Yesterday, at 74 years-old, iconic Uruguayan journalist, writer and poet Eduardo Galeano passed away from lung cancer in Montevideo. The generations that precede ours will remember him for his seminal book The Open Veins of Latin America – a book that established him as one of the leading anti-capitalist voices of the region.

But for those of us who weren’t alive when the book was published in 1971, Eduardo Galeano represents a completely different kind literary approach – and even reader demographic. I first came across his voice in an unexpected way: listening to Calle 13 on Spotify. When the Puerto Rican duo debuted their album Multi Viral last summer, I sought it out eagerly, convinced, based on what I knew about their collaborators – namely Julian Assange – that this was going to be their most aggressive, serious work yet. So the introduction caught me by surprise.

It is Galeano’s voice, reading an excerpt from his story “The Trip,” that captures the abstract convergences of compassion, mortality, and humankind’s favorite subject – good old love:

Oriol Vall,
Que se ocupa de los recién nacidos
En un hospital de Barcelona,
Dice que el primer gesto humano es el abrazo.

Después de salir al mundo,
Al principio de sus días,
Los bebés manotean,
Como buscando a alguien.

Otros médicos,
Que se ocupan de los ya vividos,
Dicen que los viejos,
Al fin de sus días,
Mueren queriendo alzar los brazos.

Y así es la cosa,
Por muchas vueltas que le demos al asunto,
Por muchas palabras que le pongamos.

A eso, así de simple,
Se reduce todo:
Entre dos aleteos,
Sin más explicación,
Transcurre el viaje.

In this excerpt, you see the true legacy Galeano leaves behind: he might be the last piece of hopeless romanticism Spanish-speaking idealists have left. In addition to his prolific body of work, (which touched on everything from soccer to pre-Columbian history), Galeano was also known for his friendship with other intellectual humanists of his time, Daniel Viglietti and Mario Benedetti. These were poets responsible for making us understand that humankind’s worst mistake is trying to sacarse de la cabeza aquello que no sale del corazón.

And this is what we see in the collaboration between the 73 year-old Galeano and 35 year-old René Perez – something that illustrates why art and politics must always remain in dialogue but not necessarily wed. Ultimately, the corners of experience that drive empathy cannot be accessed with passports. As El Mundo said of Galeano in their obituary, “más Neruda y menos Ché Guevara. No había que ser un socialista científico todo el tiempo, no había que ir de uniforme ni dar la lata con las bondades de la Unión Soviética. También estaba bien ser partidario del fútbol, de los amoríos y del vino. ‘Humanismo’ y ‘compromiso’ se convirtieron en las palabras claves.”

Speaking of wine, another great passage of Galeano’s:

“Había buen vino. Sentados en rueda, los amigos compartíamos el vino y los camarones y la mar que se abría, libre y luminosa, a nuestros pies. Mientras ocurría, esa alegría estaba siendo ya recordada por la memoria y soñada por el sueño. Ella no iba a terminarse nunca, y nosotros tampoco, porque somos todos mortales hasta el primero beso y el segundo vaso, y eso lo sabe cualquiera, por poco que sepa.” So remember, we are all mortals until the first kiss and the second glass of wine.

In the words of the writer himself, “History never really says goodbye. History says, see you later.”

See you later Eduardo.

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