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

Eduardo Galeano
Translated by Cedric Belfrage
FOREWORD by Isabel Aleede
Copyright Date: 1997
Published by: NYU Press,
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    Open Veins of Latin America
    Book 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.

    eISBN: 978-1-58367-312-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xiii)
    Isabel Allende

    Many years ago, when I was young and still believed that the world could be shaped according to our best intentions and hopes, someone gave me a book with a yellow cover that I devoured in two days with such emotion that I had to read it again a couple more times to absorb all its meaning:Open Veins of Latin America, by Eduardo Galeano.

    In the early 1970s, Chile was a small island in the tempestuous sea in which history had plunged Latin America, the continent that appears on the map in the form of an ailing heart. We...

  4. From In Defense of the Word
    (pp. xiv-xv)
    Eduardo Galeano
  5. Acknowledgement
    (pp. xvi-xvi)
  6. Introduction: 120 Million Children in the Eye of the Hurricane
    (pp. 1-8)

    The division of labor among nations is that some specialize in winning and others in losing. Our part of the world, known today as Latin America, was precocious: it has specialized in losing ever since those remote times when Renaissance Europeans ventured across the ocean and buried their teeth in the throats of the Indian civilizations. Centuries passed, and Latin America perfected its role. We are no longer in the era of marvels when fact surpassed fable and imagination was shamed by the trophies of conquest—the lodes of gold, the mountains of silver. But our region still works as...

  7. PART I: Mankind’s Poverty as a Consequence of the Wealth of the Land

    • 1. Lust for Gold, Lust for Silver
      (pp. 11-58)

      When Christopher Columbus headed across the great emptiness west of Christendom, he had accepted the challenge of legend. Terrible storms would play with his ships as if they were nutshells and hurl them into the jaws of monsters; the sea serpent, hungry for human flesh, would be lying in wait in the murky depths. According to fifteenth-century man, only 1,000 years remained before the purifying flames of the Last Judgment would destroy the world, and the world was then the Mediterranean Sea with its uncertain horizons: Europe, Africa, Asia. Portuguese navigators spoke of strange corpses and curiously carved pieces of...

    • 2. King Sugar and Other Agricultural Monarchs
      (pp. 59-133)

      Undoubtedly gold and silver were the main motivating force in the Conquest, but Columbus on his second voyage brought the first sugarcane roots from the Canary Islands and planted them in what is now the Dominican Republic. To the Admiral’s joy they took hold rapidly. Grown and refined on a small scale in Sicily, Madeira, and the Cape Verde Islands, and purchased in the Orient at high prices, sugar was so precious to Europeans that it figured in the dowries of queens. It was sold in pharmacies, weighed out by the gram. For almost three centuries after the discovery of...

    • 3. The Invisible Sources of Power
      (pp. 134-170)

      In June 1969, when the astronauts had put the first human footprints on the moon, the father of that achievement, Werner von Braun, announced to the press a U.S. plan for a remote space station with functions that were less remote: he heralded an observation platform from which we will be able to examine all the wealth of the earth, including unknown petroleum, copper, and zinc deposits.

      Petroleum continues to be our world’s chief fuel, and the United States imports one-seventh of the petroleum it consumes. Bullets are needed to kill Vietnamese, and bullets need copper: the United States buys...

  8. Part II: Development Is a Voyage with More Shipwrecks than Navigators

    • 4. Tales of Premature Death
      (pp. 173-204)

      When George Canning, the brains of the British Empire, was celebrating its worldwide triumphs in 1823, the French chargé d’affaires had to swallow the humiliation of this remark: “Be yours the glory of victory followed by disaster and ruin, be ours the inglorious traffic of industry and an ever growing prosperity…. The age of chivalry is gone; and an age of economists and calculators has succeeded.” London was entering a long period of festivity; Napoleon had finally been beaten some years earlier, and the curtain was rising on the era of Pax Britannica. In Latin America, the power of landlords...

    • 5. The Contemporary Structure of Plunder
      (pp. 205-262)

      Of all the direct private investment in Latin America coming from abroad, less than one-fifth was from the United States when Lenin wroteImperialismin the spring of 1916. Today, nearly three-quarters is from the United States. What was the imperialism Lenin knew? The rapacity of industrial centers seeking world markets for their merchandise; the fever to capture all possible sources of raw materials; the plunder of iron, coal, and petroleum; the railroads which linked the control of dominated areas; the voracious loans of the financial monopolies; the military expeditions; the wars of conquest. It was an imperialism that poisoned...

  9. Part III: Seven Years After

    • [Part III: Introduction]
      (pp. 263-286)

      Seven years have gone by sinceOpen Veins of Latin Americawas first published.

      This book was written to have a talk with people. A non-specialized writer wanted to tell a non-specialized public about certain facts that official history, history as told by conquerors, hides or lies about.

      The most heartening response came not from the book pages in the press but from real incidents in the streets. The girl who was quietly readingOpen Veinsto her companion in a bus in Bogotá, and finally stood up and read it aloud to all the passengers. The woman who fled...

  10. References
    (pp. 287-306)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 307-317)