Eduardo Galeano (1940-2015): Writing With Mind And Heart.

by Jerry Alatalo

superior111-1After finding a number of posts about the passing of Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano and noticing that – besides a book by Noam Chomsky – the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez gave Barack Obama one of Mr. Galeano’s books as well in 2009, it seemed like a worthwhile idea to learn some more. Galeano’s most popular book was “Open Veins of Latin America” – the book Chavez gave to Obama, and a historical Latin American account of 500 years since 1492 and the arrival of Christopher Columbus.

The book’s description from Amazon:

“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.”


Found an interesting interview of the then-70-year old Eduardo Galeano at Talking Stick TV from 2010, where he summed up his writing process by saying “books write me”. He shares with the interviewer that books for him are like persons inside a house knocking on the door in hopes of someone hearing – not in the usual way by knocking to enter the home, but to let them out.

He had originally wanted to become a painter, but for some reason he didn’t explain in the interview, it “could not be”. Like all Uruguayan boys he wanted to play football (soccer) but he had “wooden legs”. He talked about hating history during his “short formal education” because it bored him, then learning the art of storytelling in the cafes of his native Uruguayan city Montevideo from anonymous “master” storytellers who only told their stories for the pleasure of it.

Mr. Galeano spoke about the way he more enjoyed hearing stories more than telling them, and described (confessed?) his practice of adopting words and phrases from others as his being a “word thief”. Thinking about his “thievery”, perhaps it’s accurate to say that everyone except the world’s most original thinkers practices plagiarism all the time. Virtually everything one learns comes from talking and listening to others, reading books, magazines, newspapers, blog articles, watching films and TV programs, along with other sources created by others. So, maybe persons obsessed/fearful about becoming labeled a plagiarist will find some stress-reduction/comfort after hearing the esteemed writer Eduardo Galeano’s “confession”.

“Feel-thinking” – merging of mind and heart

In what could be the greatest revelation by Mr. Galeano during the short interview with regard to his writing, he describes what a friend called “feel-thinking”, or the joining of mind with the heart. He believed that this connection is one of the most important of human beings’ personal qualities or optional forms of development, which has to a much too great extent “become divorced” in societies. This connection mentioned by Eduardo Galeano is seen in “absent” status by listening to certain political leaders. For example, during governmental debate/discussion of regions where war and violence has resulted in the deaths, injury and suffering of thousands or millions of men, women and children, politicians speak only from their minds, without expressing sadness or remorse only possible when the heart is present.

One wonders what would happen if parliaments around the world received remodeling and were transformed into working cafes.

On democracy, he saw that young people had lost faith in it to the point where very few take the time to vote, resulting in a certain “crisis of democracy”. It’s possible that, as a direct result of those young people unable to become inspired by men and women candidates whose minds and hearts have become “divorced”, Eduardo Galeano’s “feel-thinking” concept learned from an old friend represents much more than a simple philosophical thought.

He goes on to say that he stays the same whether in a public or private setting, never worried about changing for different occasions but always interacting with others as if sitting in a cafe – like those where he learned how to tell stories. He tells of learning from a Nicaraguan poet friend about objectivity and subjectivity. He suggested to his poet friend Jose that he was having a hard time in his writing being objective, and his friend replied “don’t worry about it”.

“Objectivity is a lie. The human gaze is always subjective, and those who preach objectivity as a religion, they don’t really want to be objective. They want to be objects; to be saved from human pain”.

Galeano then told the interviewer, “…and I don’t want to be (an) object”.

Nearing the end of the interview, Eduardo Galeano said to the interviewer:

“I want to restore the terrestrial human rainbow because it has been mutilated by machismo, racism, militarism, elitism, denying poor people from being part of history… to restore the splendor of the human race”.

He closes the interview session by conveying to the host that it was a “pleasant conversation”, and that he “forgot we were in a radio station”.


(Thank you to TalkingStickTV at YouTube)