Monday, August 18, 2014

Eduardo Galeano. Hands up, don't shoot.

[Daniel Olivas will return soon enough.]

La Bloga regularly covers many Latino, and other, authors, but not as many journalists as other genre writers. Below are excerpts of a sudamericano's  vivid, realistic writing style that makes Hunter Thompson's gonzo journalism seem like baño graffiti.

In a La Bloga post earlier this summer, poet Martín Espada mentioned Uruguayan author, Eduardo Galeano. The Atlantic Monthly said of Galeano:
"A native of Uruguay who was forced into exile under the country's military regime during the 1970s, Galeano has always identified with the losing side. His Open Veins of Latin America, published in Mexico, 1971, employed captivating, elegiac prose to chronicle five centuries of plunder and imperialism in Latin America. Radically different in style, Open Veins quickly became a canonical text in radical circles, selling hundreds of thousands of copies in the Southern Hemisphere. In a period of social upheaval, guerrilla warfare, and dictatorship, the book, composed in three months of intense labor, Open Veins was banned by the Pinochet regime."

Although Galeano recently "disavowed" some of his style, credentials and phraseology used in Open Veins, his legacy can't be derailed, even should he become more conservative in his later years.

Elsewhere, he's been described this way: "Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano is among the greats of our time. His writing has it -- that indefinable quality you can’t describe but know as soon as you read it. He’s created a style that combines the best of journalism, history, and fiction and a form for his books that may have no name but involves short bursts of almost lyrical reportage, often about events long past."

His most recent book, Mirrors (publisher, Nation Books), is called "one of the great books of this century, a history of humanity in 366 episodes, from our first myths to late last night."

The following passages--taken from excerpts from Galeano’s history of humanityMirrors - Stories of almost everyone, something you should consider reading if you want a different, great read.

Photograph: Saddest Eye in the World
Princeton, New Jersey, May 1947.
Photographer Philippe Halsman asks him: “Do you think there will be peace?”
And while the shutter clicks, Albert Einstein says, or rather mutters: “No.”
People believe that Einstein got the Nobel Prize for his theory of relativity, that he was the originator of the saying “Everything is relative,” and that he was the inventor of the atom bomb.
The truth is they did not give him a Nobel for his theory of relativity and he never uttered those words. Neither did he invent the bomb, although Hiroshima and Nagasaki would not have been possible if he had not discovered what he did.
He knew all too well that his findings, born of a celebration of life, had been used to annihilate it.

His enemies say he was an uncrowned king who confused unity with unanimity.
And in that his enemies are right.
His enemies say that if Napoleon had a newspaper like Granma, no Frenchman would have learned of the disaster at Waterloo.
And in that his enemies are right.
His enemies say that he exercised power by talking a lot and listening little, because he was more used to hearing echoes than voices.
And in that his enemies are right.
But some things his enemies do not say: it was not to pose for the history books that he bared his breast to the invaders’ bullets,
he faced hurricanes as an equal, hurricane to hurricane,
he survived 637 attempts on his life,
his contagious energy was decisive in making a country out of a colony,
and it was not by Lucifer’s curse or God’s miracle that the new country managed to outlive 10 U.S. presidents, their napkins spread in their laps, ready to eat it with knife and fork.
And his enemies never mention that Cuba is one rare country that does not compete for the World Doormat Cup.
And they do not say that the revolution, punished for the crime of dignity, is what it managed to be and not what it wished to become. Nor do they say that the wall separating desire from reality grew ever higher and wider thanks to the imperial blockade, which suffocated a Cuban-style democracy, militarized society, and gave the bureaucracy, always ready with a problem for every solution, the alibis it needed to justify and perpetuate itself.
And they do not say that in spite of all the sorrow, in spite of the external aggression and the internal high-handedness, this distressed and obstinate island has spawned the least unjust society in Latin America.
And his enemies do not say that this feat was the outcome of the sacrifice of its people, and also of the stubborn will and old-fashioned sense of honor of the knight who always fought on the side of the losers, like his famous colleague in the fields of Castile.

He was butterfly and bee. In the ring, he floated and stung.
In 1967, Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay, refused to put on a uniform.
“Got nothing against no Viet Cong,” he said. “Ain’t no Vietnamese ever called me nigger.”
They called him a traitor. They sentenced him to a five-year jail term, and barred him from boxing. They stripped him of his title as champion of the world.
The punishment became his trophy. By taking away his crown, they anointed him king.
Years later, a few college students asked him to recite something. And for them he improvised the shortest poem in world literature:
“Me, we.”

The Berlin Wall made the news every day. From morning till night we read, saw, heard: the Wall of Shame, the Wall of Infamy, the Iron Curtain...
In the end, a wall which deserved to fall fell. But other walls sprouted and continue sprouting across the world. Though they are much larger than the one in Berlin, we rarely hear of them.
Little is said about the wall the United States is building along the Mexican border, and less is said about the barbed-wire barriers surrounding the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the African coast.
Practically nothing is said about the West Bank Wall, which perpetuates the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and will be 15 times longer than the Berlin Wall. And nothing, nothing at all, is said about the Morocco Wall, which perpetuates the seizure of the Saharan homeland by the kingdom of Morocco, and is 60 times the length of the Berlin Wall.
Why are some walls so loud and others mute?

Lied-About Wars
Advertising campaigns, marketing schemes. The target is public opinion. Wars are sold the same way cars are, by lying.
In August 1964, President Lyndon Johnson accused the Vietnamese of attacking two U.S. warships in the Tonkin Gulf.
Then the president invaded Vietnam, sending planes and troops. He was acclaimed by journalists and by politicians, and his popularity skyrocketed. The Democrats in power and the Republicans out of power became a single party united against Communist aggression.
After the war had slaughtered Vietnamese in vast numbers, most of them women and children, Johnson’s secretary of defense, Robert McNamara, confessed that the Tonkin Gulf attack had never occurred.
The dead did not revive.
In March 2003, President George W. Bush accused Iraq of being on the verge of destroying the world with its weapons of mass destruction, “the most lethal weapons ever devised.”
Then the president invaded Iraq, sending planes and troops. He was acclaimed by journalists and by politicians, and his popularity skyrocketed. The Republicans in power and the Democrats out of power became a single party united against terrorist aggression.
After the war had slaughtered Iraqis in vast numbers, most of them women and children, Bush confessed that the weapons of mass destruction never existed. “The most lethal weapons ever devised” were his own speeches.
In the following elections, he won a second term.
In my childhood, my mother used to tell me that a lie has no feet. She was misinformed.

Lost and Found
The twentieth century, which was born proclaiming peace and justice, died bathed in blood. It passed on a world much more unjust than the one it inherited.
The twenty-first century, which also arrived heralding peace and justice, is following in its predecessor’s footsteps.
In my childhood, I was convinced that everything that went astray on earth ended up on the moon.
But the astronauts found no sign of dangerous dreams or broken promises or hopes betrayed.
If not on the moon, where might they be? Perhaps they were never misplaced. Perhaps they are in hiding here on earth. Waiting.

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Rubén Salazar
NOTE: The end of August will mark the 44th anniversary of the murder of the Mexican-American journalist Rubén Salazar during East L.A.'s National Chicano Moratorium against the Vietnam War, 1970. He was killed by an L.A. deputy, much as Michael Brown was by policeman Darren Wilson in Ferguson this month. The after-quake by enforcement officers has made Ferguson our Gaza, for the moment.

Hands up, don't shoot,

1 comment:

Daniel A. Olivas said...

Rudy, thank you for this wonderful and important post. And thank you for covering for me. Still sick but on the road to recovery.