Eduardo Galeano—the famous Uruguayan writer, journalist, and political activist—passed away Monday at the age of 74. He was most widely celebrated (and defamed) for his incisive critiques of Western imperialism and capitalism, as well as his lilting, graceful prose. His most notable work, Las venas abiertas de América Latina (or Open Veins of Latin America) offered a sort of people’s history of Latin America, weaving a narrative framed by economic exploitation and political instability. His life’s work was committed to telling the story of Latin America, describing his own work as a writer as “obsessed with remembering, with remembering the past of America and above all that of Latin America, intimate land condemned to amnesia.”
Soccer fans will know him as the author of El fútbol a sol y sombra, or Soccer in Sun and Shadow. The book offers a cultural history of the beautiful game, using his trademark poignant verse to shape history and politics and economics and personal experience into a sort of paper sculpture— beautiful, unexpected, and somewhat transient. There’s a lot of darkness in the story Galeano tells—the “shadow” in the book title, as it were—yet he unfurls and shares his joy and love for the sport throughout. Football, for Galeano, was an intimate and indelible part of life— and more often than not, it represented the better parts of it. Galeano was more than a fan; he was a pilgrim, telling a story that was equal parts hard labor sentence, passionate love affair and fleeting moment of rapture.