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Open Veins of Latin America

Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent
Narrated by: Jonathan Davis
Length: 14 hrs and 30 mins
Categories: History, World
4.5 out of 5 stars (46 ratings)

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Summary

Since its U.S. debut a quarter-century ago, this brilliant text has set a new standard for historical scholarship of Latin America. It is also an outstanding political economy, a social and cultural narrative of the highest quality, and perhaps the finest description of primitive capital accumulation since Marx.

Rather than chronology, geography, or political successions, Eduardo Galeano has organized the various facets of Latin American history according to the patterns of five centuries of exploitation. Thus he is concerned with gold and silver, cacao and cotton, rubber and coffee, fruit, hides and wool, petroleum, iron, nickel, manganese, copper, aluminum ore, nitrates, and tin. These are the veins which he traces through the body of the entire continent, up to the Rio Grande and throughout the Caribbean, and all the way to their open ends where they empty into the coffers of wealth in the United States and Europe.

Weaving fact and imagery into a rich tapestry, Galeano fuses scientific analysis with the passions of a plundered and suffering people. An immense gathering of materials is framed with a vigorous style that never falters in its command of themes. All readers interested in great historical, economic, political, and social writing will find a singular analytical achievement, and an overwhelming narrative that makes history speak, unforgettably.

This classic is now further honored by Isabel Allende's inspiring introduction. Universally recognized as one of the most important writers of our time, Allende once again contributes her talents to literature, to political principles, and to enlightenment.

©1997 Eduardo Galeano (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

Critic reviews

"Well written and passionately stated, this is an intellectually honest and valuable study." ( Library Journal)
"A dazzling barrage of words and ideas." ( History)

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    5 out of 5 stars

The shocking truth

This is a 'heavy' read and at times I could hardly face the terrible things it describes. The reader also has to concentrate - it is not easy to absorb. However the important truths described are worth the effort. Despite 12 years of association with Latin America I dont think I understood the continent until I read this book - now regarded as a 'must read' by many.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A must read

Amazingly written, this book presents a wealth of information, it awakens as much as saddens, but ultimately carries a massively important message about the past and the present. Only by knowing the past we can reconsider our present and alter our future.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Great historical perspective.

I bought the book understanding that times and opinions have changed and that facts and figures would be dates (first published 1973). Still, as someone living in Latin America (Mexico) it was very interesting to hear the early 70s discourse with respect to Cuba, Communism, the pillage of the Americas and the imperial America. Reading it in the last weeks of Hugo Chavez's life was especially interesting: 2013 so often sounds like 1973! Recommended!!!!



(Perhaps the only caveat is that the reader must recognize that the facts and figures quoted are obviously dated).

2 people found this helpful

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Very good and informative still very relevant book

Absolutely enjoyed listening to the book. Found it very informative and still very relevant to what is going on today. Also very sobering to hear all these 'stories' of the Latin American continent. Definitely worth reading. Would recommend that to anyone. Also really liked the narrator.

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Essential reading

I cannot reccommend this book more highly. By the time I finish a chapter I just want to go back and listen again the research is so rich and analysis is pertinent. If you want to understand about South America, its history and why things are as they are you need to read this. If you are not from Latin America and from elsewhere in the world it is also essential reading if you want to know about colonialsim, imperialism or current affairs

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  • Mary
  • 29-08-12

Crucial Read/Listen for Readers of History

Any additional comments?

This book is fabulous and Galeano does an incredible job of weaving in the histories of such varied but intertwined states, regions, cultures and sectors throughout Latin America. The narrator was clear and emphatic. When you can give the audio your full attention, the narrative is easy to follow. However, the narrator does speak quickly (relative to other audiobooks from audible.com that I have purchased and listened to), which for some unfamiliar with the subject matter can make the content difficult to follow. So make sure you can hear and pause it when you have to talk to somebody on the bus you're riding to work =)

16 people found this helpful

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  • kwdayboise (Kim Day)
  • 25-04-17

Excellent history from Columbus to Allende.

Galeano was a journalist and a citizen of Uruguay when he published this history of the exploitation of Latin America. Almost immediately after publication there was a coup in his country and the book was banned, as it was in several other Latin American nations. That in itself reflects what Galeano was trying to communicate in what has come to be regarded as one of the most influential books on history and politics in the last century.

The author, later in life, distanced himself a bit from the book. By a bit I infer that he looked at the book and simply felt that it could have been better. His exact statement was: "I wouldn’t be capable of reading this book again; I’d keel over. For me, this prose of the traditional left is extremely leaden, and my physique can’t tolerate it.” To me, these are the words of an artist who has grown past the work he created. I've always felt that any artist who can look back at a creation after a decade without cringing a little has stopped growing. Rather than a rejection of the contents of the book Galeano seemed to regret having tied himself to the language of the left. This may be more evident in Spanish editions, as this English edition bears only minor signs of "leftist dialectic" that makes many books on radical politics nearly unreadable.

