Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano was fond of writing about historical events that took place in April. He wrote about Brazil's 1964 military coup, Picasso's 1973 death in France, Morocco's 1987 completion of a wall across the Sahara desert, and much more. It was on a day in April that Galeano died this year at the age of 74 after battling lung cancer for several months.
The Uruguayan newspaper Brecha, where Galeano was a founder and a longtime contributor, published an obituary following news of his death:
A veces, la muerte miente, escribió hace poco más de un año, impactado por el fallecimiento de su amigo Juan Gelman. Y dijo más, aseguró que el poeta seguiría “vivo en todos los que lo quisimos, en todos los que lo leímos, en todos los que en su voz hemos escuchado nuestros más profundos adentros”.
Hoy, cuando su propia muerte nos obliga a miramos en el espejo de aquellas palabras, amanecemos con tristeza a la noticia de que se nos fue Eduardo Galeano, fundador y referente de nuestro semanario, integrante durante años de su Consejo Asesor y colaborador asiduo de sus páginas.
Tus compañeros de Brecha
Sometimes, death lies, he wrote a year ago, as he was shocked by the death of his friend Juan Gelman. He said the poet would “live in all who loved him, in all who read him and inside of everybody who's voice reached his/her deepest himself.”
Today, when his own death forces us to look to ourselves in the mirror of those words, we woke to the news with sadness that we lost Eduardo Galeano, our founder, a member for years of our Advisory Council, and a regular contributor.
Your friends from Brecha
In the 1970s, Galeano attained worldwide recognition for his 1971 book, “The Open Veins of Latin America” — the same book Hugo Chávez gave Barack Obama, when they first met in 2009. Later in life, Galeano criticized his own book, which is still used in classes on Latin American politics.
In “Open Veins,” Galeano wrote that Chile with its vast nitrate deposits, Brazil with its abundant rain forests, and small Venezuelan towns with their oil reserves “had painful reasons to believe in the mortality of fortunes that nature bestows and imperialism usurps.”
Brazilian theologist and founder of the Liberation Theology, Leonardo Boff, mourned Galeano’s departure on Twitter:
Eduardo Galeano era um grande frasista. Sempre eteve ao lado das vítimas.Há dias em Monteviedo quis visitá-lo mas já não era tarde demais.
— Leonardo Boff (@LeonardoBoff) April 13, 2015
Eduardo Galeano was a great phrasist. He has always sided with the victims. A few days ago in Montevideo, I tried to visit him, but it was already too late.
Before working as a journalist, Galeano had many jobs, ranging from working as a bank teller and a factory worker to being a cartoonist. It was in journalism, at the newspaper Marcha (which published Juan Carlos Onetti and Mario Benedetti) and later at Brecha, where Galeano found his calling. When Uruguay slipped into dictatorship, he had to leave the country, spending his exile years in Argentina and Spain. Years later, in 1985, Galeano returned to Uruguay. He supported Uruguay's first-ever left-wing government, writing a famous pro-government article in The Progressive, titled “Where the People Voted Against Fear.” Last year, fans welcomed a rumor that Galeano might run for a seat in the Senate, though Galeano quickly squashed the idea. Even without any elected office, however, Galeano remained a politically influential public voice. As Uruguayan newspaper El Pais reports:
El 1° de marzo pasado recibió al mandatario boliviano, Evo Morales, en su casa y eso le significó un esfuerzo muy grande ya que se encontraba desde hacía tiempo con problemas de salud.
Last March 1, Galeano received Bolivia's president Evo Morales in his house, but this was hard for him since he already had health problems.
Yesterday, famous singers, politicians, journalists, and academics throughout Latin American published their condolences about Galeano's death. Mexican writer Elena Poniatowska tweeted:
Galeano recogió episodios, sentimientos e ideas de nuestra historia que más lo impactaron y nos las devolvió de modo que no se nos olvidara.
— Elena Poniatowska (@Eponiatowska) April 13, 2015
Galeano collected episodes, feelings and ideas that shocked him from our history and he gave them back to us so that we do not forget them.
Rene, from the Puerto Rican band Calle 13, published a letter on Facebook, recalling how he first met Galeano:
“Eduardo, tengo un problema, soy muy despistado y a veces se me hace muy difícil seguir una conversación”. A lo que él me contesto, “yo también soy despistado y de los peores”. Desde ese momento en adelante todo fluyó de forma natural, como si fuésemos amigos de antaño. Eduardo empezó a hablar mientras mi esposa y yo escuchábamos. Fue como escuchar al tiempo narrando historias.
“Eduardo, I have a problem, I am get very distracted and sometimes I find it very difficult to follow a conversation.” To which he replied, “I'm also clueless and one of the worst.” From that moment on, everything flowed naturally, as if we were old friends. Eduardo started talking, while my wife and I listened. We felt we were listening to time narrating stories.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff wrote on Facebook:
Hoje é um dia triste para todos nós, latino-americanos. Morreu Eduardo Galeano, um dos mais importantes escritores do nosso continente. É uma grande perda para todos que lutamos por uma América Latina mais inclusiva, justa e solidária com os nossos povos.
Aos uruguaios, aos amigos e à nossa imensa família latino-americana, quero prestar minhas homenagens e lembrar que continuamos caminhando com os olhos no horizonte, na nossa utopia.
Today is a sad day for all of us Latin Americans. Eduardo Galeano, one of the most important writers of our continent, has died. It is a great loss to all who fight to see a Latin America that is more inclusive, just, and in solidarity with our people.
To all Uruguayans, friends, and our huge Latin American family, I want to pay my respects and remind you to keep on walking with eyes on the horizon, in our utopia.
¡Hasta siempre Galeano! You might be gone, but your voice will stay through your texts.