonstrate how skilful the peasants were in developing and manipulating contacts with outside groups -- and how intense the dialogue between a relatively isolated group of peasants and sectors within the state could be in the 1930s and 1940s. In addition, the company's correspondence, by providing a rare, inside, look at the machinations of state and capital, forces us to reconsider how we understand the relationships between foreign capital and "weak" Third World states. United Fruit did not, as we might expect, simply dictate the terms of its presence. (26) It was continually frustrated and confused by the Ecuadorian state.

Finally, Tenguel is not simply an interesting site from which to view the broader political currents that transformed Ecuadorian society during the 1930s and 1940s. The actions of the Mollepongo peasants, as well as the subsequent takeover of Hacienda Tenguel by the workers, were the first in a series of steps that would lead to the formation of broader political relationships among rural peoples throughout Ecuador. Although these initial steps were tentative, they were by no means isolated to Tenguel and would eventually coalesce into regional peasant movements in both the coast and the highlands. (27) Similarly, United Fruit's presence and subsequent departure from the zone represented the rapid emergence and transformation of an industry that would drive the Ecuadorian economy during much of the post-World War II period. Together, then, the events described below were the early stages of a series of processes -- including the banana boom, regional peasant movements, agrarian reform, rapid state expansion, and the emergence of contract farming -- that would transform the region and the country in the 1960s and 1970s. These subsequent events and processes have received considerable attention from scholars and others. (28) It is to their local precursors that we now turn.

II. State Forms and Popular Mobilization

United Fruit bought the 100,000 hectare Hacienda Tenguel in 1934. In addition to constructing the necessary infrastructure for the production, processing, and distribution of large quantities of bananas, the company immediately tried to secure territorial control over the immense property. Part of this process involved removing peasants who had been renting small plots of land from the previous owner. As Jose Llivichusca recalls: "When the company came they bought out all of the tenants, including my father. There was no choice, you had to sell. But it was fine. The company gave us a good price which allowed us to buy part of Hacienda Mollepongo." (29)

Along with Manuel Illescas, Llivichusca took the money he received from United Fruit and purchased some "rights and shares" in what was commonly known as Mollepongo, the immense hacienda on Tenguel's southern border. Through purchasing shares, Illescas and Llivichusca acquired a right to possess a certain amount of land within the poorly defined boundaries of Hacienda Mollepongo. (30) As the peasants admit, and United Fruit's documents confirm, (31) they not only began to plant the flatter portions near Hacienda Tenguel, but sold smaller sections to friends and family who promised to cultivate and populate the zone.

It was their growing numbers that motivated Hacienda Tenguel's new owner to take action. In 1938 United Fruit initiated and won a court case against Victor Velez, a fellow shareholder and friend of Illescas. The court's ruling forced Velez to legally recognize the company's dominion over the disputed property located on the frontiers of Tenguel-Mollepongo. Velez, as well as the other Mollepongo shareholders (Illescas, Llivichusca, Barros, etc.), were forced to sign rental agreements for the area they had under cultivation when the company arrived. These lands, according to the court, were located within the boundaries of Tenguel and not Mollepongo. As the contracts noted, the peasants were owners of shares in Mollepongo and had mistakenly occupied and cultivated part of Tenguel. (32)

It is worth noting that although the peasants signed the contracts, they believed that the lands belonged to Mollepongo. As shareholders of Mollepongo, they felt they were within their legal rights to cultivate the land. More importantly, despite signing the contracts, they believed the lands were theirs by virtue of the fact that they had cleared and cultivated vacant forest. As Jose Llivichusca remembers: "We did not recognize the contracts even though we signed them. We needed time and wanted the company to leave us alone." (33) The contracts, then, were signed in 1940 by a small and unorganized group of individuals who sought to avoid a conflict with a large company.

Confrontation and Organization: The Commune's First Attempt, 1945

The peasants' subsequent decision to form a commune -- as opposed to some other form of organization -- did not occur by accident. Of the nearly 800 popular organizations that formed during the 1930s, close to 600 were communes. (34) This wave of organizing was propelled by the passage of the Law of Commune Organization in 1937. The expressed goal and motivation behind the law was to extend the state's control beyond the parish head and into smaller population centers. The numerous rural hamlets and communities that existed throughout Ecuador were instructed to appeal to the state and become communes -- a geo-political form of organization that would formally establish the existence of rural populations and legalize their relationship to the state. Each commune would be run by a council of five town elders and placed under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Social Welfare. The only restriction was that at least fifty people had to be permanently inhabiting a single population center. (35)

Communes were clearly an effort on the part of the state to extend its administrative and legal reach into those rural areas that up until the 1930s had remained outside its control. Such legalistic measures reflected two important facts. First, many rural areas were only loosely incorporated into the Ecuadorian nation-state in the late 1930s. (36) Second, because the state lacked the practical resources to move further into rural zones (build roads, open government offices, etc.), it was forced to pass laws whose effectiveness depended on the active participation of rural groups in their own integration. As we will see, the multiplicity of state ministries, agencies, commissions, and boards that were based in either Quito or Guayaquil were quite often working through the same local official. The local Teniente Politico, as well as the provincial Intendente, could and did receive orders from a variety of government branches, including the President himself. In this sense, both the Teniente and the Intendente were much more than the simple extension of police power. These local figures wore many hats and had considerable control in deciding which Quito-based ministry, agency, or institution -- state forms that were themselves permeated by wider social, political, and economic interests -- would get to speak and act in rural areas (and when, how, and to what extent). In Tenguel, such power also made these local state agents key factors in determining how bananas would be produced, labor organized, and conflicts resolved.

