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Reviewing The Life of Eduardo Galeano Who Passed Away At 74

Eduardo Galeano was an accomplished author and journalist in his life. He passed away in Montevideo, his birthplace, at the age of 74.

Eduardo Galeano, a Uruguayan journalist and author, passed away on April 13 at the age of 74 due to lung cancer. He is most well-known for writing “Open Veins of Latin America,” a best-selling book detailing the history of the Europe’s exploitation of Latin America since the days of Columbus, along with other classics.

Galeano was born in Montevideo, Uruguay on Sept. 3, 1940. Growing up, he drew cartoons and wrote as well for newspapers in Uruguay. Yet, Galeano told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! how he wanted to be a soccer player instead of a writer:

I wanted to be a soccer player, and I became the best of the best, the number one, better than Maradona, better than Pelé, and even better than Messi—but only at night, nighttime, during my dreams. When I wake up, I realized that I have wooden legs and that I’m doomed to be a writer. It’s my only possibility in life, to earn my life honestly, is writing, but not playing football, soccer.

Galeano wrote both fiction as well as non-fiction and used his education from the “cafes of Montevideo” where he learned the art of storytelling from listening.

His first encounter with politics was in 1954, when he was 14 years old, when Carlos Castillo Armas was installed in Guatemala to protect the United Fruit Company, where the “banana republic” was first coined. In fact, in one of his books, he called the country during this time period “Guatemala Occupied Country.”

Meanwhile, the situation in Uruguay became tense between the government and the Tupamaros, a leftist guerrilla group operating in Uruguay during 1960s to late 1970s. It should noted the Tupamaros originally did not engage in violent acts, but were forced to after the government decided to use draconian tactics and methods against any dissenters.

Then-Uruguayan President Juan Maria Bordeberry decided during his tenure to dissolve Congress as a result of the Tupamaros’ campaign. The New York Times, on June 28, 1973, cited “intense military pressure” for Bordeberry’s decision. On Feb. 16, 1973, The Times believed “the pride and envy of the Americas” would be able to solve its domestic crisis through non-violent means.

Unfortunately, what resulted was an intense terror campaign waged by the military government leading to censorship of the press, disappearances of any dissenters, fierce repression of labor and even killings.

As a result of the terror unleashed by Bordeberry’s government, Uruguayans left the country or, in the case of Galeano, were exiled. He left to Spain in 1973, despite being briefly imprisoned, and did not leave the country until 1985.

Two years before Galeano left, however, he released “Open Veins of Latin America,” which the military government hated and ensured it would be banned and burned. Although, at first, the government allowed it to be read by prisoners as it assumed the book dealt with anatomy until, as Galeano told Democracy Now! in 2009, “noticed that something was not exactly that.”

The book was also banned in Chile and Argentina, yet the book could be found among the citizenry across Latin America as it described a hidden history of oppression and exploitation of Europe since the colonial days.

Galeano told The New York Times in 1988 that his time in exile was a “good experience,” although it was still painful for him to be away.

“Exile gave me necessary distance and a certain calm to become aware of myself to a degree I wasn’t able to before,” Galeano told The Times.

After 1985, Galeano left to Argentina, which also was under military rule. He worked at a cultural magazine there and felt it should not be published when censorship by the government was frequent. As he told Goodman on Democracy Now!, his experience was an incredible insight into Argentinian life and what the editors hoped to accomplish:

[It came out] once a month, a very, very beautiful magazine who sold about 35,000, 40,000 copies, which is a record in the Spanish language, because we could diffuse a new conception of culture. Instead of repeating the old story about culture being the specialized work of artists and perhaps scientists, we tried to recover culture as a collective expression of identity.

By the end of the 1980s, military dictatorship fell across Latin America, including Uruguay. “Open Veins of Latin America” became a very popular book in Uruguay after the fall of the repressive government. Galeano told The New York Times in 1986 that if anyone spent “one-ninth of their monthly wage” on any of his books, then they should be “locked up as crazy.”

