This article explores the theme of U.S. imperialism in Latin America built into the U.S.A. trilogy. It proceeds from the observation that while the focus of Dos Passos’s work is on the United States, his approach is also transnational, taking in the emerging superpower’s relationship to other parts of the world in its thematic compass as well. Specifically, I argue that contained within the trilogy is a story of U.S. hegemony and exploitation in Latin America at the hands of strong political and economic forces.
With the extended depiction of the Mexican Revolution in The 42nd Parallel as my initial focus, I show how Dos Passos, through his account of successive U.S. administrations’ involvement in the conflict, sketches out an interventionist modus operandi that continues into the 1920s. Throughout, my analyses often depart from the Newsreel sections, whose contents repeatedly invoke U.S. political and economic involvement in Latin American affairs, revealed through their interaction with not only Dos Passos’s other narrative modes, but also with the historical record itself. In the second part, I turn to the Latin American fruit trade, which constitutes a sub-topic that is referenced in each volume of the trilogy. Departing from the appearance of the novelty song “Yes! We Have No Bananas” in one of the final Newsreel sections, I argue that its seeming triviality belies a more sinister function, namely that of blocking out the Colombian Banana Massacre of 1928 from Dos Passos’s narrative.