I’m watching this documentary in parts on YouTube. It takes excerpts of Eduardo Galeano’s Las venas abiertas de América Latina (The Open Veins of Latin America) and illustrates them with disturbing examples of the exploitation, disenfranchisement and destruction that resources, communities and the environment suffer systematically in Latin America at the hands of Europe, the United States, neoliberalism and capitalism. I am turned off from anything complaining about so many catchwords, but the fact is that this is a region that was raped and bled for centuries to satiate the pillaging greed of colonizing forces, and this dynamic continues into the present.
Just yesterday I started reading The Economist’s 14-page special report on Latin America (the cover is my much-loved “inverted” map, with Tierra del Fuego at the top and the United States drooping lugubriously at the bottom). Might the decade we are entering, The Economist wonders, be the Latin American decade? There is a lot of growth and progress taking place, specifically with the brilliant promise of Brazil on the horizon. But I wonder how these two stories fit together: that of the region so accurately described by world-systems theory and that of long-devastated countries emerging into the global market as growing powers.
I guess what I’d like to do is come to have a grasp on what’s really going on. Specifically, I’m drawn to understanding so that I can find out what it is I could do. Over the years, with varying degrees of conviction, I’ve entertained the idea of devoting myself to working on whatever it is that I could in Argentina, or somewhere else. Lately I’ve been trying to be realistic in determining what goals I decide to embark on accomplishing (PhD in Canada + nine kids with stable lives + devote myself à la Guevara to a noble cause in South America = unlikely), but despite reality’s attempts to temper it, the idea tenaciously claims its right to a little nook in my mind for back-ups plans in case I one day wind up starting afresh in a distant land. One thing that comforts me is the work of Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, which won him the Nobel Peace Prize despite the fact that his training was in architecture and sculpture.