Eduardo Galeano Biography

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Eduardo Hughes Galeano (gal-ee-AH-noh) has emerged as one of the leading socialist critics of South and North America. The son of Eduardo Hughes and Ester (Galeano Muñoz) Roosen, he attended high school in Montevideo and began his career as a socialist spokesman at the age of thirteen. In 1953 he began publishing political cartoons in El Sol, a weekly socialist paper. By his late teens Galeano’s drawings and articles had become regular features in Marcha, a weekly journal of opinion; in 1961 he was named editor-in-chief. From 1964 to 1966 he served as director of Montevideo’s daily newspaper Epoca before being appointed editor-in-chief at the University Press of Montevideo, a position he held until 1973.

During Galeano’s rapid ascent to influential editorial positions he was also developing his craft of writing in other genres. His career as a journalist provided opportunities for travel and time to write. An early novel, Los días siguientes (the days that follow), and the short stories collected in Los fantasmas del día del león, y otros relatos (the ghosts of the day of the lion, and other stories) demonstrate a lyrical inclination to explore the tensions of myth and history as well as a youthful optimism for Marxist reforms. His nonfiction of the period constituted an informal broadening of his political education as he traveled in China, in Guatemala, and throughout South America. In China 1964: Crónica de un desafío (China 1964: chronicles of contention), his account of travel and interviews with Pu Yi, the last emperor of China, Galeano went far beyond the typical travel story, analyzing the Chinese revision of Soviet Communism and evaluating the Sino-Soviet disputes over doctrine.

In Guatemala Galeano criticized the influence of the United States in that country, especially in the wake of the U.S. government’s complicity, through the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), in the 1954 overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz. Developing a blend of discourses that was to become his hallmark in later prose, he devoted several chapters to contemporary Guatemalan history, cited examples of the United States’ collaboration with North American corporations in controlling the economy of Guatemala, reported on his experiences with guerrilla forces, and refuted thoroughly the charges of a Cuban-inspired insurgency. (He found only Cuban exiles working with the CIA to administer prison camps.) The commentary on history and tactics, however, did not preoccupy Galeano; instead, much of the book focused on social, political, and economic ideas as they emerged from discussions with a variety of people. As Galeano’s research in Guatemala and his reflections on other countries in which he traveled began to assume a further blending of genres, he combined his studies in political history with his previous autobiographical lyricism and political journalism. In a study much like that which he had developed from his time in Guatemala, Galeano expanded his concerns to all South and Central America in The Open Veins of Latin America.

By 1973 Galeano had become one of the leading left-wing journalists in South America. When a right-wing military coup overturned the Uruguayan government in that year, Galeano fled across the border into Argentina. Soon after his arrival he founded the magazine Crisis and served as its director until 1976, when a right-wing coup by the military in that country forced Galeano into exile in Spain. Crisis reached a monthly circulation of forty thousand copies, the highest circulation of a Spanish-language cultural publication in history. Although clearly political in its ideology, the journal emphasized art, literature, and popular culture. A second novel, La canción de nosotros (our song), won for him the Premio Casa de las Américas in 1975. His experience with the relatively rapid rise of two military dictatorships led to a fragmented lifestyle, but Galeano seemed determined to transform individual turmoil into collective hope.


(The entire section is 1,290 words.)