He had influence with both the leaders of the United States and the leaders of foreign countries. Unless you have a strong interest in early 20th century Central American politics, I think you'll find most of the political plotting to be boring. Having read Bitter Fruit which I highly recommend! And how it comes from an herb that grows as a rate rivaling the kudzu vine. When he died in the grandest house in New Orleans 69 years later, he was among the richest, most powerful men on this planet. With a few exceptions, Cohen embeds the lessons in the story. He understood the meaning of every change in the weather, the significance of every date on the calendar.
It was also very disconcerting to be reading along in the 3rd person and then have the author interject himself as the story teller in the 1st person. Cuyamel, by contrast, was a well-oiled machine, vertically integrated and led from the front by Zemurray, the ultimate owner-manager-worker. He finds a partner; they invest in a company. His real break comes when a banana peddler arrives in town. And how in the history of Central American countries, shrewd entrepreneurs in the correct sense of the word and not to be confused with business managers saved piles of what were considered noxious waste into a product of immense proportions.
You'll be interested by how his actions influenced the events of the Bay of Pigs. I first learned of this story Zemurray's plot in Honduras after reading Kinzer's , and was so captivated that I spent the next year studying it extensively. Invariably, the response ranged from few to none. One of the greatest strengths of this book is that it's an honest portrayal as Zemurray as a complicated human being. Known as El Amigo, the Gringo, or simply Z, the Banana Man lived one of the great untold stories of the last hundred years. At one time, he was one of the richest and most powerful men.
If this all sounds as if this is a mucking story of a robber-baron banana king--well, almost. He was such a colorful character, and I never imagined a banana company could yield so much influence at the beginnings of Cuyamel Fruit, Zemurray organized the overthrow of the Honduran government in order to gain tax benefits for his company. At one time, he was one of the richest and most powerful men. Although as a Jew, he was not deeply rooted in the practice of Judaism, he was rooted in the idea of being a Jew. In other words, cut appendages continue to grow, replicating the original. First, I love learning about different industries and commodities, how they developed over time, often over millennia, shaping world markets and modern political economies e. United Fruit went in with him on purchasing a steamship company also.
One of the greatest strengths of this book is that it's an honest portrayal as Zemurray as a complicated human being. And so it went, until our fifth grade teacher introduced us to the magical phrase, King Henry died by drinking chocolate milk. They even made fun of his accent. Cohen would have served his reader better by not interjecting himself into the biography of someone else time and time again. Zemurray was just an immigrant with a thick Russian accent. He dealt with the heads of multiple governments, not only his own, he made bargains with a heavy hand, was influential in overthrowing governments, most notably Honduras and Guatemala, one in defiance of the United States and one working in unison with them.
Was not much of a fan of this book. The scope of Samuel Zemurray's story is incredible. He had ridden the mules. While I liked the work very much overall I found it to have a disconcerting habit of glossing over the effects of Zemurray's actions. Perhaps this is due to a lack of documentation of and about Zemurray's life, but that was not made clear by the text.
I know more than I did before I read the book, but I didn't enjoy the course. To accommodate his narrative structure, Cohen simplifies and whitewashes the actions of Zemurray and his fellow banana titans. Cohen, finding another Tough Jew, relates the outrageous life of Samuel Zemurra, who rose from emigrant poverty as a Mobile shopkeeper by selling ripe bananas along the southern railroads, then branching off into his own plantations, then operating under the wing of United Fruit, then overthrowing the Honduran government with New Orleans goons, then breaking from United Fruit, then taking over United Fruit. Rich Cohen's brilliant historical profile The Fish That Ate the Whale unveils Zemurray as a hidden kingmaker and capitalist revolutionary, driven by an indomitable will to succeed. He arrived in America in 1891, a penniless Jew from what today is Moldova, and settled in the Deep South. Part of what makes this book so remarkable - and its dubious hero so compelling - is the almost invisible ease with which Cohen's threads intertwine to create a larger pattern that seems so obvious once you step back to see it. Again, because bananas are all exact genetic copies, they are highly susceptible to rapid eradication from disease.
Furthermore, took substantial issue with the author's decision to frame Zemurray's life as an intensely Jewish experience, despite no evidence that Zemurray himself perceived it as such and perhaps even repudiated such a notion. I agree with other reviewers that the author is prone to go off on tangents, but I found them all fairly interesting so didn't mind them. Particularly galling at the close of the book, when the author insists that Zemurray's greatest regret was not instilling the Jewish faith in his children and grandchildren, a conclusion based almost entirely on an anecdote from the wife of Tulane's president, who currently occupies Zemurray's former residence, and whose authority on the subject is not established. It is books like these that remind me why I love history and biography. As a reader, one becomes so engrossed by Zemurray and his work ethic that one almost does not notice the technical descriptions of banana planting, the history lesson on U.