Fair Use Notice
  Axis Mission
 About us
  Letters/Articles to Editor
Article Submissions
RSS Feed

Utopia Walkers: a Tribute to Eduardo Galeano Printer friendly page Print This
By Mankh (Walter E. Harris III), Axis of Logic
Axis of Logic
Wednesday, Apr 15, 2015

"Utopia is on the horizon: When I walk two steps, it takes two steps back. I walk ten steps, and it is ten steps further away. What is Utopia for? It is for this, for walking."
- Eduardo Galeano

Some years ago, when first reading online samples of Eduardo Galeano’s book Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, I felt my heart tremble and open and stir. This convinced me to buy the book and read it. It is one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read because it eloquently and with compassion exposes some of the brutalities and the realities of existence, all the while reminding us about being human, appreciating each other, and having good reason to continue on. As Galeano writes: “And because in the history of humankind every act of destruction meets its response, sooner or later, in an act of creation.”

The book convinced me in no uncertain terms that the basic framework of material society, what some call civilization or progress or modern comforts, is an illusion built on the backs and sweat and blood of Indigenous, African, and other Human slave labor. See that exquisite gold trimmed piece of furniture, yes lovely, but where did it come from and what fellow human being went underground into a mine or deep into a forest to help get the materials? Whose water may have been polluted to get some of the filaments that help make the computer run so I can write this tribute and share it with others? Thus, the Uruguayan author blew my mind from its place of complacency.

In that same book, Galeano depicts, citing resource after resource after resource, how the charms and trinkets of Europe and then the West aka USA were the products of the rapings of Mother Earth. The book’s title sums it up yet the pages tell the full tale.

Look at what goes on today. Issues of the extractive economy are at the forefront of virtually everything. And every day it seems there’s another article, another book relating this. Just this week someone told me of The Looting Machine: Warlords, Oligarchs, Corporations, Smugglers, and the Theft of Africa's Wealth by Tom Burgis. I commented to a friend how it sounds like Galeano’s book, but about Africa.

There is much positive with the world but to learn of the continuing abuses makes me re­adjust what Utopia means. Maybe Galeano knew that Utopia, as we tend to idealize it, is really an illusion. Or if it’s attainable there’s a heck of a lot of work to do to bring it about.

Galeano walked the talk. As Isabel Allende writes, in her “Foreword” to Open Veins of Latin America:

“He has walked up and down Latin America listening to the voices of the poor and the oppressed, as well as those of the leaders and the intellectuals. He has lived with Indians, peasants, guerrillas, soldiers, artists, and outlaws; he has talked to presidents, tyrants, martyrs, priests, heroes, bandits, desperate mothers, and patient prostitutes. He has been bitten by snakes, suffered tropical fevers, walked in the jungle, and survived a massive heart attack; he has been persecuted by repressive regimes as well as, by fanatical terrorists. He has opposed military dictatorships and all forms of brutality and exploitation, taking unthinkable risks in defense of human rights. He has more first-hand knowledge of Latin America than anybody else I can think of, and uses it to tell the world of the dreams and disillusions, the hopes and the failures of its people. He is an adventurer with a talent for writing, a compassionate heart, and a soft sense of humor."

If we may never get to where we are going, if Utopia is a mirage... then we best make the best of where we are.

In analytic geometry there’s what’s called the asymptote: “‘straight line continually approaching but never meeting a curve,’ from Greek asymptotos ‘not falling together.’”1

If you continually go half the distance toward a destination, mathematically you will never get there. Yet Eduardo Galeano got there... or was it really just here from a different perspective?

Some people want this, some that, some are content, some never are. Considering all that is going on around the globe aka Mother Earth, rather than achieving something, nowadays it often feels like we would simply do well “not falling together,” with “together” including bees, and other endangered species or what Indigenous Peoples call “relations.”

It is encouraging to learn of other Utopia walkers.

“A small team of women are planning the historic walk of thirty international women peacemakers from twelve different countries. We hope to cross the DMZ on May 24th, 2015, International Women’s Disarmament Day... Since the DMZ is the most highly militarized border in the world, women peacemakers believe it is only right, as part of their lifelong work for disarmament and demilitarization in their own countries, to walk in Korea, in solidarity with their Korean sisters. The women of Korea want an end to the 70 year old conflict. They want to reunify millions of Korean families.”2

Also, the Navaho or Diné Peoples with their “Nihígaal béé Íina: Our Journey For Existence”:

“As young Diné people, we realize that we can’t continue on like this. We need clean air, water, and a viable lifeway for our people and for all human beings. In facing this crisis of our future, the idea of walking to raise awareness was born. We are walking to honor the legacy of our ancestors during Hwééldi, who, a 150 years ago, were forced to walk hundreds of miles away from our homelands in the winter to be imprisoned for four years in the name of American colonization.”3

This 3-1/2 minute video tells it in their own words, “Our Journey For Existence”:

The other day a friend reminded me of the words of the Spanish poet, Antonio Machado:

“Travelers, there is no path, paths are made by walking.”

And, from Machado's Campos de Castilla:

“Wanderer, your footsteps are the road, and nothing more; wanderer, there is no road, the road is made by walking. By walking one makes the road, and upon glancing behind one sees the path that never will be trod again. Wanderer, there is no road­­ Only wakes upon the sea.

"Caminante, son tus huellas el camino, y nada más; caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar. Al andar se hace camino, y al volver la vista atrás se ve la senda que nunca se ha de volver a pisar. Caminante, no hay camino, sino estelas en la mar.”

Thanks to Eduardo Galeano the tall grasses on the path are not so thick, the waves of the ocean are not so rough.

I have also read Galeano's Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History, another fabulous book. On the bookshelf and summer reading list is Voices of Time: A Life in Stories. There are many more.

As with Utopia walking, there are more books than can be read, and more experiences than words can convey... yet we keep walking... and talking... and telling the stories...

Mankh (Walter E. Harris III) is an essayist and resident poet on Axis of Logic. In addition to his work as a writer, he is a small press publisher and Turtle Islander. His new book is “Drive-thru Theofascism & The Hero's Journey.” He also hosts an audio show "Between the Lines: listening to literature online."

You can contact him via his literary website.



  1. Asymptote

  2. Peacemaking Women To Walk Across the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea

  3. Nihígaal béé Íina: Our Journey For Existence” 


Printer friendly page Print This
If you appreciated this article, please consider making a donation to Axis of Logic. We do not use commercial advertising or corporate funding. We depend solely upon you, the reader, to continue providing quality news and opinion on world affairs.Donate here

World News© 2003-2015
Fair Use Notice  |   Axis Mission  |  About us  |   Letters/Articles to Editor  | Article Submissions |   Subscribe to Ezine   | RSS Feed  |