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"Although the United States is, uh, a very rich country and San Marcos is a very poor one, there are a great many things we have to offer your country in return for aid. For instance, there, uh, there are locusts."

Any backwards tropical country (almost always fictitious, more often than not Latin American), that is ruled by a small corrupt clique. Also known in Spanish as "República Bananera" or "República del Plátano". Usually a People's Republic of Tyranny or a Puppet State. Will probably contain Jailbirds of Panama.

The terms has its origins in the United Fruit Company, an honest-to-god Mega Corp with a Corrupt Corporate Executive approach. With the help of their buddies in the CIA, and some "well-intentioned" American presidents, United Fruit created countless US-friendly military dictatorships throughout the tropics dedicated to growing bananas. In these countries, United Fruit paid extremely low wages and close to zero taxes. Marxist and Maoist guerrillas surfaced everywhere[1], and a cycle of civil wars and dictatorial overthrows ensued.

Since it was usually the Communists who opposed the dictatorships [2], in Latin America, the term is associated with countries that have governments that are controlled by multinational corporations, and not with just any decadent dictatorship per se. In Europe and the U.S, the connotation tends to fall more closely with that of any dictatorship in any tropical country, capitalist, socialist, or what have you. Although, possible exceptions notwithstanding, there aren't really any left in Latin America these days, they can still be found in Africa and Southeast Asia.

May be called "Val Verde". As seen below, however, there is a whole catalogue of fictional names for these countries.

Similar to Ruritania, Qurac, and Bulungi, but easier to fake on a budget.

No relation to the kinda conservative clothing brand.

Examples of Banana Republic include:


Anime and Manga

  • A mild version in Michiko to Hatchin. There are police, but they're rarely there when you need them. However, since the main character is a criminal, the law's absence may be justified.


Board Games


Comic Books

  • San Theodoros, in the Tintin series, notable for having two rival military juntas who take turns ousting each other. General Alcazar's junta is even said to be financed by a banana company in Tintin and the Picaros. However, the rival junta of General Tapioca (yes, Tapioca) has more in common with the stereotype - lots of hideously over the top uniforms, cigars, foreign aid (the fictional Communist state of Borduria)
    • Worse: in "The Broken Ear", we see two representatives of different oil companies addressing to the presidents of neighboring nations, which then fight over a piece of land shared by both, where Oil has been found. At the end of the episode, some scientist realizes there is not Oil there, actually. Then we see a newspaper's headline announcing the end of the war. Meanwhile, a representative of (legal) weapon dealers visits both governments, one after another selling them expensive equipment for the war.
  • Managua in Buck Danny, located in the Caribbean sea. It appear 2 or 3 time in the course of the series with different governement each time. Two albums took place there during one of those revolution.
    • Funnily enough, a real place with that name exists, except it's not a country, but a city - it's the capital of Nicaragua.
  • Corto Maltese, the island nation which the US and the Soviet Union went to war over in the 1986 graphic novel series Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (named after the lead character in the Italian comic series of the same name)
    • It was mentioned in the 1989 Batman film.
  • Santa Prisca shows up a lot in various Batman related titles.
  • Ciudad Barranquilla from the Judge Dredd comics fits this type to a T, but is notable in that the corrupt and murderous regime was recently replaced by an (equally corrupt and murderous) puppet regime by the Judges of Mega City One.
  • Sierra Gordo in G.I. Joe. They even had a revolution which was fomented by the North American Banana Monopoly.
  • Palombia in Spirou and Fantasio. Its political regime is so unstable, revolutions are a quasi-daily occurrence.
  • Tapasambal and Platopabo in Achille Talon.
  • Costa Verde in XIII.
  • The sheer number of these in the Marvel Universe is revealed with the Marvel Atlas. In Central/South America alone, there's Costa Verde, Terra Verde and Tierra Verde, all of which were created at different times for different comics.
  • Jack Chick portrayed one of these, threatened by a (cynical) communist revolutionary, in Fat Cats (1989).
  • Zymbodia and Zhato in Love and Rockets. Less stereotypical than many examples since the creators are Hispanic.
  • A cartoon that ran in one magazine showed Hispanic-looking revolutionaries overrunning the dictator's office. The dictator, confronting the revolutionary leader, snarled, "You fool -- I'm CIA, too!"
  • Bazililand in Steelgrip Starkey And The All-Purpose Power Tool, ruled by the dictator General Kingu.


Film

  • San Marcos in the Woody Allen movie Bananas. Fielding Mellish's speech to American diplomats is a Crowning Moment of Funny.
  • It is heavily implied that the Mirandan Republic on The Discreet Charm of The Bourgeois is like this.
  • Isthmus in Licence To Kill. It's Meaningful Name betrays it as an Expy for Panama.
  • Parador from the romantic comedy Moon over Parador is another classic example (with a wonderful performance by Raul Julia as the Evil Chancellor).
  • Val Verde, a placeholder Banana Republic in four action movies: Commando, Predator, Supercarrier and Die Hard 2.
  • La República De Los Cocos (The Republic of The Coconuts) in Su Excelencia is like this to the point of having 4 presidents in 20 minutes.
  • The unnamed island country in Harold Lloyd's silent 1923 comedy Why Worry?.
  • The Delta Force movie series starring Chuck Norris usually set the action in these types of places.
  • A lot of the action in The Expendables takes place on an island said to be between the Gulf of Mexico and South America called Vilena.
  • The Republic of Costa Estrella, the rival state of the Kingdom of Costa Luna, in Princess Protection Program, ruled by a Large Ham of a military dictator.


