Critical Context

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 402

Modern Latin American history has often seemed to the outside world like an unending series of dictatorships, atrocities, and economic problems. Galeano’s work attempts to balance that view with a vision of the dormant potential inherent in the people. For the Latin American, he gives expression to the turbulent history of the region, while at the same time he allows the outsider an insight into the many fragments which make up the Latin American experience. He reminds the reader of a rich culture outside that of Europe, which, although so greatly influenced by European civilization, has its own unique characteristics.

Eduardo Galeano’s work stresses political and social questions which result from economic problems and the brutality of dictatorships. Politically engaged, he admires the heroic individuals who fight against oppression and uses his work to plead for solidarity against those who abuse power. His sympathies lie with the poor, and he sees in socialism a continuation of the Indian custom of common property, which he finds so admirable compared to the greed of big business and wealthy landowners. For expressing such opinions, he spent many years in exile. He finally returned to his homeland of Uruguay in 1984.

As a journalist, he contributed to El Sol, a socialist weekly, and was editor of Marcha and Epoca. His first international recognition came from his book Las venas abiertas de America Latina (1971; Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of the Continent, 1973), which discusses the problem of underdevelopment in Latin America. From his collection of stories to his important novels, La cancion de nosotros (1975; our song) and Dias y noches de amor y de guerra (1978; Days and Nights of Love and War, 1983), Galeano writes in the tradition of recent Uruguayan fiction, which attempts to deal with the harsh realities of dictatorship and economic crisis along with the political movements demanding change. With Memory of Fire, he writes an epic view of the history of Latin America, showing the destructive forces in the clash of traditions which produced it and in the division between rich and poor which still dominates it. Bringing together history, literature, mythology—in fact, fragments of everything he finds significant—he produces a kaleidoscope of impressions, joined together through repeated themes and by the author’s own desire to keep alive the memory of the past whose influence continues to be felt as Latin America forges its future.

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