The last time the book received major publicity was in 2009 when the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez presented a copy of the book to President Barack Obama at the Summit of the Americas. Obama felt it was a “nice gesture,” although it is unknown whether he ever read the entire book.

Galeano felt “horrified” when told he was a best-seller as he was more worried with getting “in touch with people.” Still, he said what Chavez did to be a “generous action.”

While Galeano did not feel comfortable with the writing of the book anymore as his style changed over time, he later said the book was “still alive and kicking.”

In the meantime, Galeano published even more books under his belt, including “Soccer in Sun and Shadow.” The Nation‘s Dave Zirin praised the book as “the finest book that sits at the intersection of sports and politics.”

In addition, he released “Memories of Fire,” a trilogy of books also dealing with the past in Latin America, and many other books like “Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History.” Galeano released a plethora of books, but he always aimed to take back the history of Latin America and emphasize the best in humanity. Indeed, he told The New Yorker how the “beauty and reality of history” was an essential part of his writing.

Galeano told Goodman on Democracy Now! that he felt a good writer, from his standpoint, would be able to connect art, truth and politics by emphasizing the strings between the past and present:

That was able to make the past become present telling a history of two centuries ago or three centuries or four or I don’t know how much, and the reader may feel it’s happening right here and now. The past turn to be present in the magic words of a good writer. That’s a lie, in the sense that what he or she is telling didn’t—is not happening now, but thanks to these art prodigies, their magic powers, it does occur in today.

Jose Mujica, former president of Uruguay and Tupamaros member, praised him as a writer able to discuss Latin American culture in way universities couldn’t do. Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said, thanks to Galeano, the veins of Latin America were open.

There is no doubt a leading voice for the Latin American left who cared so much about justice and hope will be missed.

*

I would love to write this section by already recalling most or all the books I’ve read by Galeano or how his writing helped guide me to become somewhat of an expert on Latin America. The truth is I’ve started my journey to study Latin America a few months ago and cannot call myself fully knowledgeable on the history of it. I’ve only read “Open Veins of Latin America.”

In spite of this setback, I wondered for yesterday what would be appropriate way to start my own input. Perhaps my shared heritage with Galeano as Uruguayans would work or how both of us are Marxists. Maybe it was the same occupation as journalists.

It was when I did researching that I realized it was connecting the past with the present to help guide us for future. Journalism provides an outlet for this and one can realize this in Galeano’s writing.

It was in my first year of college that I read the book with a massive interest in the history of Latin America. To this day, I can remember parts of the book such as Isabel Allende’s introduction along with the fact on how the wars waged by Europe during the Napoleonic times could have not been done without the resources of Latin America. That’s when I knew it was an influential book.

I’m proud to read the book and how it helped me grow as a person. In a year where I was politically lost after being disillusioned not only with a failed Democratic Party, but of a hyper-individualistic culture failing to grasp the sense of community, it influenced me to another way of life in Latin America. It’s a book that influenced me like “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” or “A People’s History of the United States.”

As a note to readers, I do not want to present life in Latin America as a paradise. I would be neglecting eras of repression and torture throughout the region by doing so as well as current problem still persisting. Still, it matters to identify different communities around the world.

I honestly didn’t want to write anything considering I avoid writing on subjects where other journalists already written what needs to be said. In this case, however, I felt the urge to write at least something on his passing. I’m thankful for doing so as I learned a lot through my research and made me understand things a bit more clear even if it came the at expense of my sleep.

There are numerous lessons to learn from writing and journalism, perhaps too much to write it all in a short paragraph. But what’s essential is providing a complimentary voice to those in history. Galeano stresses the importance of not being a voice to the voiceless as those deemed voiceless do have a voice. What’s important is to place the spotlight on those ignored and show it to the reader.

It is through this that one can go forth in the world and understand what needs to be done—a new way of life to bring us closer together as a community.