Literature

  • The unnamed country in the Stephen King short story "In The Deathroom".
  • Canastarica, a Central American republic in the parodic gangster novels about "Dickie" Dick Dickens by Rolf & Alexandra Becker. The protagonist accidentally becomes dictator there, but absconds when he sees the risks inherent in the job.
    • In another DDD story, an exiled politician from one of these, Meranda, comes to Chicago to try to gather money and support from wealthy Americans. Except he is an American conman, having killed and impersonated the politician...
  • Vespugia, in Madeleine L'Engle's A Swiftly Tilting Planet.
  • Several of O. Henry's writings take place in these, making this Older Than Radio.
    • In fact, his book Cabbages and Kings is the origin of the term "banana republic".
  • Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut largely takes place in a fictional banana republic, the island of San Lorenzo.
  • Joseph Conrad's 1904 novel Nostromo is set in Costaguana, a fictional South American banana republic that is also prone to revolution. Much political power is held by a foreign mining company.
    • That last part is somewhat of a reflection of the state of affairs in Cuba pre-Castro, although it was sugar there.
  • The Republic Of Sacramento from the Brazilian novel O Senhor Embaxaidor. The story is pretty much a dead ringer of the history of Cuba in the 1940's and 1950's
  • The Republic of Fernando Poo in the Illuminatus Trilogy, an island (a real one, by the way) off the West Coast of Africa where Captain Jesus Tequila y Mota has seized power and seceded from Equatorial Guinea, precipitating a civil war and an international confrontation between the U.S., the Soviet Union and China (but it's all part of an Illuminati plot to Immanentize the Eschaton).
    • For the record: "Jesus Tequila y Mota" means "Jesus Tequila and Weed".
  • Tom Hauptman spent ten years imprisoned in one of these in the Callahans Crosstime Saloon story "The Time Traveller".
  • The eponymous San Sombrèro in San Sombrèro: A Land of Carnivals, Cocktails and Coups (from the creators of Molvania and Phaic Tan).
  • In The Stainless Steel Rat For President, "Slippery Jim" diGriz goes up against a planetary dictator by exploiting his need to maintain a facade of democracy.
  • The village of Macondo in One Hundred Years of Solitude is set in such a country (assumed to be Colombia.) The story comes complete with banana-growing plantation owned by the notoriously corrupt United Fruit Company, which in the book persuades the Colombian army to massacre all the workers. This actually happened in real life and is remembered as the massacre of the banana growers (masacre de los bananeros).
  • Although The Kingdoms of Evil resemble Mordor, they are actually a Banana Republic.
  • Simon Templar, in Leslie Charteris' original novella "The Wonderful War", helped overthrow the corrupt government of the Republic of Pasala, which was actually a Oil Republic. In the TV series, the episode of the same title changed the setting to a Qurac.
  • In Latin America there's a whole style of books dealing with this. They're called "dictator novel" and, like the name implies, they tend to focus more on the man with the power rather than the country itself.


Live Action TV

  • MacGyver found himself in quite a few of these in Latin America as well as Africa. One particular episode had Mac being sequestered by his CIA operative friend Abe into kidnapping a South American dictator. When Abe tells Mac this is because said dictator was on CIA's payroll, only for him to double cross them, we get this priceless exchange:

 Mac: I don't believe it. First Noriega, then Iran-Contra now this! Tell me, is there anyone you guys haven't financed yet?

Abe: The Democrats!

  • The IMF in Mission Impossible were dispatched to one of these countries almost every episode where they weren't sent to Ruritania, it seems.
  • Airwolf featured a few.
  • Argentinian comedian Alberto Olmedo made a series of sketches called "Pais Bananero" (Banana Country) about a stereotyped Banana Republic whose name was "Costa Pobre" (Pobre = Poor).
  • The A-Team tended to travel to one of these every few episodes. Sometimes it would a horribly stereotypical version of a real country, like Venezuela and Colombia in a Season 2 episode, but it could also be a fictional country, like the uncreatively named "Republic of Caraguay." Needless to say, this approach had more than a few Unfortunate Implications.
  • Parks and Recreation used the real Venezuela for the episode "Sister City", which centers around visiting delegates from Pawnee's sister city in that country. See a clip here.
  • Chuck has "Costa Gravas", with a hammy Fidel Castro-ish leader to boot.
  • The classic Israeli skit show The Chamber Quintet had a series of skits referring to the concept. Several actors (one at a time) would make long rants about something that annoys them to the person responsible (one talks about the poor product quality at the café he’s in, another about her spouse’s poor sexual habits, another about the poor quality of a book he’d bought), ending the rant with, ‘What is this, a banana republic?!’ In the final skit, another actor walks around a supermarket, accidentally gets hit on the head by a cluster of bananas hung by a string, and says, ‘What is this, a banana republic?!’


