Guest Writer

What’s common between the United Fruit Co. & ancient Costa Rican stone spheres?

Stone spheresBy Donielle Fish
Costa Rica First Class Villas

The United Fruit Company was a large American corporation formed in 1899 that traded in tropical fruit (primarily bananas), grown on Central and South American plantations, and exported to the United States and Europe.

The company had a great influence on economic and political development of a number of Latin American countries, including Costa Rica. People have accused the company of operational neocolonialism and this can be a sore spot in the memories of older generations in Costa Rica. United Fruit was a typical example of the influence of transnational corporations on the internal politics of the so-called “banana republics”.

The stone spheres of Costa Rica are an assortment of over three hundred petro spheres in Costa Rica, located on the Diquis Delta and on Caño Island. Locally, they are known as “Las Bolas”. They refer to the Diquís culture (500-1500 AD) and have been added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

So what does the United Fruit Company and the stone balls have in common? Well, United Fruit workers discovered the first balls in the 1930s. They found them while clearing the area for banana plantations. Mindful of the local belief that inside the stones gold can be found, workers started to drill and break them into pieces. This vandalism was stopped by the intervention of Doris Zemurray Stone (November 19, 1909 – October 21, 1994), the daughter of the company’s director. She was a world famous archaeologist and ethnographer, specializing in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica and the so-called “Intermediate Area” of lower Central America. She left America in 1939 and moved to Costa Rica, where she served as the director of the National Museum of Costa Rica. So, thanks to her, thousands of people have the unique possibility to observe these very rare artifacts. And their locations have become places of pilgrimage for tourists from all over the world.

Every cloud has its silver lining! Maybe it’s not a coincidence that last name of the United Fruit director’s daughter is Stone! What do you think?