Saturday, 12 July 2008

Review – Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano (1970)

I started reading this book in preparation for an essay where I felt I needed to get a better understanding of the history of Latin America. And this is a brilliant book for doing that. The author demonstrates admirably how Latin America has been plundered by the more developed countries of Europe and the US, how these switched from the less developed Spain and Portugal to the more developed Britain and the US. He shows how growth and development in Latin America has been stifled by subordination to these countries, drawing on Marx and even more so on Lenin’s Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism.

He also shows that there has been resistance and rebellion too. Documenting both nationalist struggles and peasant uprisings as well as commenting on the Cuban revolution and Allende’s Chile (although the latter on really in a postscript entitled 7 years after as the book was written in 1970). The tale of bonapartist Paraguay in the mid-19th century is also interesting, as the only country that began to develop without being sub-ordinated to foreign capital, which was quickly crushed by a triple alliance of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay – organised and financed by Britain whose dominance in the area it threatened.

There are on or two small negative points though. Firstly, there is not as much depth in the bits about the 20th century as there is on earlier centuries. Secondly, the author tends to ramble a bit, although everything he describes in a chapter is related you do tend to occasionally find yourself a bit lost in the book. But these are only small problems put against the great value that this book has.

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