Tabletop Games

  • In Eclipse Phase, the bioconservative Jovian Junta Republic is essentially a Banana Republic IN SPACE!
  • Junta from West End Games is set in La Republica de los Bananas. The winner is the one with the most money in their Swiss bank account when the foreign aid runs out.


Video Games

  • The Tropico series is basically one big Troperiffic Banana Republic simulation, where you play the recently-installed dictator of a small country in the Caribbean. You can run it as anything from benevolent to hideously oppressive. The United Fruit Company is given extended Shout-Out.
    • Older Than They Think: Dictator, an obscure text-based ZX Spectrum game, allows you to control the people of another fictional republic of Ritimba... not for long, still, due to it being an Endless Game (it's impossible to please every layer of society, you see). [3]
  • The Metal Gear series has Outer Heaven in the original Metal Gear and Zanzibarland in Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake. The later Metal Gear Solid games mostly avert this, with the exception of Metal Gear Solid 4: Act 2 takes place in an unspecified country in 'South America', which the end credits reveals to be Peru. But at that point of the series alternate history, it seems to fir the trope perfectly. There's also Gindra in Ghost Babel. Well, Ghost Babel does take place in the same place as MG 1...
  • The Just Cause series lets you loose as a Crazy Awesome CIA agent tasked with overthrowing a junta on two fictional island nations (San Esperito in the first game and in the second, the more unusual, South Asian-style dictatorship of Panau).
  • In Hidden Agenda, you play the president of Chimerica, a Central American country whose military dictatorship has just recently been overthrown.
  • Arulco and Tracona from Jagged Alliance 2.
  • The main character in Mercenaries 2 helps turn Venezuela into this in the intro and spends the rest of the game "fixing" it.
  • Caruba (portmanteau of Cuba and Aruba?) in Time Crisis: Project Titan, and the Zagorias Federation in Time Crisis 3.
  • Banana Republics are one of the government options in the MMO 4X Shores of Hazeron. Players are appointed rank by El Presidente (the default ruler name), but players can also gain ranks (i.e. System administrators) by assassinating other players, which causes them to gain the killed player's ranks, while the killed player spawns without their rank.


Western Animation

  • Roger Ramjet includes among its many parodies the Latin American banana republic of San Domino; thanks to the efforts of the eponymous hero, however, it remains junta-free and is still ruled by the President and his Cabinet (which is rectangular and made of wood).
  • From DuckTales: "I want you to catch the first plane to the Banana Republic."
  • An episode of Courage the Cowardly Dog shows that in the future, the area that was once Kansas will be ruled by a literal Banana Republic (yes there are sentient bananas.)
  • Roger takes over an island from the CIA in American Dad. He renames the country "Bananarama", forces everyone to dance, and turns it into a resort where the only mode of transportation is floating in innertubes. The locals finally rebel when he decrees that everything be painted yellow. As one of the revolutionaries mentions, "I have painted my last child."
  • The Mask animated series had the "Plantation Republic" in one episode. It seemed to be based on a blend of Nikaragua and Honduras (guerillas, outdated prop plane fighters), but set on a relatively featureless forested island. Their welcome sign had the phrase "Now Go Away" at the end.
  • Hurricanes has a Banana Republic ruled by a soccer-obsessed General who once kept the Hurricanes captive.
  • Banana Man once had to go to a Banana Republic to stop a villain from cutting off the world's banana supply in "The Last Banana".


Music

  • The Bruce Cockburn song "If I Had a Rocket Launcher" was written in response to visiting a Guatemalan refugee camp in Mexico, and talks about the helicopters which regularly crossed the border to strafe it.


Real Life

  • Colombia during the 20th century. The United Fruit Company had a lot of power in the government, which allowed them to exploit the workers without any consequences. This incited a number of protests that led to the "Masacre de las Bananeras," in 1928 in which the Colombian army shot the protesters by the order of the government under the influence of both the United Fruit Company and the US government, who threatened to invade if the Colombian government doesn't protect the company's interest.
  • The Democratic Republic of Molossia has been described by its "president" as a banana republic. It's actually just two plots of land owned by Nevada resident Kevin Baugh. That didn't stop it from getting invaded by Channel Awesome.
  • The Dominican Republic under Trujillo and Chile during Pinochet's rule. Also Honduras, Brazil, Argentina, and so on, especially during (and due to) the Cold War. But there were many more.

Notes

  1. Mexico was pretty much the one and only country between the US and Antarctica that still had a "democratic" government, and even then, the left-leaning Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) held a near-dictatorial monopoly on power until The Nineties.
  2. (even though they didn't necessarily establish democratic/egalitarian societies once they got to power; see Cuba)
  3. Sidenote: make sure you have got an escape plane and a couple of bodyguards before a revolution starts... they LOVE throwing revolutions at your head. Literally.
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