CommunityThe Bullpen

Reviewing The Life of Eduardo Galeano Who Passed Away At 74

Eduardo Galeano was an accomplished author and journalist in his life. He passed away in Montevideo, his birthplace, at the age of 74.

Eduardo Galeano, a Uruguayan journalist and author, passed away on April 13 at the age of 74 due to lung cancer. He is most well-known for writing “Open Veins of Latin America,” a best-selling book detailing the history of the Europe’s exploitation of Latin America since the days of Columbus, along with other classics.

Galeano was born in Montevideo, Uruguay on Sept. 3, 1940. Growing up, he drew cartoons and wrote as well for newspapers in Uruguay. Yet, Galeano told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! how he wanted to be a soccer player instead of a writer:

I wanted to be a soccer player, and I became the best of the best, the number one, better than Maradona, better than Pelé, and even better than Messi—but only at night, nighttime, during my dreams. When I wake up, I realized that I have wooden legs and that I’m doomed to be a writer. It’s my only possibility in life, to earn my life honestly, is writing, but not playing football, soccer.

Galeano wrote both fiction as well as non-fiction and used his education from the “cafes of Montevideo” where he learned the art of storytelling from listening.

His first encounter with politics was in 1954, when he was 14 years old, when Carlos Castillo Armas was installed in Guatemala to protect the United Fruit Company, where the “banana republic” was first coined. In fact, in one of his books, he called the country during this time period “Guatemala Occupied Country.”

Meanwhile, the situation in Uruguay became tense between the government and the Tupamaros, a leftist guerrilla group operating in Uruguay during 1960s to late 1970s. It should noted the Tupamaros originally did not engage in violent acts, but were forced to after the government decided to use draconian tactics and methods against any dissenters.

Then-Uruguayan President Juan Maria Bordeberry decided during his tenure to dissolve Congress as a result of the Tupamaros’ campaign. The New York Times, on June 28, 1973, cited “intense military pressure” for Bordeberry’s decision. On Feb. 16, 1973, The Times believed “the pride and envy of the Americas” would be able to solve its domestic crisis through non-violent means.

Unfortunately, what resulted was an intense terror campaign waged by the military government leading to censorship of the press, disappearances of any dissenters, fierce repression of labor and even killings.

As a result of the terror unleashed by Bordeberry’s government, Uruguayans left the country or, in the case of Galeano, were exiled. He left to Spain in 1973, despite being briefly imprisoned, and did not leave the country until 1985.

Two years before Galeano left, however, he released “Open Veins of Latin America,” which the military government hated and ensured it would be banned and burned. Although, at first, the government allowed it to be read by prisoners as it assumed the book dealt with anatomy until, as Galeano told Democracy Now! in 2009, “noticed that something was not exactly that.”

The book was also banned in Chile and Argentina, yet the book could be found among the citizenry across Latin America as it described a hidden history of oppression and exploitation of Europe since the colonial days.

Galeano told The New York Times in 1988 that his time in exile was a “good experience,” although it was still painful for him to be away.

“Exile gave me necessary distance and a certain calm to become aware of myself to a degree I wasn’t able to before,” Galeano told The Times.

After 1985, Galeano left to Argentina, which also was under military rule. He worked at a cultural magazine there and felt it should not be published when censorship by the government was frequent. As he told Goodman on Democracy Now!, his experience was an incredible insight into Argentinian life and what the editors hoped to accomplish:

[It came out] once a month, a very, very beautiful magazine who sold about 35,000, 40,000 copies, which is a record in the Spanish language, because we could diffuse a new conception of culture. Instead of repeating the old story about culture being the specialized work of artists and perhaps scientists, we tried to recover culture as a collective expression of identity.

By the end of the 1980s, military dictatorship fell across Latin America, including Uruguay. “Open Veins of Latin America” became a very popular book in Uruguay after the fall of the repressive government. Galeano told The New York Times in 1986 that if anyone spent “one-ninth of their monthly wage” on any of his books, then they should be “locked up as crazy.”