In the case of communes, there were a number of reasons why peasant groups actively embraced the state's initiative. First, it fell under the jurisdiction of the relatively supportive Ministry of Social Welfare. Peasants in the region, including those from Mollepongo, insist that this particular Ministry was more sympathetic to their cause than other branches of government. Similarly, labor organizers recall that the offices of Social Welfare were filled with socialists and other allies prior to the military dictatorship of 1963. Second, and more importantly, because they provided a collective, organized, and legal form of representation before the state, communes were quickly adopted by peasants involved in land conflicts. As a weapon against landlords, hundreds of communes were formed despite the fact that the initiative received state support for only a short period of time. (37) The commune, then, was simultaneously (1) a legal form used by the state in order to geographically organize and politically incorporate the rural population and (2) a popular form of organization adopted by peasants in their struggles with landlords.

The peasants' attempt to form the Mollepongo Commune was clearly part of this wider wave of commune formation and popular organizing. The legal confrontation with United Fruit had two immediate effects on the peasants of Mollepongo. First, they formed a community in order to confront future aggressions as a collective. The peasants moved off their individual plots of land and into La Independencia, a community created on the exact site of the boundary dispute. Second, the court case forced the peasants to make contacts with labor activists, in this case the FPTG, (38) who quickly informed them that informal organization was not sufficient. A commune, which by definition assumed the existence of a population center (whose members owned the site upon which the commune was located), would give the peasants a legal presence before the state. Unfortunately, the legal creation of the commune was anything but routine.

Knowing that their request to form a commune would go through the Teniente Politico's office in the nearby town of Balao, the peasants sent a petition to the Subsecretary of the Ministry of Social Welfare in Quito. The petition requested that someone from the Ministry be sent to Tenguel-Mollepongo in order to verify the presence of fifty-one inhabitants living and working in the zone. The Ministry of Social Welfare, as expected, sent a communication to the Teniente, ordering him to carry out the investigation. Victor Velez, the commune's secretary (and the same man who had lost the court case in 1938), arrived at the Teniente's office just about the same time as the telegram and generously offered to conduct the study himself. As a long time friend of the Teniente, he was duly deputized, carried out the "impartial" study, and subsequently informed the Teniente that there were, in fact, fifty-one inhabitants living and working in the zone -- or, coincidentally, just one more than required by law. The Teniente, in turn, sent the report to the Ministry in Quito. (39) Had United Fruit not been tipped off by someone in the Ministry, the commune probably would have been legalized. The question of ownership -- were the lands of Tenguel or Mollepongo? -- still would have remained unresolved, but the legalization of the commune would have put the peasants on a near legal par with the company. Regardless, it became increasingly clear that the peasants had access to important sources of information, possessed a deep understanding of both local and national power, and were quite capable of implementing and altering a variety of strategies.

The Commune's Second Attempt

During the next decade, even as they became experts in negotiating networks of power in Quito and Guayaquil, the peasants never forgot that local power could often be decisive. In contrast, the company's inability to resolve the matter, and the frustration that resulted, betrayed a confusion regarding the importance and nature of local politics, the Ecuadorian state, and the relationship between the two. Legal rights and influential contacts could be made meaningless by a stubborn local official. In theory, a call from the company to the responsible Ministry in Quito would result in a telegram ordering the Teniente or Intendente to carry out a particular action (i.e. eviction of squatters). As we will see, this chain of command almost never worked, or at least not in the way the company envisioned. This early case of a simple investigation is a perfect example. In 1938, the Teniente, upon orders from the courts, forced Victor Velez and the other "squatters" to sign a tenancy agreement, thereby recognizing United Fruit's ownership of the disputed property. In 1945, a group of peasants, now organized, almost succeeded in taking a large step towards the acquisition of these very same lands -- an act that was done through the same Teniente's office by the same man who had been evicted. Indeed, as the company would finally come to learn, the Mollepongo matter would not be judicially resolved by delivering the right map or legal document to the correct person in Quito. Due in part to an Ecuadorian state that was fragmented by the internalization of a wide range of competing and contradictory political and economic pressures, problems that appeared legal in nature were rarely resolved through judicial debate; rather, they were played out through the social actors and conflicts from which they emerged in the first place.

Encouraged by the company and enraged by Victor Velez's dubious report "verifying" the presence of fifty-one inhabitants, the Ministry of Social Welfare decided to carry out a study to resolve the problem once and for all. (40) On September 13, 1945, only a month after the attempted formation of the commune, Dr. Adriano Cobo, lawyer for the United Fruit Company in Quito, confidently wrote the company's General Manager, Carlos Estrada, that the Labor Inspector was being sent by the Ministry in order to settle the Mollepongo matter. According to Dr. Cobo, "with his report and our [petition] requesting refusal to [the peasants] claim, the Ministry will deny their petition." (41) How could it be otherwise? The tables were now turned and, unlike the first report, the second "impartial" study would not be conducted by the peasants, but by United Fruit and its allies within the Ministry of Social Welfare. The report, in short, would justify a decision that was already made.

