Then Silence – Eduardo Galeano (1940 – 2015)
Submitted by Pachamama
Where have all the heroes gone?
For Galeano, it was to meet our collective destiny. This great Uruguayan, literary genius, poet, champion for social and economic justice, was one of a kind. The One who comes to a people every 2000 years or so.
If ever a writer disdained commercial success, it was Galeano. For Galeano sought to communicate with the people through silence. A pathway he described as ‘the perfect language’. When he found something better than silence he tried to be economical with words. He worked against inflation. His belief was that we, on the left, make language too complicated. We talk or write too much and do too little. Too little revolutionary action.
His epic, ‘The Open Veins of Latin America’ instantly became a best seller in the New York Times once his revolutionary co-conspirator, former President, Hugo Chavez, publicly presented a copy to President Obama. In this instance we must blame Chavez for having Galeano speak too much. For Chavez was a serial offender as Chomsky’s book, ‘Hegemony of Survival – America’s Quest for Global Dominance’, once Chavez presented it to the United Nations, it too became a NYT best seller. Chavez thought it well represented the nature of the North American empire.
In ‘The Open Veins of Latin America’ Galeano wrote about the history of the pillage of this region. A history which informs today’s politics. He saw the past as being present. ‘Art, as a lie which is capable of telling the truth.’ He connected slavery with freedom, poverty with wealth and justice with injustice in creative ways which thug at the heart and reveal a wide range of emotions, insights.
‘The Open Veins of Latin America’ draws a graphic portrait of the damage oil has done to Venezuela. Connects this destruction to the prostitution in oil drilling areas, as an example of total environmental decay, imperial exploitation. Links the names of sex workers to oil industry infrastructure – ‘the derrick’, ‘the pipeline’, ‘the hoist’, ‘the four valves’. He argues that the wealth from oil extraction surpassed the profits derived from slavery.
Other books by Galeano included, ‘Children of the Days’, ‘Genesis: Memory and Fire’ (three volumes), ‘Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone’ and ‘Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking-Glass World’. In ‘Children of the Days’, sons and daughters of time, Galeano sought to allowed stories to choice him to tell them. Stories which were better than the best story of all – silence! He tells a story, not a true story, of the 1916 Mexican invasion of the USA – the reverse is true. An instance of the reversal of what the USA has done to the other countries of the hemisphere. A story of Bolivians’ refusal to embrace junk food, leading to the withdrawal of McDonald’s, among others.
Galeano’s life was forged in the crucible of WW2, by the United States sponsored military dictatorships at home, and again in Argentina. By the fear, not the pain, of torture engendered by military dictators. In exile in Barcelona, Galeano created the launching pad to respond to the brutality imposed on us all. His synthesis of the human condition was that we are destroying all possibilities to be the best that we could be. He blames machismo, racism, militarism and other ‘isms’ for despoiling the human potential for beauty. He saw socialism as having possibilities of serving mankind, but failing so to do.
On Monday, April 13, in his hometown of Montevideo, Uruguay, Eduardo Galeano continued his generational battle against inflation. There are no words to describe this silence he has now imposed on us all! Let us also communicate with him in silence!
It is regrettable that too many people in the region could successfully navigate school systems never to have known of his life’s work on behalf of us all.