Eduardo Galeano’s Words Walk the Streets of a Continent
By Benjamin Dangl
April 14, 2015 "ICH"
- The has world lost one of its great writers. Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano
died on Monday at age 74 in Montevideo. He left a magical body of work behind
him, and his reach is as wide as his continent.
Argentina's 2001-2002 economic crisis, Galeano’s words walked down the streets
with a life of their own, accompanying every protest and activist meeting.
Factories were occupied by workers, neighborhood assemblies rose up, and, for a
time, revolutionary talk and action replaced a rotten neoliberal system.
Galeano’s upside-down view of the world blew fresh dreams into the tear
In the streets of La Paz, Bolivia, pirated copies of Galeano’s
Veins of Latin America are still sold at nearly every book stall. There
too, Galeano’s historical alchemy added to the fire of many movements and
uprisings, where miners of the country’s open veins tossed dynamite at
right-wing politicians, and the 500-year-old memory of colonialism lives on.
Up the winding mountain roads of Chiapas, past Mexican state
military checkpoints, lies the autonomous Zapatista community of Oventic. One
day a few years ago, Galeano’s familiar voice floated over the foggy, autonomous
land, reciting children’s stories over stereo speakers.
At a World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, Galeano
entered a steaming hot tent where hundreds had gathered to hear him speak about
the Uruguayan water rights movement in which the people had “voted against fear”
to stop privatization. What I remembered most about the talk is how much he made
the crowd laugh.
And one night in Paraguay, with the smell of cow manure and
pesticides lingering in the air, small farmers besieged by toxic soy crops
gathered to tell stories of resistance, stories they linked to Galeano’s
accounts of the looting of Latin America and struggles against greed and empire
that were centuries in the making.
With the small mountain of books and articles he left behind,
Galeano gives us a language of hope, a way feel to feel rage toward the world
while also loving it, a way to understand the past while carving out a better
“She’s on the horizon,” Galeano once wrote of utopia. “I go
two steps, she moves two steps away. I walk ten steps and the horizon runs ten
steps ahead. No matter how much I walk, I’ll never reach her. What good is
utopia? That’s what: it’s good for walking.”
Benjamin Dangl is a doctoral candidate in Latin American
History at McGill University, and the author of the books
Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America,
Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia. He
edits UpsideDownWorld.org, a website
on activism and politics in Latin America, andTowardFreedom.com,
a progressive perspective on world events. Follow him on Twitter: @bendangl