Interestingly, signs of trouble emerged immediately after Inspector Moran carried out the investigation. United Fruit, it seemed, had bought the wrong official. The Governor of Guayas did not like the report (or Moran himself) and forced the Inspector to resign, thereby jeopardizing the entire investigation. (42) United Fruit nevertheless continued to push the tainted report through the Ministry. Writing in frustration in mid-October, Dr. Cobo, the company's attorney, noted the "report has been there for awhile sitting around -- once the legal dept gets the report a decision will be made in favor of UFC. This Ministry is a tough babe, I mean they don't know how to decide on anything and matters just lay there for months and months without any decision." (43) Continuing in the same tone several days later, Cobo wrote from Quito that the report "from the legal dept of [Social Welfare] is ready. This report goes to the Minister where undoubtedly it will remain on his desk for only God knows how long. It is almost impossible to get the Minister to act on anything." (44)

From the peasants' perspective, such delays were critical in that they allowed them to strengthen their hold on the land, acquire additional allies, and pressure the state from a variety of angles. On the day before the report passed through the Ministry's legal department, Hacienda Tenguel's superintendent reported that two of the peasants were in Guayaquil trying to get the land considered as part of Mollepongo. The Commune had also acquired a lawyer who, having connections within the government, requested that the matter be (re)investigated due to the biased nature of the Labor Inspector's report. (45) At the same time as they were involved in a range of legal maneuvers, the peasants had expanded their cultivations and some of their animals had destroyed the company's banana groves.

The conflict festered with little legal change well into the new year and by March of 1947 the company's situation seemed weaker. President Velasco had himself received a telegram from Illescas and Llivichusca complaining that company thugs had attacked them. (46) Llivichusca, accompanied by Dr. Marco Oramas, lawyer and Secretary General of the FPTG, had taken his complaint directly to the Governor of Guayas who then forwarded it to President Velasco. The company, of course, viewed the attacks quite differently. According to General Manager Estrada, a company engineer had been threatened and prevented from working in the zone near the commune. As a result, the engineer was sent again, this time with an armed contingent. Barros and Llivichusca subsequently threatened both the engineer and the armed contingent, noting that they had thirty armed men ready to protect their lands. (47)

It was during this period between late 1946 and early 1947 that the company's optimism began to wane, especially in Guayaquil and Tenguel. United Fruit officials felt that their case had been proven, but that the state was nonetheless unwilling to enforce their property rights. Estrada, clearly frustrated with his own lawyer, told Dr. Cobo that one more study was not the solution to a problem which "the Ministry has studied...from all sides many times." Barros and [the other peasants] have demonstrated themselves to be unscrupulous people that only want to bother us, and it appears as though each time there is a change in the Ministry they are going to renew their unfounded claims." (48) That was the point. The peasants had no desire to resolve the issue through a (company-backed) study of boundary titles and, as long as they physically occupied the lands and pushed the right (state) buttons, were able to discourage the government from enacting legal resolutions. As Estrada's frustrated statement highlights, the peasants had become experts at negotiating state power at both local and national levels, continually pressing their claims at a variety of points along the fragmented lines of state power. As Llivichusca explains:

We would not take no for an answer. If the Ministry of Social Welfare rejected our claim, we went to the Ministry of Government. If they would not listen to us, we went to some other bureaucracy or got lawyers from the FPTG to push our procedures through [the state]. We even went to the Ministry of Defense! The FPTG always knew where [in the state] to go. They had friends throughout the government. All along we were cultivating crops, harassing company employees, and maintaining good relations with the Teniente. We would not leave the land regardless of what someone said in Quito. (49)

It was through these on-going peasant-state contacts, and the conflicts out of which they emerged, that the state was not only formed (i.e. agencies were created and transformed, commissions sent, and studies conducted), but imagined. It should be clear that peasants such as Llivichusca never imagined the state as a neutral arbiter. They understood that a single trip to a particular state branch almost never resolved a conflict. Multiple trips to a range of different and quite biased state sites were absolutely essential for successful encounters with the state. Nevertheless, the clarity which the peasants understood state power (i.e. it biases, fragmentations, etc.) betrays the extent to which they were being exposed to its routines and procedures. The peasants' success at cultivating the state simultaneously served to further their own interests while increasing their dependence on state resources and intensifying their dialogue with state practices, agencies, and routines. This dialogue, although relatively innocuous (and even beneficial) during these early stages, would become increasingly insidious and intense as the banana boom became a reality and the state rapidly expanded into rural areas during the 1960s and 1970s.

United Fruit, whose representatives seemed to have personal or familial relationships with almost every Minister and Subsecretary involved in the dispute, (50) was also pressuring the state from many angles, but remained overly focused on national-level authorities who, although vocally supportive of the company and its role in Ecuador, seemed unwilling or unable to exercise authority in local zones such as Tenguel. Frustrated with the Ministry and worried about the peasants' recent contact with Velasco, the company became increasingly determined to take their case to the President or any other channel outside the Ministry of Social Welfare (whose offices, according to company officials, the peasants, and labor organizers, were peopled with socialists). Most frequent among their new contacts were close advisors to the President and sympathetic officials within the Ministry of Government. Like the Ministry of Social Welfare, each set of authorities expressed open support and sympathy for the company. In one attempt to reach President Velasco, company officials wrote that "with every change in authority, assembly, Minister, Governor, etc. this group of persons returns to press their false claims. Perhaps it is time to resolve this problem once and for all because later on if leftish authorities come to power the affair will become more difficult." (51) By March of 1947, the company had learned several lessons -- about the Ecuadorian state and the persistence of the peasants -- that led them to conclude that no resolution without the involvement of the President would be successful in definitively resolving the problem.