The last time the book received major publicity was in 2009 when the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez presented a copy of the book to President Barack Obama at the Summit of the Americas. Obama felt it was a “nice gesture,” although it is unknown whether he ever read the entire book.

Galeano felt “horrified” when told he was a best-seller as he was more worried with getting “in touch with people.” Still, he said what Chavez did to be a “generous action.”

While Galeano did not feel comfortable with the writing of the book anymore as his style changed over time, he later said the book was “still alive and kicking.”

In the meantime, Galeano published even more books under his belt, including “Soccer in Sun and Shadow.” The Nation‘s Dave Zirin praised the book as “the finest book that sits at the intersection of sports and politics.”

In addition, he released “Memories of Fire,” a trilogy of books also dealing with the past in Latin America, and many other books like “Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History.” Galeano released a plethora of books, but he always aimed to take back the history of Latin America and emphasize the best in humanity. Indeed, he told The New Yorker how the “beauty and reality of history” was an essential part of his writing.

Galeano told Goodman on Democracy Now! that he felt a good writer, from his standpoint, would be able to connect art, truth and politics by emphasizing the strings between the past and present:

That was able to make the past become present telling a history of two centuries ago or three centuries or four or I don’t know how much, and the reader may feel it’s happening right here and now. The past turn to be present in the magic words of a good writer. That’s a lie, in the sense that what he or she is telling didn’t—is not happening now, but thanks to these art prodigies, their magic powers, it does occur in today.

Jose Mujica, former president of Uruguay and Tupamaros member, praised him as a writer able to discuss Latin American culture in way universities couldn’t do. Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said, thanks to Galeano, the veins of Latin America were open.

There is no doubt a leading voice for the Latin American left who cared so much about justice and hope will be missed.

*

I would love to write this section by already recalling most or all the books I’ve read by Galeano or how his writing helped guide me to become somewhat of an expert on Latin America. The truth is I’ve started my journey to study Latin America a few months ago and cannot call myself fully knowledgeable on the history of it. I’ve only read “Open Veins of Latin America.”

In spite of this setback, I wondered for yesterday what would be appropriate way to start my own input. Perhaps my shared heritage with Galeano as Uruguayans would work or how both of us are Marxists. Maybe it was the same occupation as journalists.

It was when I did researching that I realized it was connecting the past with the present to help guide us for future. Journalism provides an outlet for this and one can realize this in Galeano’s writing.

It was in my first year of college that I read the book with a massive interest in the history of Latin America. To this day, I can remember parts of the book such as Isabel Allende’s introduction along with the fact on how the wars waged by Europe during the Napoleonic times could have not been done without the resources of Latin America. That’s when I knew it was an influential book.

I’m proud to read the book and how it helped me grow as a person. In a year where I was politically lost after being disillusioned not only with a failed Democratic Party, but of a hyper-individualistic culture failing to grasp the sense of community, it influenced me to another way of life in Latin America. It’s a book that influenced me like “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” or “A People’s History of the United States.”

As a note to readers, I do not want to present life in Latin America as a paradise. I would be neglecting eras of repression and torture throughout the region by doing so as well as current problem still persisting. Still, it matters to identify different communities around the world.

I honestly didn’t want to write anything considering I avoid writing on subjects where other journalists already written what needs to be said. In this case, however, I felt the urge to write at least something on his passing. I’m thankful for doing so as I learned a lot through my research and made me understand things a bit more clear even if it came the at expense of my sleep.

There are numerous lessons to learn from writing and journalism, perhaps too much to write it all in a short paragraph. But what’s essential is providing a complimentary voice to those in history. Galeano stresses the importance of not being a voice to the voiceless as those deemed voiceless do have a voice. What’s important is to place the spotlight on those ignored and show it to the reader.

It is through this that one can go forth in the world and understand what needs to be done—a new way of life to bring us closer together as a community.

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Brandon Jordan

Brandon Jordan

Brandon Jordan is a freelance journalist in Queens, NY and written for publications such as The Nation, In These Times, Truthout and more.