I saw someone reading and speaking highly of Uruguayan journalist Eduardo Galeano’s The Open Veins of Latin America the other day, and being my usual curious self, I started to look for the book at the library. I admit this was my first time hearing of the book or the author himself. I learned that the book has been the “canonical anti-colonialist, anti-capitalist, and anti-American text” of the region, where Galeano analysed the history of the Americas from the time during the European settlement of the New World all the way to contemporary Latin America, where the effects of European and the United States colonialism has impacted the economy and politics of the while region. It was so influential that not only it has been included in university courses all over the world, it was also reported that Venezualan president Hugo Chávez, handed a Spanish copy of the book to President Obama’s hand when they met.
As I was looking through the information for the book through Internet, I also learned that Galeano, in 2014, disavows his manifesto in the book. According to him, he wrote it during the time when he was not qualified to tackle the subject, and he thought it was badly written. What’s amazing is the response from the scholars who had been teaching his book in the class: one said that she will continue teaching it but will “take his comments, add them in and use them to generate a far more interesting discussion about how we see and interpret events at different points in time”. One said she wouldn’t change how she used the book, because “because it still captures the essence of the emotional memory of being colonised”. She however, will include Galeano’s comments on it, citing that “it’s good for students to see that writers can think critically about their own work and go back and revise what they meant.” A lot of others think the book still holds a significance on the past, present and future of the region of Latin America, and would still consume the book rightly so.
It would be impossible for me to respond to such a question, especially because, after so many years, I don’t feel as connected to that book as when I wrote it. Time passed and I began to try other things, to get closer to human reality in general and especially to political economy—because Open Veins tried to be a book on political economy, yet I still didn’t have the necessary education. I don’t regret having written it, but it’s a stage that I have surpassed. I wouldn’t be able to read it again, I would collapse. For me, that traditional leftist prose is so very dull. My body wouldn’t hold up. I’d be placed in urgent care… ‘Do you have a free bed,’ I’d ask.
It took a great deal of courage and determination for a writer as significant as himself to admit this, although the book was said to be “intellectually honest and passionately stated” by critics, and one that has much cultural and political significance to the region.