But the shift in strategy involved a whole new series of bureaucracies and delays. Through developing connections with Dr. Carrion, Advisor to President Velasco, the company now had direct access to the Ecuadorian head of state. This pressure, in turn, forced the Ministry of Social Welfare to propose (yet again) the creation of a commission that would go to Tenguel and resolve the problem. But another month passed and in May reports of peasant activity continued. Company workers had been threatened and prevented from working. (52) The company could no longer gain access to over 10,000 banana trees and the peasants had defiantly declared that they had the formal support of local police forces. Such acts reinforced Estrada's belief that the Ministers of Social Welfare and Government had to be contacted directly and in conjunction with the President in order "to defend the rights of the company." (53) He also noted that the conflict could no longer be resolved by sending "a dozen or so civil guards" because the peasants were sufficiently organized and armed to resist such a contingent. A more "energetic form" of protection was necessary to insure the company's rights. But this was exactly what the populist government was not prepared to do. (54)

By May of 1947, inaction on the part of local police forces had become a chronic problem for United Fruit and one that seemed to be worsening as the peasants' hold on the land grew more secure. When serious action was ordered it was never completed. On May 7th, for example, the Ministry of Social Welfare telegraphed the provincial Intendente, instructing him to send sufficient troops to evict the "intruders" and take them to jail. But just when the Ministry seemed determined to resolve the problem in favor of the company, it received additional reports about the peasants' increased activities. After years of handling the problem, the Ministry of Social Welfare lost its nerve and declared that the issue was now under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Government. It was no longer a social problem, but a legal one that should be handled by the police. The Ministry of Government immediately telegraphed the Intendente, instructing him to send troops in order to rectify the problem. Claiming that he had not received a telegraph from either Ministry, the Intendente insisted that he had talked personally with President Velasco who ordered him not to comply with the orders. (55) United Fruit officials, in turn, were simply confused. Which, if any, part of the state was responsible for handling this relatively minor land conflict?

The governmental delays and confusions continued, company employees were prevented from working, and the peasants became increasingly confident. Dr. Cobo had the feeling that President Velasco was avoiding him, but nonetheless felt that a "show down" would occur soon. (56) The company's new strategy -- to tap as many government channels as possible -- served to confuse things as new proposals were thrown on top of old ones. The Intendente suggested to the President that a military engineer from the Ministry of Defense be sent to resolve the problem; Velasco continued to support an additional commission and hoped to avoid a conflict; the various Ministries, in turn, continued to put forth a variety of postures and poses. The situation became so ridiculous that General Manager Estrada became seriously concerned about a potential conflict, not between United Fruit and the peasants, but "between the Intendente, the Minister of [Government], and the President, if the Intendente continues to disobey the minister's order" by hiding behind his personal relationship with President Velasco. (57)

On May 21, after numerous postponements, Dr. Cobo finally got his meeting with President Velasco who said he would immediately order the Intendente to evict the intruders and organize a commission to go to Tenguel and resolve the issue. (58) However, somewhere between the company's meeting with the President and the President's own communications with the various Ministries, things became confused. On May 21st, Dr. Cobo had been told personally by President Velasco that the peasants would be evicted and the commission would be run through the Ministry of Social Welfare. A day later, on May 22nd, he was informed that the matter had been referred by the President himself to the Ministry of Government. The Minister of Government was out of town, but the order to evict the intruders had been sent to the Intendente (yet again). The Intendente, in turn, was "sick" and could not evict the squatters.

Even when a new company-supported commission was finally sent to Tenguel, the peasants' almost complete control at the local level quickly undermined its effectiveness. On November 17th, General Manager Estrada wrote Dr. Cobo: "As you can see, these [peasants] are making fun of the authorities yet again. The Commission was not supported by Civil Guards and therefore was not respected. This makes it four the number of times they have made fun of the authorities -- 3 earlier times when they promised the Intendente that they would not disturb our workers and each time they threatened them." (59) Members of a government commission designed to study a land conflict had arrived in Tenguel but were not allowed to enter the disputed sector because the peasants suggested they might damage the crops. As Llivichusca remembers, "this was a lie we used in order to avoid a confrontation and prevent them from doing the investigation. We knew the investigation would be against us." Frustrated by the fiasco, Dr. Cobo was simply perplexed: "At this time the situation is completely confused...If you go to a Ministry one finds a communist or fascist. It is divided between socialists, who in this country are the same as communists, and conservatives, who are fascists and just as confusing as the communists." (60) Not surprisingly, the report resolved nothing.

By the end of March, 1948, United Fruit was faced with an impossible situation. The peasants were becoming more assertive both in terms of their actions on the land and their legal-bureaucratic maneuvers against the company. They had managed to subvert the most recent report, while initiating another -- through the Board of Peasant Affairs -- that would be authored by their own lawyer and thus undoubtedly be more sympathetic to their cause. From United Fruit's perspective, virtually every possible avenue had been tried and exhausted. The many faces of the Ministry of Social Welfare were hopeless; the Ministry of Government, while somewhat more sympathetic, had shown relatively little desire to become involved in the problem; the President certainly did not want to evict a group of peasants in favor of a foreign company; and although the U.S. Embassy had not fully been utilized, the threat had been made. Most importantly, local authorities were simply unwilling to make a move against the peasants. The conflict was over, the peasants had won close to 3000 hectares, and the company was being slowly pushed out of direct production.


How was it possible that a major multinational -- one with exceptional experience in manipulating Latin American governments -- could not get the state to evict a small group of peasants? An easy answer would be that the Ecuadorian state was "weak," that it lacked the resources to incorporate rural areas and establish the conditions necessary for a capitalist enterprise. Although this was to a certain extent true, such an explanation is unsatisfactory for two reasons. First, United Fruit was accustomed to installing infrastructure and developing entire regions on its own; the company's operations in places like Panama and Costa Rica often (though not always) depended on the "absence" of the state. Second, United Fruit's problems with the peasants began when it involved the state. It is the nature of the state's presence, not its absence, that needs explaining.

