Remembering Eduardo Galeano
    • Eduardo Galeano

Eduardo Galeano, the Uruguayan author and thinker, died on April 13, 2015, at the age of 74. Through his writing and teachings, Galeano inspired generations of readers, activists, and political leaders in Latin America and around the world. He was one of those rare writers who not only chronicle history, but make it. As Dave Zirin wrote in his eulogy in The Nation

I'd felt the weight of debt that we owe the Uruguayan legend. It's a debt owed by anyone who refuses to "grow used to horror" as an act of conscious resistance. It's a debt owed by those who choose to witness our sick world from the carnage in Gaza to the #FuckYourBreath killing of Eric Harris and don't become lost in the cynicism of a society that sometimes seems intoxicated by its own inhumanity. It is impossible to read Galeano's Open Veins of Latin America and leave not only distraught over the bloody legacy of US imperialism but also hopeful at the ways brave, if fruitless, resistance can resemble the lush vitality of epic poetry.

Galeano leaves behind a wealth of books that have become classics. Open Veins of Latin America rallied people under the banner of anti-imperialism. In 2009, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez gave the book as a present to President Obama, propelling it onto the bestseller list three decades after it first appeared in English. Soccer in Sun and Shadow, in the words of Dave Zirin, "explain[ed] just what makes the beautiful game so endlessly alluring in spite of the ugliness that surrounds it." In Mirrors and Children of the Days, Galeano unearthed and breathed new life into little known gems from literature and history.

News of Galeano's death has led to homages and testimonies from every corner of the globe. From Naomi Klein, who called him "our world's most lovable revolutionary" in a Tweet, to soccer stars Lionel Messi, Javier Mascherano, and Diego Armando Maradona, who said, "thank you for having taught me to understand soccer." Every South American president also honored the writer, best described by Bolivian president Evo Morales as a "maestro of the liberation of the people."

The New York Times published a glowing overview of Galeano's life in its pages, deeming him the "voice of anti-capitalism," as did the Guardian. It is this voice that the SF Chronicle regrets, this voice "that dares and roams and cries and sings. Fearless. Beautiful. Greeting the twilight." Another piece in the Guardian highlights Galeano's legacy: "his unusual and idiosyncratic works served to illuminate the history and politics of the entire continent." In the New Internationalist, Vanessa Baird writes of her last encounter with Galeano, reflecting on what he leaves behind: "A genuine and original talent, Eduardo Galeano inspired generations of people to believe, and go on believing, that another world is possible." Open Canada notes, in a moving tribute to the "Master Narrator, saboteur of master narratives," that "no epithet will suffice."

Democracy Now! and NPR paid tribute to the writer, airing segments of his interviews over the years. The LA Times published a selection of his quotes, and Howler published three excerpts of Children of the Days, with an editor's note that reads: "Like all great poets, he recognized the beauty, the absurdity, and the humanity present in every aspect of life. I'm grateful that he chose to look for those things in soccer." SBNation published an appreciation of Soccer in Sun and Shadow, observing, "When it comes to football writing, there have been few to match it. None have come close to its generosity and warmth." The Progressive reposted Galeano's essay "Nature is Very Tired" in which Galeano writes of the destruction of our planet: "Words are losing their meaning as the green sea and the blue sky are losing their color, tinted graciously by algae busy exhaling oxygen for three billion years."

Tom Engelhardt, who worked with Galeano on a number of his books in the US, wrote the following remembrance:

Eduardo Galeano ended his history of everything, Mirrors, with these lines, "In my childhood, I was convinced that everything that went astray on earth ended up on the moon.  But the astronauts found no sign of dangerous dreams or broken promises or hopes betrayed. If not on the moon, where might they be? Perhaps they were never misplaced. Perhaps they are in hiding here on earth. Waiting." I hope that, like the betrayed dreams he spent his lifetime recording and the voices of the bold and the oppressed that he retrieved so movingly from the discard pile of mainstream history to inspire the rest of us, Galeano, who just died, is still in hiding somewhere on earth, or even on the moon, waiting.

    • Hélène Barthélemy
    • Hélène Barthélemy graduated from Columbia University in May 2013, where she majored in Philosophy and Middle Eastern Studies. She is the Summer 2014 intern for Nation Books and is based in New York.

       

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