As a work of history this is a very readable book, taking Latin America from the first landing of Columbus through the assassination of Salvador Allende in Chile. In between are a hundred horror stories of exploitation, slavery, internal failures, and foreign meddling enough to make one's skin crawl in shame and sympathy.

This is not to say that life was a natural idyl in the south anymore than it was in the north. Charles C. Mann brings a lot of evidence of this forward in his excellent 1491. The Incas and Mayans were themselves colonizers and exploiters of the tribes around them. Life was excellent for the elite and miserable for all others. But it was their misery. The wave of invasions from the Iberian Peninsula weakened native culture completely and set a pattern for economic rulership that exists today in many Latin American nations and percolates under the surface in the rest.
The culpability lies with the entire European west with some left over for Muslim slavers who were working their own exploitation game in Africa, captives that Europeans would ship to Hispaniola, Cuba, and other location because Africans could survive the hellish conditions of sugar agriculture. Agriculture under a latifundia system expanded. Native Americans were enslaved for the operations while European stock thrived and prospered.

There's room for what would be an interesting alternate history: What would have happened if Columbus had given in to the near mutiny and turned back before reaching the new world? Kim Stanley Robinson touches on this a bit in Years of Rice and Salt, but in his book the exploitations come from the east, with a China still determined to expand and explore. Europe certainly would have looked different, but one wonders how Latin America might have looked with the Latin lopped off of it.

That aside, what the Europeans left are a handful of small nations perfectly capable of destroying the lives of their own populations with and without the assistance of foreign powers, manifest destiny, and corrupt churches. This book details how that came about and spares nothing for the post-colonial monsters operating after Bolivar. It's a must read for any political or historical home library, and could easily sit next to Narconomics for a sequel.

14 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • fishrock
  • 20-02-10

Please up-date the addition

This is just an amazingly good book on the growth and development of Latin America. Although the date of this edition is 1971, it still is relevant to our time (2010) because the history is still accurate. In spite of its dated edition and perhaps even because of it, it has a particular poignancy as the author describes with pride and hope the 1972 Chilean election of S. Allende. In 1973 Dr. Allende was assassinated by agents of the CIA who installed A. Pinochet as puppet president. Pinochet was much later tried and convicted in international courts of the the murder of Allende and mass murders and torture of many Chileans citizens.
At any rate, I believe the book is still immensely worthwhile to read. I wish Audible would be much clearer in its representation of this as an older edition of the book in its catalogue and, better yet, change to a new edition.
In addition, the reader, Jonathan Davis, does a wonderful job of bringing this lengthy history alive.
Cudos to Audible for making this available in any form.

65 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Douglas
  • 24-10-09

excellent broad spectrum of history

a lucid and free flowing account of latin american history that is a pleasure to listen to and provides a springboard for more detailed analysis. always helps when narrator has a pleasant voice...nice work.....I intend to buy the book

25 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Gina Papa
  • 17-08-10

Excellent

Well narrated and a very worthwhile book for anyone interested in South American culture and why the "illegal immigration issues" is just a smokescreen to hide a deeper issue, which is the politics of the U.S. and South American countries.

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Joe de Swardt
  • 16-11-09

Excellent Book

Galeano wants his continent back, and listening to his arguments, who can blame him. This book illustrates some of the deceptive exploitation of the first world towards latin America. The only pity is that the book is dated, I would love to get an update. Get this book, it will certainly make you think!

15 people found this helpful

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  • Cassandra Honorat
  • 03-07-19

Veins still open

As a daughter of the Caribbean, Afro descendant of people sold long ago, I resonated in a particular way with this narrative. It is good for the soul. As a child of Haiti, I nearly wept as I listened to the reasons for who and what we’ve become as a nation. This isn’t a story for Latinos, Afro descendants or Amerindians... this is a human saga that is still playing out. It is the story of the perception of scarcity and the use of force and violence to usurp a region, dispossess a continent and starve its people. It is a must read. Eduardo Galeano, surely you are resting among giants. I thank you for this masterpiece and bow before your mastery.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Michelle J.
  • 09-06-19

Important, But You've Got to Work for It.

This would have probably been more accessible to me as an actual book on paper. There's a lot to follow, and it's also not the kind of book I can listen to while cleaning or working out. It's very deep and dense.

That having been said, it's a VERY IMPORTANT history of South America, and I wish my Social Studies classes in school would have at least breached the topic. I had no idea how violent the continent's history after colonization was - in fact, I don't think I ever gave it much thought. Listening to the book was a bit like sitting in a really long lecture - but one that made me cringe and wince.

If you are squeamish like me, be warned,

3 people found this helpful

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  • Jeff C
  • 07-05-19

You think you know about Latin American history?

I thought the narrator did a great job. The content it is disturbing to those who don't want to believe the Western world has done any wrong dot-dot-dot proceed with caution

3 people found this helpful

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  • eric lewis
  • 09-07-18

Outstanding audio book!!!

I will definitely buy a hard copy and listen again soon. Unbelievably heartbreaking...evil does exist in this world.

2 people found this helpful