Billie Holiday fans might already suspect that the fruit I have in mind is not the edible kind, but rather the variety borne of war and social upheaval.
But let’s start with a few examples of the kind you can sink your teeth into, just to get the
ball mango rolling.
Looks Strange, Tastes Great!
The mangosteen isn’t quite a mango. In fact, it isn’t related to the mango at all. But it does have some interesting properties of its own.
The mangosteen tastes somewhat like a lychee. It’s said to have many medicinal uses, including treating cancer, tuberculosis, and skin rashes. In recent years it has become a popular vitamin source, included in many health juices and supplements.
Uchuvas (aka gooseberries) look a lot like cherry tomatoes, but they’re sweeter and tangier–and yellower. They’re very rich in fiber and are often used in sauces and jams.
I don’t know if the Klingons have an official fruit, but if they don’t, I think it should be the guanabana.
Despite its rough, alien outer appearance, the inside has a smooth, creamy taste somewhere between what we Earthlings call a “strawberry” and a “pineapple.” Makes for a delicious, thick juice, which all warriors should drink before going into battle!
When Life Gives You Pineapples…
In Bogota, another kind of pineapple, the pineapple grenade graffito, has become nearly ubiquitous in recent years.
The “pineappleade” can be found in many works of street art around the city. For its creator, Colombian graffiti artist DJ Lu, it has become a calling card. So much so that he now has a line of Bucketfeet shoes featuring this distinctive hybrid logo.
But this piece of trendy fruit represents much more than a fashion statement. It symbolizes the lingering, deadly consequences resulting from decades of violent conflict in Colombia. In a promotional video for Bucketfeet shoes, DJ Lu himself explained the significance of the “pineappleade” as “…a symbiotic game which points out the changes in the use of land. Because of the conflict in my country, soil, which was prior used for planting crops, now is being filled with mine lands [sic].”
Since 1990, over 11,000 people have been killed or wounded by these landmines in Colombia. And this kind of killing and maiming will continue even if the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas sign their impending peace agreement soon in Havana. The HALO Trust, a UK/US-based non-profit organization, has been working to harvest this insidious, deadly crop in Colombia. They face a daunting task, with an estimated 10,000 suspected minefields present in the country when they initially accepted an invitation from the Colombian government in 2009. An article in the International New York Times late last year raised some striking points about the situation with landmines in Colombia:
“In a bitter irony of war, the mines have devastated the very people the rebels have said they are fighting for, the rural poor.”
“The land mines situation in Colombia is a big tragedy inside that is not very well known outside the country, even though it is the second-most-affected country by these destructive artifacts.”
In 1997, the so-called Mine Ban Treaty was drafted in Ottawa, Canada. To date, 162 countries have signed the treaty, however, 34 UN states have still declined to do so, including the United States, Russia, and China.
Hopefully the fruit of one Colombian graffiti artist’s labor will help to raise awareness around the world of these enduring remnants of war which will still be with us long after the fighting has stopped.
There Will Be Blood
DJ Lu, one of the luminaries of the burgeoning Bogota street art scene, also created this piece of stencil art, which was the inspiration for this blog post. This piece depicts a much more graphic image than the artist’s more widely known “pineappleade” icon. DJ Lu’s take on the oil industry in Colombia is obviously quite a morbid one, and justifiably so, given the many reports of human rights violations committed by foreign oil companies in Colombia against labor organizers, “including death threats, harassment, arbitrary detention and homicide between 2011 and 2014.” Pacific Rubiales, the largest independent oil company in Colombia, “‘…is the poster boy of a bad corporation,’ says Jorge Garcia-Orgales, staff representative on global affairs for the United Steelworkers union and member of the Colombia Working Group, which gathers several Canadian NGOs and six national unions. ‘From attacking trade unionists and communities in their camps to creating fake company unions to treating workers like animals, everything can be said about them.’” (Ditto). And the Colombian government has been in on the act as well: “When workers at the country’s largest independent oil company staged a strike in 2011, the Colombian military rounded them up at gunpoint and threatened violence if they failed to disband, according to human rights organizations.” (Ditto).
There’s even a connection between this violent, inhumane fruit of the oil industry and one of the 2016 US Presidential candidates: Hillary Clinton. Yet again, it appears that the Clintons cannot resist the temptation to accept big donations for their philanthropic foundation in exchange for political favors: “After millions of dollars were pledged by [Pacific Rubiales] to the Clinton Foundation — supplemented by millions more from [company founder] Giustra himself — Secretary Clinton abruptly changed her position on the controversial U.S.-Colombia trade pact. Having opposed the deal as a bad one for labor rights back when she was a presidential candidate in 2008, she now promoted it, calling it ‘strongly in the interests of both Colombia and the United States.’ The change of heart by Clinton and other Democratic leaders enabled congressional passage of a Colombia trade deal that experts say delivered big benefits to foreign investors like Giustra.”
¡No dé papaya! Don’t give papaya!
This is a common refrain heard in Colombia, cautioning potential victims of crime not to give thieves an easy opportunity. It’s like saying, “Don’t let your guard down” or “Don’t be asking for it.” Unfortunately, at least in Bogota, this fruity warning even extends to things like taking out your smartphone while walking down the street. On second thought, that’s not such a bad thing if it reduces the number of smartphone zombies clogging the busy sidewalks… 😉
Do you have a favorite “strange fruit” from Colombia that wasn’t included in this post? If so, let me know about it in the comments below!