Eduardo galeano

Image: Anderson Antonangelo


Hunting stories to recompose memory.

Human beings are made not only of matter, blood, flesh, beliefs and affections, but also of stories. Collective, shared stories. Narratives that, when passed down from generation to generation, keep alive the memory of those who once were. But there is an immensity of microhistories lost in the threads that weave time, and when they are rediscovered and transmitted, they serve as resistance against forgetting and the disenchantment of life.

Eduardo Galeano, in his work as a writer, is a genuine story hunter, as he highlights the enchantment of the little things that show the greatness of life. Not the greatness of the red carpets, the gala costumes and the elaborate language, but of the things that, being apparently small, reveal an almost forgotten grandeur.

Galeano says something about this in “footprints”:

“The wind erases the footprints of seagulls. The rains erase the footprints of human steps. The sun erases the footprints of time. Storytellers look for the footprints of lost memory, love and pain, which are not seen, but which are not erased.”[I]

His work is full of these little-known events. in your book story hunter, portrays the first strike of humanity, in the Valley of the Kings, Egypt, in 1152 BC. He says that the designers, stone breakers, carpenters who were building the pyramids decided to cross their arms and stop work until they received their salaries. According to Galeano, until recently we knew nothing or almost nothing about this “perhaps because of the fear that the example would spread.”[ii]

There are many times that Galeano mentions Brazil in his work. In the report “Brazilian liberators”, present in the book the children of days, reports: “Today ended, in 1770, the reign of Teresa de Benguela in Quariterê. It was one of the sanctuaries of freedom for escaped slaves from Brazil. For twenty years, Teresa drove the soldiers of the governor of Mato Grosso crazy. They couldn't take her alive."[iii]Soon after, she names other Brazilian women who built sanctuaries of freedom and organized territories of resistance: Zacimba Gambá, in Espírito Santo, Mariana Crioula, in the interior of Rio de Janeiro, Zeferina, in Bahia and Felipa Maria Aranha, in Tocantins.

It is common to hear that we must learn from history so that the ghosts of the past do not resurrect. However, the past also serves as an example, constituting a kind of guidelines for action. Galeano recalls that in 1988 France passed a law reducing the weekly working day to 35 hours. Now, what is the purpose of machines if they do not reduce our working time? Why should technological progress cause us fatigue and unemployment? The lucidity of the French was short-lived, and the law was repealed ten years later.[iv]

The Uruguayan author also records personal stories with collective lessons, as he recounts his childhood at school. The teacher told them that Balboa, the Spanish conqueror, saw from the top of a hill in Panama, the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. According to the teacher, Balboa was the first man to see both seas at the same time. Until little Galeano asks: “Teacher, teacher. Were the Indians blind?” It was his first expulsion in life.

Some contradictions of the founding fathers of liberalism are also recovered in his work, as in the text “the philosopher of freedom”, which addresses John Locke as the philosopher who founded freedom in its various variants, including the freedom to invest.

Galeano's words: “While writing his Essay on Human Understanding, the philosopher contributed to human understanding by investing his savings in the purchase of a package of shares in the Royal Africa Company. This company, which belonged to the British crown and to industrious and rational men, was engaged in capturing slaves in Africa to sell them in America. According to the Royal Africa Company, their efforts ensured a steady and sufficient supply of Negroes at moderate prices.[v]"

A relevant part of his books is made up of short stories – with one or two pages – that recompose events lost in the collective memory. This is what we find in The Book of Hugs, The Story Hunter, The Children of Days and Mirrors. Perhaps form and content are intertwined, as listening to their stories leads us to recognize the greatness of what appears to be small.

Galeano's stories are not limited to material life, but gain space in the oneiric world, in such a way that we find in his writing some reports of his wife Helena's dreams. In one of these reports, Galeano tells:

“Helena dreamed that we were lining up. A long queue at an airport, like any other airport, and each passenger had the pillow they had slept on the night before under their arm. The pillows were passed, one after the other, through a machine that read dreams. It was a machine that detected dreams that were dangerous to public order.”

Eduardo Galeano, son of this territory called Latin America, dives into the contradictions of civilization to expose them, but also to rescue forgotten stories, which, when rediscovered, help to decipher who we are, as subjects and as a collectivity. Galeano's “methodology”, by giving life to the histories and struggles of the past, is almost a remedy against the ultra-individualism preached by neoliberal ideology. At the crossroads of history, some paths open up. It is necessary that we have sharp eyes and the ability to look, in order to trace the next steps.

“The function of art/1

Diego did not know the sea. His father, Santiago Kovadloff, took him to discover the sea. They traveled south.

He, the sea, was on the other side of the high dunes, waiting. When the boy and his father finally reached those sandy heights, after much walking, the sea was in front of their eyes. And the sea's immensity was so great, and its brilliance so much, that the boy was speechless with beauty.

And when he was finally able to speak, trembling, stuttering, he asked his father:
– Help me look.”[vi]

*Matheus Silveira de Souza holds a master's degree in State Law from the Faculty of Law of USP.


GALEANO, Edward. Mirrors. Porto Alegre: RS, L&PM, 2020.

GALEANO, Edward. The Story Hunter. Porto Alegre: RS, L&PM, 2017.

GALEANO, Edward. the children of days. Porto Alegre: RS, L&PM, 2017.

GALEANO, Edward. The book of hugs. Porto Alegre: RS, L&PM, 2016.


[I]GALEANO, Edward. The Story Hunter, P. 13.

[ii]GALEANO, Edward. The Story Hunter.

[iii]GALEANO, Edward. the children of days, P. 83.

[iv]GALEANO, Edward. the children of days, p166.

[v]GALEANO, Edward. Mirrors, P. 159.

[vi]GALEANO, Edward. The book of hugs, P. 15.

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