BooksLatinx Hub

Eduardo Galeano, Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent

My thoughts: Every single Latinx person in the United States should read Open Veins of Latin America.

If you want to understand why people from Latin America migrate, you should read about what the United States and Western Europe have done in Latin America.

In 2014, Galeano spoke at a book fair and humbly explained that he wouldn't write the same book in 2014 that he had written in 1973 when Open Veins was first published.  He criticized his own prose, his heavy-handed emphasis on the role of the US and Europe in shaping Latin American futures, and even added that he couldn't bring himself to read Open Veins again.

Liberals and conservatives alike latched onto his remarks.  They equated Galeano's self-criticism with invalidation.  The New York Times, often leading the way, asserted that Galeano had "Disavow[ed]" his most influential work.

Galeano did no such thing.  He did not "repudiate" everything he argued in Open Veins; instead, in a moment of self-reflection and candor, he expressed that Open Veins was a product of his views of the world at a particular time and place.  He would now write a different book, a more nuanced book that would reflect all that he has learned since then.

For some of us, humility is a virtue; for others, it's proof of incompetence.

Read the book, and tell me if you see what Galeano saw & feel what Galeano felt.

Their description: "Since its U.S. debut a quarter-century ago, this brilliant text has set a new standard for historical scholarship of Latin America. It is also an outstanding political economy, a social and cultural narrative of the highest quality, and perhaps the finest description of primitive capital accumulation since Marx.

Rather than chronology, geography, or political successions, Eduardo Galeano has organized the various facets of Latin American history according to the patterns of five centuries of exploitation. Thus he is concerned with gold and silver, cacao and cotton, rubber and coffee, fruit, hides and wool, petroleum, iron, nickel, manganese, copper, aluminum ore, nitrates, and tin. These are the veins which he traces through the body of the entire continent, up to the Rio Grande and throughout the Caribbean, and all the way to their open ends where they empty into the coffers of wealth in the United States and Europe.

Weaving fact and imagery into a rich tapestry, Galeano fuses scientific analysis with the passions of a plundered and suffering people. An immense gathering of materials is framed with a vigorous style that never falters in its command of themes. All readers interested in great historical, economic, political, and social writing will find a singular analytical achievement, and an overwhelming narrative that makes history speak, unforgettably.
This classic is now further honored by Isabel Allende’s inspiring introduction. Universally recognized as one of the most important writers of our time, Allende once again contributes her talents to literature, to political principles, and to enlightenment."