Monkeys And Bananas


One wonders why bananas and monkeys have been associated, especially in cartoons. How did this happen?

My take on this is that it happened as a result of colonialism.

The United States of America bought the Philippine Archipelago from Spain for $20,000 and occupied it for 50 years. In the beginning of the occupation, there was resistance on the part of the Filipinos. There were several fierce fights between the “insurrectos” and the American soldiers resulting in the death of thousands on both sides of the combatants. Civilians were also killed.

Obviously and logically, the colonizer feels superior to the colonized. Americans looked down on Filipinos. Some soldiers even called the Filipinos monkeys without tails. And they sang songs with words like “…in Zamboanga the monkeys have no tails.”

Filipinos love bananas. Then and now one of the main agricultural products is banana. So, Americans saw Filipinos always eating and enjoying several varieties of banana.

Yes, monkeys love bananas, too. But their main diet in the jungle, their natural habitat, is not a banana. Bananas don’t grow under the trees and in the thick of wild growth. They grow in open and sunny spaces. Filipinos planted bananas in their yard. Monkeys thrived on insects and fruits other than banana. The pet monkeys in captivity, of course, were served bananas since bananas were abundant in the Philippines. Some Americans did business by exporting monkeys to the U.S. for experimentation in laboratories. They fed the monkeys with bananas.

Cartoonists naturally drew monkeys eating bananas.


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