The Cuyamel Fruit Company in Honduras

Honduras is well known as a Banana Republic. For some time, it was the Worlds largest banana producer and exporter. However, the two main companies that played a role in this endeavor eclipsed smaller, but not less important producers such as the Cuyamel Fruit Company. The founder of the Cuyamel Fruit Company was Samuel Zemurray himself. The company takes its name from the town of Cuyamel, which is adjacent to the Cuyamel River, in the extreme western Caribbean coast of Honduras, next to the border with Guatemala.

I am referring to the Tela Railroad Company and the Vaccaro Brothers and Company. These two enterprises played the biggest role in the banana scene in Honduras. The first had its headquarters in Tela and is owned by the United Fruit Brands company. They are still active in Honduras and export their product under the Chiquita Banana Brand. The second is still in La Ceiba, and is now the Standard Fruit Company, that exports its products under the Dole brand.

Samuel Zemurray Becomes a Person of Power in Honduras

Cuyamel Fruit Company in Honduras
Two steamships belonging to the Cuyamel Fruit Company in port at Omoa

The Cuyamel Fruit Company operated in Honduras between 1911 and 1929. With the economic collapse of the Great Depression looming, Zemurray sold his company to the United Fruit Company. Much of his payment was with shares from this much larger company. Thus, “Sam the Banana Guy”  was now one of the largest shareholders in the company. Over the years he would gain control of the United Fruit Company and personally run it.


Zemurray became an important figure in the Honduran scene. Under his leadership, the Lancetilla Experimental Botanical Garden came to be. He hired Dr. Wilson Popenoe to run the experimental station. Dr. Popenoe brought in many different tropical fruits that are now successfully crops in Honduras. Zemurray also founded the Escuela Nacional Panamericana, (also known as “El Zamorano”). There he provided many scholarships for Latin American students. Thus contributing with the development of agriculture in Latin America.

Once Zemurray took over the United Fruit Company, his original company, the Cuyamel Fruit Company in Honduras faded into oblivion. The much larger company had its headquarters in Tela, and eventually moved to La Lima. Cuyamel and Omoa were no longer an important Banana production center and the Port of Omoa was no longer a banana export port. However, it is important to note that thanks to this company, Samuel Zemurray became the head of the United Fruit Company.