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

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Scribe Publications, 2009 - Latin America - 317 pages
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'I cannot recomment this book highly enough. Galeano's vision is unswering, surgical and yet immensely generous and humane . . . Eduardo Galeano ought to be a household name.' - Arundhati Roy
'The book flows with the grace of a tale; it is impossible to put down. His arguments, his rage, and his passion would be overwhelming if they were not expressed with such superb style, with such masterful timing and suspense.' - Isabel Allende
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 honoured 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.

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This book is an absolute treasure. It explains through a Marxist historical account why Latin America remains "undeveloped" without resorting to fanciful distortions from capitalist economic theories.
In part one, he carefully describes how up to the 1800s, Latin American 'Indian' and 'black' slave-labour was used to provide gold, silver and other vital products and materials to certain European nations, like Spain and Britain, which in turn were used to repay debts owed to certain familes and banks--the capitalists. This legacy continues as Latin America provides vital minerals to the US for the production of all kinds of vital machines and products, from bullets, to planes, to engines. Essentially, then, he describes how capitalism and racism intersected to exploit Latin American workers.
In the second part, he shows how since the 1800s, Latin America served to provide necessary materials for the industrial development of Britain and then the US through cheap wage-labour. When Britain ruled after the Spanish, it developed a strong tarriff policy on imports while heavily financing Latin American for a railway. That train system was then used to ship necessary materials back to Britain, where goods were then produced and sold back to Latin America (and the rest of the world), therefore dominating trade. At the same time, banks benifted greatly, since people need banks to store their money, their own industries died, and Latin America could not develop like other countries. Latin America, then, became people used to develop Britain to their detriment.
The legacy continued as after World War Two, the US began following the same policies, adopting a high tax policy on imports, investing heavily in Latin America through lending institutions, and forcing denationalization, the use of US companies for those development projects, and other political reforms favoring the US. But all manufacturing is done through extraordinarily cheap labour. So Latin America cannot develop it's own industries. The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer, and it is wholly controlled by the US.
For anyone interested in the history of racism and capitalism, this book tells the truth.

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An excellent book for understanding the evolution of capitalism and the actual economic situation of so defined countries as underdeveloped.

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About the author (2009)

Eduardo Galeanois one of Latin America's most distinguished writers. He is the author of the three-volume Memory of Fire; Open Veins of Latin America; Soccer in Sun and Shadow; The Book of Embraces; Walking Words; Upside Down; and Voices in Time. Born in Montevideo in 1940, he lived in exile in Argentina and Spain for years before returning to Uruguay. His work has been translated into twenty-eight languages. He is recipient of many international prizes.

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