Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent – Eduardo Galeano (1971)


“Imagine: a proud lion has been chased, shot and trapped by poachers who descended heavy-footed upon his land. The poachers are winged and foreign to the lion’s land, as well as dispassionate, or passionate only to wealth’s nefarious whispers. The lion does not and will never capitulate, yet blood flows from bullet-hole wounds. It is this feeling that Eduardo Galeano’s book Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent embodies: one of anger; of arbitrary and wrongful pillage; a feeling of death that is prolonged and surgical in its keeping the patient alive for as long as the matter dictates; of a raping of beauty, pride and hope. First published in 1971, Galeano’s book forms an understanding of the history of Latin America since 1492 when Spanish ships first slipped into Bahamas’ waters. Galeano asserts that the present can only be understood as a product of the past, the bastard result of an equation whose elements were spurious numbers dictated and manipulated, not by the capricious whims of the gods, but rather by the enthroned kings and queens of foreign enterprises. As Galeano writes: ‘The international division of labor was not organized by the Holy Ghost but by men – more precisely, as a result of the world development of capitalism.’ The IBMs and General Motors of Galeano’s contemporary era can be traced back to the likes of Hernán Cortés, the sugar plantations of the Portuguese and the chains around the slaves’ feet and neck as they were hauled across the oceans – a thread can be tugged and ripples will worm their up the fabric; pull too hard, or remove the thread all together, and who knows if the structural integrity of the weaving will hold up. The book is written in chronological order, with the first one hundred and thirty pages being dedicated to setting the scene of the pre-1970s era, although frequent mentions are made of contemporary situations which were born of the unsolicited impregnation of earlier years. Galeano writes that travellers came to Latin America in search of wealth to be exploited during their ‘era[s] of conquest’ – Christopher Columbus arrived with The Travels of Marco Polo in hand, thinking Latin America to be Zipango, Japan and therefore a land of ‘mountains of gold and pearls and twelve kinds of spices in enormous quantities’. …”
Sounds and Colours
W – Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent
Eduardo Galeano Acknowledges the Weaknesses of ‘The Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent.
[PDF] Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent
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