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Eduardo Galeano: No longer seeking to inform, but only to affirm

In April 2009 a gift passed from the colossal fist of Hugo Chávez into the delicate, writerly fingers of Barack Obama. A gift, but at the same time — this was Chávez after all — a rebuke: it was a copy of The Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, Eduardo Galeano's seminal jeremiad against the despoilment by Western imperialist and capitalist powers of the land and the aboriginal peoples of the Americas. 

Galeano wrote Open Veins in the evenings of three months in 1970, while he toiled during the day as a political journalist in his native Uruguay. It's a marvellous book, despite its doctrinaire, almost quaint Marxism and despite Galeano's tendency to whitewash any figure that appeals to him ideologically. The Argentine dictator Juan Manuel de Rosas, an object of fear and hatred in many stories and one great poem by Borges ("his tyrannical image loomed huge on the moment . . . shadowy, vast, and remote/like a darkening mountain . . . the implacable butcher"), is for Galeano nothing more sinister than "the best rider in the province, guitar-strummer, dancer, and noted horsebreaker, who on stormy starless nights chewed some blades of grass to locate his whereabouts". 

Anyway, each of these descriptions has its charm. Composed of short chapters, elegantly arranged by theme and rigorously foot- and end-noted, Open Veins is alive with bold similies ("What happened to Latin America's industrial bourgeoisie was what happens to dwarfs: it became decrepit without having grown"; "The World Bank responds to the United States like thunder to lightning"), striking primary source material (according to a Nahuatl text, "[the Spaniards] lifted up the gold as if they were monkeys, with expressions of joy, as if it put new life into them and lit up their hearts"), and black comedy (the towns in Venezuela "where even whores are known by oil nicknames, such as ‘The Pipeline,' ‘The Four Valves,' ‘The Derrick'. . ."). It is so charismatic a book, even in the later chapters awash with economic statistics, that few readers will come away without having adopted a little of Galeano's brightly burning indignation on behalf of the old peoples of the New World and their Latin-American descendents.

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Ralitsa Velinova
November 17th, 2013
1:11 AM
It is a very interesting article. I'm just wondering if your point of view about the political situation in East Europe, especially in Bulgaria now can be in an article like this. I look forward to reed it.

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