Monday, December 27, 2010


Neotropica is an online magazine nominally about Costa Rica. The current (second) issue is about regional subjects, so it might be of interest.

Personally, I found the first issue to be scattered and self-absorbed. (For example, I didn't understand the connection between Central America and the terraforming of Mars.) I haven't read through the second issue yet, though I can tell from a quick skim that there is likely to be a lot more here that I can learn from.

If you are interested in reading Neotropica, it's free though you have to set up an account at Issuu. This is odd, but, like, whatever.

The links are: issue 1 and issue 2. Or you can use the search box at Issuu.

Once you get to the issue you want you can (after setting up an account and logging in), download a PDF. Seems all complicated an' stuff, but it works.

One thing I can say, enthusiastically, is that, underwhelmed as I was by the contents of the first issue, both it and the current one are absolutely gorgeous.

Table of contents follows:

  • The Banana Chronicles: A special Neotropica treatment of the fruit that steered history.
  • A Visit to the Banana Lands, by Carleton Beals: Travel experiences in lands of the banana barons in the 1930s.
  • Anchuria Republic of Bananas: Excerpts from O. Henry's story that first named Central America "banana republics."
  • Samuel, Agonistes, by Stephen Duplantier: Samuel Zemurray, Banana Man extraordinaire, and his exploits in Central America.
  • The Legend of Z, by Stephen Duplantier: Who was that masked man? Zemurray, explained.
  • Doctoring the Tropics, by Patricia Spinelli: Adventures of a tropical medicine physician on the banana plantations of the 1920s.
  • Tristes Tropiques-- Neglected Tropical Diseases, by Stephen Duplantier: Tropical diseases you may not know about and don't want to catch. Plus a surprising account of the worst tropical disease of all.
  • El Cristo de la Bananera, by Salvador Dal. Improvements, by Stephen Duplantier: Surreal Homage to the Workers of Banana Land.
  • A Perfect Day for a Banana, by Umberto Dvila: A fictionalized story of a banana worker's day.
  • The Weeping Heart of a Banana: The mythic origin of the banana heart. The inflorescence of a banana plant produces a heart-shaped bract on a stalk. Commercial banana growers prefer heartless bananas. A pictorial essay.
  • The Great Banana Strike of 1934, by Carlos Luis Fallas: Was Carlos Luis Fallas the greatest Costa Rican ever? Costa Rican workers probably think so. This is a translation of a speech by Fallas that gives a history of the grievances of the banana workers against the transgressions of the United Fruit Company, the notorious El Pulpo (the Octopus), also called Mamita Yunai by Costa Rican workers.
  • A Working Class Hero, by Stephen Duplantier An appreciation of the place of Carlos Luis Fallas in Costa Rican history. The Costa Rican of the 21st Century Award It's only 2010, but if the winner is announced early maybe some trends can be set. Anyway, Fallas should have gotten it last century, so this is payback.
  • La Huelga Bananera por Leo R. Sack: La huelga bananera desde el punto de vista de los jefes de Mamita Yunai.
  • The Massacre in Cinaga, by Stephen Duplantier: What happened in Santa Marta, Colombia in 1928.
  • Macondo, by Gabriel Garca Mrquez: Excerpts from the fictional account of the massacre from 100 Years of Solitude.
  • The Neotropica Faux Gabriel Garca Mrquez Write-Alike Contest: Summary of the Nobel Acceptance speech of Mrquez.
  • Gloves, by Darlene Olivo.: The winning entry in the Write-Alike Contest.
  • Passion and Death--The Chemistry of Corporate Power What happened when two journalists from the Cincinnati Enquirer investigating Chiquita Brands spoke truth to power, and power won.
  • Banana Follies Playbill and Banana Erotics, by Stephen Duplantier: The doctrine of signatures as it applies to bananas was not a sign from God, but a sign from the United Fruit Company inserting bananas into the popular consciousness in a big, big way with an explosion of consequences.
  • Dancer, Expat, Singer, Spy, War Heroine, Josephine Baker broke barriers hewhole life, by Elaine Kelly: The story of an amazing woman and how she did so much more than dance with a banana.
  • Bronze Venus: Images of a great woman, La Baker.
