Coffee Hacienda

Date: 1890-1923
Owner: Library of Congress
Source Type: Images


This photograph shows coffee beans drying in rows in the sun on a Costa Rican plantation in 1923. Coffee production was extraordinarily lucrative for U.S. investors in Central America during this era of economic expansion. Enormous tracts of land in Central America and the Caribbean were bought by U.S. entrepreneurs, who then cleared the land for mono-crop agriculture -- bananas, sugar, pineapple, rubber, and coffee -- finally shipping the fruits of the harvest to Europe and the United States. This image depicts the juxtaposition of scientists, nature, and economic development in Latin America during the U.S. Progressive era, as U.S. scientists were contracted by companies to address some of the more pressing ecological problems associated with overproduction including soil exhaustion, erosion, and deforestation. Coffee production was particularly lucrative and was one of the key crops of the Central American nations, the Caribbean, and the northern nations of South America. It could also be highly destructive, as large acreages of land were cleared to make way for coffee trees. Deforestation and coffee production required highly intensive labor and resulted in mass erosion and water pollution. Scientists were contacted to develop more sustainable programs to increase the longevity of the resources. Look closely at this photograph and identify what, precisely, is going on in the image. What does this image tell you about early 20th century Central American coffee production?

CITATION: "Coffee hacienda, Costa Rica" Medium: 1 photographic print. Frank and Frances Carpenter Collection, copyright Publishers Photo Service. LIbrary of Congress Prints and Photographs Division: LC-USZ62-97798.