Indeed, it was with the courts and the broader involvement of the state that a dispersed and unorganized group of peasants was transformed into a community and organization. (61) Without the conflict, the peasants may never have embraced the Law of Commune Organization; but once they did they were required to form a commune, a geo-political body that was simultaneously an organization and a community. The formation of the commune, in turn, not only facilitated the peasants own efforts to organize, physically uniting them on a single site and thus allowing them to increase their day-to-day control over the land, but gave them a legal presence before the state. This presence proved key as they and their allies pushed their case through a number of state ministries, offices, agencies, and institutions.

The ability of the peasants, as well as United Fruit, to successfully cultivate the state was shaped by a number of factors. To begin, the peasants proved remarkably effective in controlling the local level. They cultivated land, maintained close ties with local authorities, and destroyed the company's banana trees. Moreover, the central government's uneven and incomplete control over rural areas complicated the situation and frustrated United Fruit's own efforts. Once the conflict escalated, it would have taken a serious and sustained effort on the part of the state to evict the peasants. They were entrenched. Yet, it was not simply that the Ecuadorian state lacked the resources to evict a group of peasants on behalf of a foreign company. The state, or at least important sectors, also lacked the will. The political context was key. Peasants were not only able to contact labor organizations (most of whom had not existed ten years earlier), but could now find (and access) sympathetic sectors within the rapidly changing terrain of the Ecuadorian state. By contacting allies and making sure that the central government did not uniformly support their eviction, the peasants were able to infuse their control at the local level with real meaning. Conversely, United Fruit confronted a state that remained a key and differentiated site through which conflict was played out, but one whose formal terrain could now be permeated, divided, and complicated by a much wider range of groups.

At the same time, I have also argued that there was more to the peasants' victory than the transfer of land from United Fruit to the Mollepongo Commune. The process through which the peasants were victorious served to increase the intensity of their dialogue with the state. As Llivichusca explained:

After we won the land our conflict with the company was over. But our struggle with the state had just begun. It was not a violent conflict. Threats from the police and military have been rare. But we have struggled. We have struggled for potable water, roads, systems of irrigation, schools, credit to cultivate the land... To get these resources requires resources. One needs to file petitions, make trips to [state offices in] Quito, hold meetings, meet with government officials. The struggle for the land was just the beginning. (62)

It was, of course, not "the beginning." The peasants had had other encounters with the state prior to the conflict with United Fruit. But land conflicts, and particularly the formation of state-sanctioned peasant organizations (i.e. communes, cooperatives, and worker associations), represented a key moment in peasant-state relationships because they formalized, organized, and routinized the peasants subordination to the state. This process that would be dramatically intensified in the 1960s and 1970s as state resources increased and agrarian reform was formally implemented.

Nevertheless, although it is clear that the Mollepongo peasants entered into an increasingly intense and sustained dialogue with the state as a result of the conflict, it is less clear what impact this had on their organizations, communities, and subjectivities. On a simple level, the commune became increasingly dependent on the state. It was quickly turned into a client that was forever petitioning government branches for water, roads, and electricity. Once the peasants were organized into a commune -- and thereby concentrated into a single population center that had a relatively clear and subordinate relationship to particular forms of state power -- it was able to petition the state for a wide range of resources. That the community benefitted from roads, water, schools, and electricity is clear. At the same time, many of these services also increased the peasants' dependence on the state and made it easier for certain forms to regulate, discipline, and watch the community.

The impact of this increasingly intense peasant-state dialogue is even less clear when we turn to the question of subjectivities. Quite clearly, we are not talking about a case where the state consciously tried to manipulate or promote certain beliefs and ideologies. Ideological consent was neither sought nor given. Nevertheless, we could, in following Corrigan and Sayer, ask: Were the state's regulative, coercive, and sometimes enabling forms and agencies -- its practices and routines -- able to define certain kinds of subjects and identities while ruling out others? (63) To be sure, the peasants did not suddenly adopt the identity of "comunero." Moreover, it seems clear that their understandings of both commune and comunero differed significantly from dominant groups. However, it did not always matter if the peasants shared the state's definitions. Rule was often accomplished in the absence of either consent or overt force. For the purposes of taxes, property boundaries, agrarian reform, and a multitude of other state practices, the peasants were comuneros -- and had to behave as ones when filing petitions or visiting state agencies -- regardless of whether or not they adopted the identity in some deeper sense. In this sense, it is important to distinguish between subjects and subjectivities; new subjects can be created even in cases where subjectivities remain relatively unchanged. The irony in this particular case was that the Ecuadorian state's ability to create subjects -- that is, to define the peasants as comuneros -- did not come from its unity or coherence. The divisions within the organizational terrain of the Ecuadorian state simultaneously allowed the peasants to defeat United Fruit and facilitated their own incorporation (as subjects) into the nation-state.


1. Quotes from interviews are referenced by the initials of the interviewee and date of the interview. All interviews were conducted in Ecuador's southern coast.

2. The author thanks Xavier Andrade, Avi Bornstein, Philippe Bourgois, Kate Crehan, Carlos de la Torre, Eliza Darling, Kirk Dombrowski, Liz Fitting, Robin LeBaron, Connie Miksits, Aleeze Sattar, Lois Woestman, and especially William Roseberry for their insightful comments on various versions of this paper. Funding for research and write-up came from the Fulbright Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Anthropological Foundation, the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, the New School for Social Research, and the Program in Agrarian Studies at Yale University.

3. Gilbert M. Joseph and Daniel Nugent, "Popular Culture and State Formation in Revolutionary Mexico," in Everyday Forms of State Formation: Revolution and the Negotiation of Rule in Modern Mexico, eds. Gilbert M. Joseph and Daniel Nugent (Durham: Duke University Press, 1994), 20.

