The name Eduardo Galeano is synonymous with good literature, social engagement and ethics. His book Las venas abiertas de América Latina ( The Open Veins of Latin America ) is a true classic that has been translated into more than twenty languages.
It is impossible to put Galeano in one particular genre. In his writing style he often combines reality with fiction, feeling with thought. In fact, many people say that Galeano coined the term “feel-thinking language,” a term he uses to refer to this particular combination of objectivity and subjectivity.
One of the most interesting things to know about Galeano is that he was a self-taught academic. He has never had a formal professional title, although he has received several honorary degrees. Perhaps that is why his work has had such an impact, because his work was inspired by his daily observations.
A writer in Montevideo
Eduardo Galeano was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, on September 3, 1940. His full name was Eduardo Germán María Hughes Galeano, but he kept only his mother’s surname. His family was wealthy and strict Catholic.
During his childhood, Galeano dreamed of being a saint or a football player, whichever came first. However, when he was fourteen years old, he went to the weekly magazine El Sol with a cartoon he had made . They liked the cartoon so much that they bought it on the spot. Thus Galeano became a socialist cartoonist.
Unfortunately, when he was 19 years old, he went through an existential crisis and even tried to commit suicide. He never explained exactly why he did it, but we do know that after coming out of the coma, his life changed drastically. From that moment on he went on under the name Eduardo Galeano and started writing for the weekly magazine Marcha .
Eduardo Galeano in exile
In 1973 there was a military coup in Uruguay and a terrible dictatorship came to power. Galeano was arrested and briefly imprisoned before escaping to Argentina. At 32 he wrote his most popular work Las venas abiertas de América Latina .
His initial goal was to write a book on political economy, but instead wrote a passionate story that has become an icon of Latin American literature.
By this time, Galeano had already been married twice and had three children. In Argentina he co-founded the weekly Crisis . Unfortunately, a dictatorship came to power in Argentina in 1976 and Galeano had to flee again.
Just before he left, at a barbecue he met Helena Villagra, who became his companion for the next 40 years of his life.
The dictatorships in Uruguay, Argentina and Chile banned all Galeano’s books. Shortly afterwards, he fled to Spain and wrote his most famous work, the Chronicle of the Fire trilogy .
He was inspired by a Greek poem and wrote the books in pieces. The story goes that he scribbled some chapters of his books on paper napkins first.
The return of Eduardo Galeano to Uruguay
When the dictatorship in Uruguay fell in 1985, Galeano was finally able to return to his native country. True to his tradition , he co-founded a new weekly magazine called Brecha with Mario Benedetti and other intellectuals.
He also became a regular customer at the coffee house El Brasileiro, one of the many poet cafes in Montevideo. He always sat in the same spot by the window. El Brasileiro still exists, and one of their menu items is ‘Cafe Galeano’ in honor of the writer.
In addition , Galeano again became involved in left – wing political and intellectual groups. In 2004, he took part in Uruguay’s first left-wing political victory when Tabaré Vázquez was elected president.
Later, he celebrated the rise of Pepe Mujica. He was part of the advisory committee for the Venezuelan TV channel Telesur and wrote weekly columns for the Mexican newspaper La Jornada .
In 2007, doctors diagnosed Galeano with lung cancer, which caused him to act less in public. Galeano never had much faith in new technology and wrote all his work by hand until his death. He rejected extreme rationality and authoritarianism. Eduardo Galeano died on April 13, 2015, at the age of 74.