  • Carmen Miranda -- a special section on the woman with bananas in her hat. An exploration of the life and meaning of the art of Carmen Miranda. The origins of her famous hats, how the samba developed from Afro-Brazilian women carrying loads on their head, and the music and lyrics of Brazilian samba.
  • That Tutti Frutti Hat, by Elaine Kelly
  • The Woman who Mistook Herself for a Hat; Imitation of Self; The Tutti Frutti Hat; and the Samba Aquarelas do Brasil, by Stephen Duplantier
  • Watercolors of the Brazilian Market Women: Pictorial section
  • The Botany of Desirable Bananas, by Charles Garratt: How the banana plant got to be the way it is, and what will be its fate.
  • Bananas in New Orleans New Orleans was the first and most important port for the entry of bananas into the U.S., the hometown of Samuel Zemurray, and the city where the Bananas Foster dessert was created.
  • A Bunch of Banana Books Editor's choice of the must-read banana books. To understand Central America, follow the banana.
  • Recipes: Everyone knows how to eat a banana. These recipes tell you what to do with the other parts of the plant, especially the heart.
  • Dictators Graphic art, by Stephen Duplantier
  • Good Dictator, Bad Dictator -- The United Fruit Company and Economic Nationalism, by Mario Bucheli: An analysis of the complex connections between the banana giant and its client nations.
  • Human Resources Announcement: Employment Opportunity Dictator The job requirements for a dictator sound suspiciously like the traits of a paranoid criminal psychopath listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
  • Cultural Memory: Bananas as Icon, by Valeria Baker: A thesis on the iconicity of bananas in popular consciousness. Photographs by Carlos Reyes-Manzo
  • Entomologie Photograph, by Ann Mandelbaum
  • La United Fruit Co. The famous poem of Pablo Neruda.
  • Gargantua Eating his Salad and a Peasant: An Allegory of Capital and Labor; Text on Neocolonialism, by E. San Juan
  • The Periphery and the Core, by Emile Rishty: A primer on how the world, unfortunately, works.
  • A Poet named "Banana Plant" Japan's most famous poet is named "banana plant." Find out why.
  • Sloth Food--The Next Revolution, by Roan St. John: Meet Ernesto Spinelli of San Ramn, a chef and artist who discovered the glories of "slow food" long before it was trendy.
  • Why Are They Killing the Rivers of Costa Rica?, by Gene Warneke, Carol Cespedes, and Bruce Melton: Unbelievably, Costa Rica gives permits for mining gravel in pristine rivers in the Osa Peninsula.
  • Mining a River -- It's as Bad as it Sounds, by Carol Cespedes and Bruce Melton: You won't believe what happens when the riverbed miners start working on a natural stream.
  • Time to Say Goodbye, by Jack Ewing: The river otters of Costa Rica, which have frolicked here for nine million years, are at risk of extinction because of river mining.

Posted via email from Dave's posterous


  1. Dave, thanks for the comments. If I may explain: there is a connection between terraforming Mars and life in Costa Rica. You see, Dr. Franklin Chang, formerly a NASA astronaut, is a Costa Rican citizen and the country's premier scientist. Dr. Chang has built a plasma rocket motor company in Costa Rica and Houston. He has designed and is building and testing a rocket propulsion system which will be able to take astronauts to Mars. Of course, Mars is uninhabitable, so the next phase that scientists and engineers are discussing seriously is terraforming the Red Planet.
    The first issue of Neotropica has a theme--Imagined Geographies of Paradise. Terraforming Mars certainly fits under that theme. Other articles in the issue deal with the psychological reasons why people come to Costa Rica looking for a tropical paradise. Why they do this and what they discover are some of the issues we try to deal with. We have a solid theme running through the issue, and yes, we do range far and wide. That is an intentional strategy to attract, and both please and educate a wide variety of readers. You don't have to be interested in everything in the issue.

    We are working on the third issue now. I hope you'll take a look at that one sometime around the end of January, or so.

    As the editor, publisher and art director, I was pleased to read your comments about the look of the magazine.

    Stephen Duplantier,
    Editor and Publisher of Neotropica