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Open Veins of Latin America. Reading Response

During several centuries, the lands of Latin America were viewed as pillaged by the Spaniards and White Americans because of access to these territories’ plentiful resources. In Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, Galeano (1997) presents the history of this region from the period of the Hispanic invasion to the 1960s. The main points discussed in the book and related to the history of these lands include exploitation, violence, slavery, and oppression against Latin Americans in the context of these countries’ economic development.

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In the introduction to the book, the author explains his main idea and vision regarding the history of Latin American countries. According to Galeano (1997), for the other world, “America is just the United States; the region we inhabit is a sub-America, a second-class America of nebulous identity” (p. 2). The problem is that, for many centuries, invaders exploited the Latin American resources and brought them to the centers of power in the world: Europe and the United States. Thus, in the first chapter, the aspects of the early colonization and the rush for gold and silver in this region are described with a focus on the role of Christopher Columbus in these events. Columbus is identified as the main character in this chapter because his activities contributed to starting colonization in the region that was supported by violence against the natives.

In the next chapter, the details of colonization are described with reference to the cultivation of sugar and other crops that contributed to the development of slavery and trade relations in the region. The cultivation of sugar and cocoa among other crops led to the prosperity of invaders, the growth of class domination, and the intensification of repression in the region. Thus, when plantations in the Latin American lands developed, they were “subordinated to foreign needs and often financed from abroad” (Galeano, 1997, p. 60). Latin American countries could provide many valuable resources, including metals, soil, and crops, and this aspect stimulated further violence and pillage in the region.

In other chapters of the book, the author provides a more detailed economic analysis of the situation in modern Latin America with reference to historical implications. According to the author, different variants of subjugation and violence, including slavery, exploitation, rape, and killings, are typical of the history of this region (Galeano, 1997). In spite of the proclaimed independence of Latin American countries, they cannot be discussed as equal in their economic development to their former masters during the era of colonization.

When focusing on the personal opinion regarding the book, it is possible to state that it poses important questions about the history of the economic progress in different countries. Thus, referring to the examples in this book, it is possible to conclude why modern Latin Countries are less developed and economically successful than the United States and some European countries. In his book, the author effectively demonstrated the cycles of violence in Latin American countries based on the powerful nations’ attempts to exploit Latin American wealth. The violent rush for gold, silver, sugar, and other resources led by more powerful colonial countries made the people of Latin America suffer from poverty and oppression. The background of these events is effectively illustrated in the book with the help of Galeano’s imaginative and resource-based writing.


Galeano, E. (1997). Open veins of Latin America: Five centuries of the pillage of a continent. NYU Press.

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