4. Some recent relevant work in this area includes: Ana Maria Alonso, Thread of Blood: Colonialism, Revolution, and Gender on Mexico's Northern Frontier (Tucson: University of Arizona, 1995); Peter Guardino, "Identity and Nationalism in Mexico: Guerrero, 1780-1840," Journal of Historical Sociology 7:3 (Sept. 1994), 314-343; Marilyn Ivy, Discourses of the Vanishing: Modernity, Phantasm, Japan (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995); Alan Knight, "Popular Culture and the Revolutionary State in Mexico, 1900-1940" HAHR 74:3 (Aug. 1994), 393-445; Elizabeth L. Krause, "Forward vs. Reverse Gear: Politics of Proliferation and Resistance in the Italian Fascist State," Journal of Historical Sociology 7:3 (Sept. 1994), 261-289; Florencia Mallon, Peasant and Nation: The Making of Postcolonial Mexico and Peru (Berkeley: University of California, 1995); Andrea L. Smith, "Germany's Anti-Foreigner Crisis: State Disunity and Collective 'Forgetting'," Journal of Historical Sociology 7:4 (Dec. 1994), 393-416; Jeffrey L. Gould, To Die in this Way: Nicaraguan Indians and the Myth of Mestizaje, 1880-1965 (Durham: Duke University Press, 1998).

5. Philip Corrigan and Derek Sayer, The Great Arch: English State Formation as Cultural Revolution (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1985); Derek Sayer, "Everyday Forms of State Formation: Some Dissident Remarks on 'Hegemony'" in Everyday Forms of State Formation, Joseph and Nugent, 367-79.

6. William Roseberry, "Hegemony and the Language of Contention," in Everyday Forms of State Formation, Joseph and Nugent, 355.

7. Sayer, "Everyday Forms," 367-79.

8. Charles Kepner, Social Aspects of the Banana Industry (New York: Columbia University Press), 108-12. Struggles for a national labor code were also gearing up in Ecuador. See Agustin Cueva, "El Ecuador de 1925 a 1960," in Nueva Historia del Ecuador Vol. 10, ed. Enrique Ayala Mora, (Quito: Corporacion Editora Nacional, 1983), 87-123; Alexei Paez Cordero, "El movimiento obrero ecuatoriano en el periodo (1925-1960)" in Nueva Historia del Ecuador Vol. 10, ed. Ayala Mora, 123-154.

9. For United Fruit's growing problems in various countries during this period see the following: Victor Acuna Ortega, La Huelga Bananera de 1934 (Costa Rica: CENAP, 1984); Philippe Bourgois, Ethnicity at Work: Divided Labor on a Central American Banana Plantation (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989); Aviva Chomsky, West Indian Workers and the United Fruit Company in Costa Rica, 1870-1940 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1996); Dosal, Paul J., Doing Business with the Dictators: A Political History of United Fruit in Guatemala, 1899-1944 (New York: SR Books, 1993); Catherine C. LeGrand, "Living in Macondo: Economy and Culture in a United Fruit Company Banana Enclave in Colombia," in Close Encounters of Empire eds. Gilbert M. Joseph, Catherine C. LeGrand, and Ricardo D. Salvatore (Durham: Duke University Press, 1998), 333-69; Enrique Flores Valeriano, La Explotacion Bananera en Honduras (Honduras: Editorial Universitaria, 1987); Jeffrey Casey Gaspar, Limon, 1880-1940 (Costa Rica: Editorial Costa Rica, 1979); Kepner, Social Apsects; Charles Kepner and Jay Soothill, The Banana Empire: A Case Study of Economic Imperialism (New York: Van Guard Press, 1935); Richard Allen LaBarge, "A Study of the United Fruit Company Operations in Isthmian America, 1946-1956," (PhD. diss., Duke University, 1959); Mark Moberg, Myths of Ethnicity and Nation: Immigration, Work, and Identity in the Belize Banana Industry (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1996); Steve Striffler, "In the Shadows of State and Capital: The United Fruit Company and the Politics of Agricultural Restructuring in Ecuador, 1900-1995" (Ph.D. diss., New School for Social Research); Steve Striffler, "Wedded to Work: Class Struggles and Gendered Identities in the Restructuring of the Ecuadorian Banana Industry," (n.d.).

10. Such desperation was reflected in the fact that the Ecuadorian Congress passed a law designed to encourage the production and export of fruit in the 1920s. Exceedingly generous, the law granted special facilities to ocean-going steamers and gave potential planters access to virtually unlimited quantities of land. Bananas, in particular, would be exempt from all export duties for the first two years of production and subject to very low taxes thereafter. See National Archives (hereafter NA), RG 59, File 822.615 (College Park, Maryland).

11. On the attractiveness of Ecuador for banana production see Carlos Larrea, El Banano en el Ecuador: Transnacionales, Modernizacion y Subdesarrollo (Quito: FLACSO, 1987). With respect to the relative absence of popular political activity and organizations in Ecuador prior to the 1930s see Paez Cordero, "El movimiento obrero ecuatoriano en el periodo," 123-154. This is not to suggest that workers' organizations were nonexistent. In fact, they first began to emerge in the beginning of the century; however, they resembled societies more than unions, remaining small and largely isolated from one another; Jaime Duran Barba, "Origenes del movimiento obrero artesanal," in Nueva Historia del Ecuador Vol. 9 ed. Ayala Mora, 167-196. In rural areas, the episodic and infrequent nature of popular political expression was even more glaring than in major urban centers. In the highlands there were few rural organizations and political activity was restricted to periodic uprisings on particular haciendas. For the rural coast, we know little about peasant politics prior to 1950. Jose Almeida, for instance, was able to recount the history of peasant struggles in Ecuador during the first decades of the century without ever referring to the coast; Jose Almeida Vinueza, "Luchas campesinas del siglo XX (primera parte)," in Nueva Historia del Ecuador Vol. 10, ed. Ayala Mora, 163-185.

