testimonies and stories

Doris Carlos Monge, Costa Rica


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Doris lives in the Tobias Baglio barrio, Siquirres, Limón Province, Costa Rica. Doris Calvo was the women's officer for Costa Rica's largest banana workers' trade union SITRAP. She has visited Scotland twice. During this visit Doris highlighted the huge problems facing workers: the intimidation and blacklisting of trade union affiliates (in spite of Costa Rica having a constitution which states that workers have the right to free association), health problems such as sterility and birth defects caused by agrochemicals, sexual harassment of female workers, lack of child care facilities and its consequences for single working mothers. She currently is involved in working in her local community looking at alternative sources of income for the women of her barrio.

The text in the print was taken from Memoria del Fuego by Uruguayan author, Eduardo Galeano and describes banana workers' reality in 1928 and translates as follows:

During those years the workers were obedient and cheap. They cut down the weeds and bunches of bananas with machetes for less than a dollar a day and accepted living in filthy dormitories and dying of malaria or tuberculosis. Then they formed a trade union.

Jan Nimmo

Doris started working with the Dole Company at the age of 13. She worked on the packing plants on various Dole plantations doing all the different jobs on the plants. She also worked in the fields which is rare for a female worker, spreading fertilizer and bagging the fruit in the blue plastic bags which are impregnated with insecticides.

At 18 years old she left to have a family. She now has three children. At 25 years old she started work with Del Monte but as a trade union activist she soon ran into problems. In the early 80's solidarismo* was first imposed on workers by the banana companies, church and government. The company refused to give her a permanent contact, obliging her to work for 90 days then leave for two weeks and then come back for another 90 days and so on. She was also subject to serious sexual harassment.

She eventually left Del Monte to work in a Costa Rican owned plantation, La Siquirreña, but was put to work in the office where she had no contact with filed or pack house workers. She was sacked from that job in 1999 after refusing the sexual advances of one of the plantation administrators.

She was put on the infamous "blacklist" which companies circulate amongst themselves and so was refused work everywhere she went, even in the local shops in Siquirres. Eventually she found work in Guapiles (40 kms away).

She worked as Women's Secretary with trade union, SITRAP .

She is currently is involved in working in her local community looking at alternative sources of income for the women of her barrio.

She has visited Scotland twice on Banana Link speaker tours, one of which was co-ordinated by World Development Movement Scotland.

*Solidarismo is not a union.

Courtesy of Banana Link

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© Jan Nimmo 2004



Doris calvo: woodcut by jan nimmo