United States of Banana


The Plot

Radical Thinking / Latinx Philosophy

What Happens in United States of Banana?

Giannina Braschi author of United States of Banana

“The plot of United States of Banana unfolds in the following way: Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Nietzsche’s Zarathustra and a character named Giannina decide to cross the Hudson to go to Liberty Island, penetrate the Statue of Liberty and free Segismundo, subsequently freeing Puerto Rico from its colonial captivity. This act of defiance produces a response from Gertrude –Hamlet’s mother – who concocts a plan to marry Basilio, free Segismundo, and bring him into the same family as Hamlet as the only possible way to save the ancien régime of imperial United States of Banana from collapsing.

As part of her plan, Gertrude convinces Basilio that Puerto Rico should be granted admission into the United States of Banana, that all illegal immigrants shall be granted citizenship, and that the borders of the United States of Banana shall be opened. However, her efforts to mitigate the revolution by granting concessions to Giannina and the other insurgents fail, who declare unilaterally the independence of Puerto Rico after realizing that the changes in the United States of Banana’s policies towards Puerto Rico and Latin America were an attempt to perpetuate a sort of imperial Pax Banana under the joint leadership of Basilio and Gertrude.

War erupts between Puerto Rico, Cuba (which has claims to Puerto Rico and seeks to create its own Caribbean empire), and the United States of Banana; Giannina and her comrades can only rely on coconuts and philosophical conversation to fight the soldiers of the empire. But the timely intervention of China – the United States creditor – secures the independence of Puerto Rico and brings Braschi’s geo-political comedy to a close.”

Ronald Mendoza de Jesus (“Freedom: United States of Banana and the Limits of Sovereignty.” Poets, Philosophers, Lovers: On the Writings of Giannina Braschi. Latin American and Latinx Philosophy)

United States of Banana, philosophical novel
United States of Banana by Giannina Braschi

A Scene from United States of Banana

Wishy, Wishy-Washy, Washy

I was thinking that same fortress over which Bartholdi erected the Statue of Liberty will be the fortress where Segismundo will be imprisoned. I was thinking: Should the statue come down. After all, a statue is just a statue. But inside a man is buried alive. We should destroy the statue to save the man. The man is more important than the symbol. But I was also thinking: he should not be able to break out. Let’s keep him inside to prove that liberty exists. A statue is just a statue. But to have a man inside that statue—claiming he wants to become free—and never becoming free. We should charge to see him, but never free him. If he can’t liberate himself—neither the crowd nor the police nor the firemen nor the army should liberate him. He has to do it himself. And if he grows old pushing the columns—and has no energy left to push, push, and push—and the media’s attention deficit disorder turns the spotlight on someone else and the crowds forget all about him—too bad for him. There are enough problems in this city to worry about one man. And if he dies and the smell of his rotten body invades the city and brings diseases and plagues—will that be reason enough to split open the mausoleum of liberty? If an oracle says that unless we split open the statue—the body will continue plaguing the city—and there will be no peace—nobody will be able to sleep in peace.
It’s not that we can’t rescue him. We could if we wanted to, but we would lose a fortune. Segismundo thinks he depends on liberty, but the truth be said—liberty has more need of him than he of the statue. The more he rattles his shackles and chains, the more tickets he sells. The military is afraid that some terrorist group will plot to rescue him. The people want to liberate him. Especially his own people—immigrants and prisoners from around the world. So, in order to prevent the coming insurrection, a voting system is created to give the people the impression that Segismundo’s destiny is in their hands. They are given three options:
If they vote for Wishy—Segismundo will be liberated from the dungeon. If they vote for Wishy-Washy, the status quo will prevail. If they vote for Washy, he will be sentenced to death, and nobody will have the honor of hearing his songs rise from the gutters of the dungeon of liberty. Every four years the citizens of Liberty Island vote for Wishy-Washy. They can choose between mashed potato, French fries, or baked potato. But any way you serve it, it’s all the same potato…

Giannina Braschi, United States of Banana