Recently, world-renowned writer Eduardo Galeano, author of Open Veins of Latin America, denounced his most popular book due to inadequate knowledge when he published the book back in his early 1930s. Open Veins is one of the most popular pieces of leftist literature taught in university coursework and has sold over one million copies translated in more than 20 languages. Galeano, now 73, published the book in 1971. In an interview with Cynara Menezes of the Monthly Review, he admits “I am not as attached to that book as when I wrote it.” Although he intended it to be a book on political economy, he now confesses he didn’t have “the necessary economic training,” but nonetheless does not regretting having written it. He has also condemned his hard-hitting leftist rhetoric as too heavy for him to bear anymore, that the strong prose “haunts” him to this day.1
The sudden ideological change in this famous leftist has left progressives puzzled about Galeano’s thoughts about today’s Latin American left. Does he no longer support social democracy? Does he find his thesis of dependency theory to be wrong? Several interviews have pointed toward no. When speaking to Menezes Galeano he is still a man of the left, calling Chavez a “saint” and praising leftward leaning governments in his home country of Uruguay as well as of Brazil and Chile.2
The reaction of the global left has been mainly positive, calling his public revelation “intellectually brave.”3 Lloyd Billingsley of FrontpageMag.com asserts that Galeano’s confession could be in the face of the new reality of globalization, reforming his thesis from one of neocolonialism in order to apply to today’s actualities. Billingsley reminds us that Latin America sparked dependency theory, a neo-Marxist idea supported by Galeano’s arguments, which is taught in universities all over the world. Thus, independent of what the Open Veins author thinks of the work now, its impact on academia is not diminished. Caroline S. Conzelman, a professor of cultural anthropology at the University of Colorado at Boulder concurs. She affirmed that she will continue to teach the book in her courses, commending Open Veins in its emotional value of depicting colonial history.2 Galeano is attributed skill in pathos in his work and finds it worthwhile; “I confess I get a pain from reading valuable works by certain sociologists, political experts, economists and historians who write in code.” As a whole the left has retained support for Galeano’s words and ideas as they are in Open Veins, even if he now finds them too radical for his aged taste.
Conservatives have taken Galeano’s realization to its furthest extrapolations, claiming he called himself “immature and uninformed” and his rhetoric “awful.” Right-leaning media outlets such as the National Review have published articles declaring that Galeano has recognized his “insanity” as a youth like “The Idiots Lose Their Religion” by Carlos Alberto Montaner. Montaner understood Galeano’s statements as evidence of the inadequacy of dependency theory, which he classifies as “classic leftist victimhood.”4 Many conservatives worldwide have reduced Open Veins to a simple sentence, “we’re poor, and it’s their fault.” The misunderstanding stems from those who construe Galeano’s released statements. He does acknowledge his over-radicalism, but does not abandon the left and its ideas. Galeano confirms his distinctive viewpoint from those who have found him too progressive. “Such political sectors close to me thought such diversity was a heresy. Even today, there are some survivors of this type who think that all diversity is a threat. Fortunately, it is not.”2
Of the interpretations analyzed, I have deduced that Eduardo Galeano’s disclosure should not remove merit from the work Open Veins of Latin America. Of course a man of academia knows more as a 73 year old than he did in his 30s. Is he not allowed to re-visit something he wrote over four decades ago and realize he has grown more centrist? The book is incredibly powerful; retelling history and portraying ideology in such an emotionally captivating way. I find it extremely hard to believe Galeano or anyone at all would call it “poorly written,” as described in the article by Montaner. As Galeano explained in the interview, diversity in ideology is not a threat. Should a globally recognized author’s most famous work be threatened because its author finds it too radical for his current appeals, now 40 years after publication? Is it unreasonable to find flaws in your own piece of writing and so bravely acknowledge them for millions of your readers worldwide? Galeano did them justice by qualifying his sentiments about this work that has internationally impacted academia and popular nonfiction alike. Conservatives who have taken his statements as retraction of leftist support are incorrect; he maintains his backing of leftward leaning governments in Latin America and acknowledges fault in his work in its application to the current day international political economy. Overall, I would still recommend Open Veins to anyone interested in Latin America, economics or international politics. There is much to be learned from it, and not even its author can take that away.
1) Menezes, Cynara. “Eduardo Galeano on Open Veins of Latin America and Other
Stories.” Monthly Review. 28 May 2014. Web. 5 June 2014.
2) Rother, Larry. “Author Changes His Mind on ‘70s Manifesto.” The New York
Times. 23 May 2014. Web. 5 June 2014.
3) Billingsley, Lloyd. “Latin American Leftist’s Second Thoughts.” Frontpage
Mag.com. 4 June 2014. Web. 5 June 2014.
4) Montaner, Carlos Alberto. “The Idiots Lose Their Religion.” National Review. 31
May 2014. Web. 5 June 2014.