12. In many ways, this crisis, at least from the vantage point of popular political activity, was first manifested in the "Huelga de 1922," the first significant strike in Ecuador. It was out of this strike that the Ecuadorian socialist party emerged. See the following for general treatments of the crisis: Carlos de la Torre, La Seduccion Velasquista (Quito: Ediciones Libri Mundi, 1993); Agustin Cueva, The Process of Political Domination in Ecuador (New York: Transaction Books, 1982); Wilson Mino Grijalva, "La economia ecuatoriana de la gran recesion a la crisis bananera," in Nueva Historia del Ecuador Vol. 10, ed. Ayala Mora, 31-71. Duran Barra provides a nice brief account of the strike and its impact on popular organizing in his "Origenes del movimiento obrero artesanal," in Nueva Historia del Ecuador Vol. 9 ed. Ayala Mora, 167-96.

13. On the cacao period see Manuel Chiriboga, Jornaleros y gran propietarios en 135 anos de exportacion cacaotera (1790-1925) (Quito: Consejo Provincial Pichincha, 1980); Lois Crawford de Roberts, El Ecuador en la Epoca Cacaotera (Quito: Editorial Universitaria, 1980); Andres Guerrero, Los Oligarcas del cacao (Quito: Editorial el Conejo, 1980).

14. Despite its rather limited impact, the 1925 military coup and "July Revolution" ushered in a new period. Popular classes became increasingly assertive and no single faction of the dominant class had enough power to maintain control of the central government. For the revolution itself see Luis Robalino Davila, El 9 de Julio de 1925 (Quito: Editorial "La Union," 1973); Armando Pareja Andrade, "La Revolucion Liberal del 9 de Julio de 1925," in El Liberalismo en el Ecuador, ed. Blasco Penaherrera Padilla (Quito: Coleccion Temas, 1991).

15. For Velasco see Rafael Arizaga Vega, Velasco Ibarra: El Rostro del Caudillo (Quito: Impreso. En Ediciones Culturales U.N.P., 1985); Maria Cardenas Reyes, Velasco Ibarra: Ideologia, Poder, Democracia (Quito: Corporacion Editora Nacional, 1991).

16. On the crisis during this period, Velasco's role, and the increase in popular political activity see Carlos de la Torre, La Sedducion Velasquista; Cueva, The Process of Political Domination; Cueva, "El Ecuador de 1925 a 1960," in Nueva Historia del Ecuador Vol. 10, ed. Ayala Mora, 87-123; Juan Maiguashca and Liisa North, "Origenes y significado del velasquismo: Lucha de clases y participacion politica en el Ecuador, 1920-1972," in La cuestion regional y el poder, ed. Rafael Quintero (Quito: Corporacion Editora Nacional, 1991), 89-159; Mino Grijalva, "La economia ecuatoriana" in Nueva Historia del Ecuador Vol. 10, ed. Ayala Mora, 31-71. On populism in general see Felipe Burbano and Carlos de la Torre, El Populismo en el Ecuador (Quito: ILDIS, 1989); Blasco Penaherrera Padilla,, Populismo (Quito: ILDIS/ABYA-YALA).

17. de la Torre, La Seduccion Velasquista, 70-75. See also Cueva, The Process of Political Domination. For the development of the labor movement during this period see Paez Cordero, "El movimiento obrero ecuatoriano" in Nueva Historia del Ecuador Vol. 10, ed. Ayala Mora, 123-63; Patricio Ycaza, Historia del movimiento obrero ecuatoriano (Quito: CEDIME, 1984); Isabel Robalino Bolle, El Sindicalismo en el Ecuador (Quito: INEDES, n.d.). There are also histories of particular labor organizations such as INIESEC, 28 de Mayo y Fundacion de la C.T.E. (Quito: Corporacion Editora Nacional, 1984).

18. The formation of popular organizations expanded dramatically in the 1940s as Velasco was swept back into power and the workers' movement strengthened and radicalized. The major national unions, including the CTE (Confederacion del Trabajadores del Ecuador), along with the Socialist Party, women's and students' organizations, and early national peasant organizations, all formed during this period. See de la Torre, La Seduccion Velasquista; Duran Barba, "El Movimiento"; Paez Cordero, "El movimiento obrero ecuatoriano" in Nueva Historia del Ecuador Vol. 10, ed. Ayala Mora, 123-63.

19. See Almeida Vinueza, "Luchas campesinas del siglo XX (primera parte)," in Nueva Historia del Ecuador Vol. 10, ed. Ayala Mora, 163-187; Hernan Ibarra, La Formacion del Movimiento Popular: 1925-1936 (Quito: CEDIS, 1984).

20. de la Torre, La Seduccion Velasquista, 70-75.

21. de la Torre, La Seduccion Velasquista, 70-75.

22. The "May Revolution" of 1944 saw Velasco's return to power and one of the most intense periods of popular political activity in Ecuador's history. See de la Torre, La Seduccion Velasquista; Gobierno del Ecuador, El 28 de Mayo: Balance de Una Revolucion Popular (Quito: Talleres Graficos Nacionales, 1946).

23. For a list of all the governments between 1925 and 1948 see Agustin Cueva, "El Ecuador de 1925 a 1960," in Nueva Historia del Ecuador Vol. 10, ed. Ayala Mora, 97.

