Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent
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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.
mondiale (Paris, 1970). 52. New York Times, 3 April 1968. 53. OAS Secretariat-General, El financiamiento externo. 54. Miguel S. Wionczek, “La inversión extranjera privada en México: problemas y perspectivas,” Comercio exterior (México), October 1970. 55. Aldo Ferrer in INTAL/BID, Los empresarios. 56. Jornal do Comercio (Rio de Janeiro), 23 March 1950. 57. Celso Furtado, Um projeto para o Brasil (Rio de Janeiro, 1968). 58. International Commerce, 24 April 1967.
arrived in Seville the gigantic ransom—a roomful of gold and two of silver—which Francisco Pizarro had made the Inca Atahualpa pay before strangling him. Years earlier the Crown had paid the sailors on Columbus’s first voyage with gold carried off from the Antilles. The Caribbean island populations finally stopped paying tribute because they had disappeared: they were totally exterminated in the gold mines, in the deadly task of sifting auriferous sands with their bodies half submerged in water,
Guadalajara. Lucas Alamán, an able conservative politician, gave timely warning that the ideas of Adam Smith contained poison for the national economy, and set the stage, as minister, for a credit and loan bank to promote industrialization. By taxing foreign cotton textiles, Mexico could buy machinery and equipment abroad in order to supply its own needs in cotton cloth. The country had the raw material and hydraulic power—cheaper than coal—and could train good workers quickly. The bank opened
Taxes were imposed on internal meat consumption and removed from exports; in a few years the price of calves tripled and ranches upped the value of their land. The gauchos were accustomed to hunting calves freely under the open sky of the unfenced pampa, to eating the best meat and discarding the rest with the sole obligation of delivering the hide to the owner. Things changed. Reorganization of production involved submitting the nomad gaucho to a new servile dependence: a decree in 1815
nor did it pass into the pockets of middlemen and loan sharks, or swell the profits of the British Empire’s freight and insurance men. The imperialist sponge, in short, did not absorb the wealth the country produced. Ninety-eight percent of Paraguayan territory was public property: the state granted holdings to peasants in return for permanently occupying and farming them, without the right to sell them. There were also sixty-four “estancias de la patria,” haciendas directly administered by the