In eleven posts beginning August 16, I have drawn upon Eduardo Galeano’s Open Veins of Latin America (see posts in the section on Latin American history). The book was given to recently-elected US President Barack Obama by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, an indication of the extent to which it is appreciated in Latin America. Written in 1970, the book formulates the Latin American perspective on its role in the world-economy. It provides a concrete presentation of the core-peripheral relation as seen from the periphery, organizing the presentation according to the various raw materials that played a role in the development of underdevelopment in Latin America and the Caribbean. In the sixteenth century, the conquest of the indigenous peoples and the forced labor imposed on them established that silver and gold would be the driving engine of the newly emerging world-economy and world-system, promoting the development of Western Europe as it promoted the underdevelopment of Latin America. During the third stage of expansion of the world-system (1750-1914), sugar and other agricultural monarchs in Latin America were the driving force of the system, incorporating African slaves as forced laborers. As the world-system entered a stage characterized by imperialism and neocolonial domination during the twentieth century, Latin American petroleum and minerals, underground sources of power, became integral components of the development of the United States.
Although the world-system has passed through various stages, there has been continuity in its development, established by the Latin American role as supplier of raw materials for the core of the system: gold, silver, sugar, coffee, bananas, petroleum, copper, tin, and iron have played important roles in the development of a Latin American political-economic system in a distorted form, in dependent relation with the core of the world-system.
This has given rise to movements that seek, not merely formal independence that is negated in practice by a dependent neocolonial relation, but the full and true independence of Latin America and the Caribbean. Important moments in this quest for independence from the neocolonial world-system include: the Mexican Revolution; the Cuban Revolution; revolutionary democratic socialism led by Salvador Allende in Chile; the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua; and the reform and revolutionary movements that have transformed Latin America today, spearheaded by Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia, and Rafael Correa in Ecuador. We will be discussing these revolutions that have sought and are seeking to transform the neocolonial world-system in future posts.
Galeano, Eduardo. 1997. The Open Veins of Latin America: Five centuries of the pillage of a continent, 25th Anniversary Edition. Translated by Cedric Belfrage. Forward by Isabel Allende. New York: Monthly Review Press.
__________. 2004. Las Venas Abiertas de América Latina, tercera edición, revisada. México: Siglo XXI Editores.
Key words: Third World, revolution, colonialism, neocolonialism, imperialism, democracy, national liberation, sovereignty, self-determination, socialism, Marxism, Leninism, Cuba, Latin America, world-system, world-economy, development, underdevelopment, colonial, neocolonial, blog Third World perspective, open veins of Latin America, Galeano