24. Mino Grijalva also notes that this period has received little historical attention in his "La economia ecuatoriana," in Nueva Historia del Ecuador Vol. 10, ed. Ayala Mora, 37-71. For a general treatment of the 1920s, see Carlos Marchan Romero, Crisis y Cambios de la Economia Ecuatoriana en los Anos Viente (Quito: Banco Central del Ecuador, 1987). Most treatments of the period have concentrated on the general crisis of highland haciendas or on the state's monetary policies. The lack of detailed studies of the state or particular governments during this period is undoubtedly due to the fact that between 1925 and 1948 the central government changed hands over twenty times (i.e. every year). For a decent review of the various governments see Cueva, "El Ecuador de 1925 a 1960," in Nueva Historia del Ecuador Vol. 10, ed. Ayala Mora, 87-123. There are, as referred to above, good general treatments of the development of popular organizations during this period. Nevertheless, there are few local studies with an ethnographic sensibility. For exceptions see A. Kim Clark, "Racial Ideologies and the Quest for National Development: Debating the Agrarian Problem in Ecuador (1930-50), Journal of Latin American Studies 30, (May 1998), 373-93; A. Kim Clark, "Race, 'Culture,' and Mestizaje: The Statistical Construction of the Ecuadorian Nation," Journal of Historical Sociology 11:2 (June 1998), 185-209; Marc Becker, "Class and Ethnicity in the Canton of Cayambe: The Roots of Ecuador's Modern Indian Movement," (Ph.D. diss., University of Kansas); Paola Sylva Charvet, Gamonalimso y Lucha Campesina (Quito: ABYA-YALA, 1986).

25. This broad tension regarding United Fruit's presence in Ecuador was noted both by the U.S. consulate's office (see NA RG 59, Files 822.612-616) and the company itself (UFC). More importantly, it was documented in the nation's newspapers during United Fruit's presence in Ecuador (see El Universo between 1930 and 1965). Aviva Chomsky notes a similar reaction to United Fruit in Costa Rica. See her "Laborers and Smallholders in Costa Rica's Mining Communities, 1900-1940," in Identity and Struggle at the Margins of the Nation-State. The Laboring Peoples of Central America and the Hispanic Caribbean, eds. Aviva Chomsky and Aldo Lauria-Santiago (Durham: Duke University Press, 1998), 169-96.

26. The documents from United Fruit, graciously loaned to me by Manuel Chiriboga, are varied, including contracts and company reports. The majority, however, consist of correspondence between the company's lawyer, Adriano Cobo, who was based in Quito, and the company's top representative in Ecuador, Carlos Estrada, who was based for the most part in Guayaquil. I have simply used "UFC" and the relevant date to refer to these documents. All documents were written in Ecuador, though the exact location -- Quito, Guayaquil, or Tenguel -- is sometimes difficult to decipher. All quotes used here from United Fruit employees were originally in English.

27. Not only was Tenguel the site of the country's first agrarian reform project, but it was out of these early struggles with United Fruit that a regional peasant movement slowly emerged in the 1960s and 1970s. See Striffler, In the Shadow of State and Capital.

28. Though dealing with a later period, both Uggen and Redclift contributed greatly to our knowledge of peasant politics in the coast. See John F. Uggen, "Peasant mobilization in Ecuador: a case study of the Guayas Province," (Ph.D. diss., University of Miami, 1974); M.R. Redclift, Agrarian Reform and Peasant Organization on the Ecuadorian Coast (London: The Althone Press, 1978).

29. J.L., 12/10/95.

30. A "right to possess" meant that the shareholder had the right to occupy a certain quantity of land within the immense boundaries of a larger property. In other words, the ownership and geographic definition of a particular plot of land was only realized through possession.

31. UFC, 3/40-7/45.

32. J. L., 4/22/96; UFC, 9/5/45, 4/40.

33. J.L., 4/22/96.

34. de la Torre, La Seduccion Velasquista, 70-75.

35. Osvaldo Barsky, La Reforma Agraria Ecuatoriana (Quito: Corporacion Editora Nacional, 1988), 31-33.

36. See Juan Maiguashca, Historia y Region en el Ecuador (Quito: FLACSO, 1994).

37. de la Torre, La Seduccion Velasquista.

38. The FPTG, or Federacion Provincial de Trabajadores del Guayas, was affiliated with the CTE, the most important communist labor organization in Ecuador during this period. The FPTG was the major, and most militant, labor organization operating in the coast.

39. UFC, 9/45.

40. UFC, 9/7/45.

41. UFC, 9/13/45.

42. UFC, 10/2/45.

43. UFC, 10/18/45.

44. UFC, 10/23/45.

45. UFC, 10/25/45.

46. UFC, 3/17/47.

47. UFC, 3/47.

48. UFC, 9/12/46.

49. J.L. 5/18/96.

50. For example, in his correspondence, Dr. Cobo refers to a number of relatives who were relatively high up in the Velasco government and whom he contacted on behalf of United Fruit.

51. UFC, 3/18/47.

52. UFC, 5/5/47.

53. UFC, 5/47.

54. UFC, 5/5/47.

55. UFC, 5/47.

56. UFC, 5/47.

57. UFC, 5/15/47.

58. UFC, 5/21/47.

59. UFC, 11/17/47.

60. UFC, 11/19/47.

61. United Fruit turned to the state in the first place because company officials felt that an eviction by state authorities would be much cleaner and avoid a public relations disaster.

62. J.L., 5/25/96.

63. Roseberry, "Hegemony and the Language of Contention," 367-79.