The book is available – On line –> Open Veins of Latin America
Introduction: 120 Million Children in the Eye of the Hurricane
Part I: Mankind’s Poverty as a Consequence of the Wealth of the Land
Part II: Development is a Voyage with more Shipwrecks than Navigators
4. Tales of Premature Death (“she is English” George Canning, 1824)
“But our region still works as a menial. It continues to exist at the service of others needs, as a source and reserve of oil and iron, of copper and meat, of fruit and coffee, the raw materials and foods destined for rich countries which profit more from consuming them than Latin America does from producing them.”
Despite Haiti and Cuba being nations a century before Plymouth and Jamestown, “a second-class America of nebulous identity.”
“…have become painfully aware of the mortality of wealth which nature bestows and imperialism appropriates.”
Progress and Poverty
Caribbean: GDP per capita in 2013.
|#||Nation-state||Per capita $|
|3||Trinidad & Tobago||$18,373|
|6||St Kitts and Nevis||$13,710|
|10||St Vincent & Grenada||$6,634|
|A||United States||$53, 143|
2012 0r 2013 World Bank statistics.
2008 $ GNI PPP / per capita– Gross national income in Purchasing Power Parity
US Europe (EU) Latin America Haiti Mexico Guatemala Colombia
46,970 30,600 10,140 1,180 14,270 4,690 8,510
“The gap widens. Around the middle of the last century the world’s rich countries enjoyed a 50 percent higher living standard than the poor countries.”
“Development develops inequality:”
“…they squander in sterile ostentation and luxury, and in unproductive investments constituting no less than half the total investment, the capital that Latin America could devote to the replacement, extension, and generation of job-creating means of production.”
“There are 60 million compesinos whose fortune amounts to $.25 a day.”
“Sovereignty is mortgaged, because there’s no other way.”
“The colonial Latin American economy enjoyed the most highly concentrated labor force known until that time, making possible the greatest concentration of wealth ever enjoyed by any civilization in world history.”
“The mita labor system was a machine for crushing Indians.”
Indians as beasts
“but no one suspected that the world was about to be startlingly extended by a great new land.”
“The feat of discovering America can only be understood in the context of the tradition of crusading wars that prevailed in medieval Castile; the Church needed no prompting to provide a halo for the conquest of unknown lands across the ocean.”
Pope Alexander 6th was Spanish! Rodrigo Borgia
“The trees are of such beauty and sweetness that we felt we were in earthly Paradise.” Vespucci to Lorenzo e Medici
“Fortune favors the daring.” Attributed to Hernán Cortés
“in the deadly task of sifting auriferous sands with their bodies half submerged in water. . . .”
“Many natives of Haiti anticipated the fate imposed by their white oppressors: they killed their children and committed mass suicide.”
“Many of them, by way of diversion, took poison rather than work, and others hanged themselves with their own hands. Fernandez de Oviedo (16th century)
“The civilization from across the ocean that descended upon these lands was undergoing the creative explosion of the Renaissance: Latin America seemed like another invention to be incorporated, along with gunpowder, printing, paper, and the compass in the budding birth of the Modern Age.”
“The Indians were also defeated by terror.”
The descriptions of Cortés arms and ships to Montezuma
Horses (rode “deer as high as rooftops”) and bacteria, for example.
“lent magic powers to the invaders in the natives’ astonished eyes.”
“They crave gold like hungry swine.”
From “the Nahuatl text preserved in the Florentine Codex.”
descriptions of the conquest for gold of Tenochtitlan, Xela, and Cuzco
Columbus on his second voyage brought the first sugar-cane roots from the Canary Islands and planted them in what is now the Dominican Republic.”
“…no agricultural product had more importance for European commerce than American sugar.”
“the prodigal, wageless labor force”
“the land was devastated by this selfish plant which invaded the New World, felling forests, squandering natural fertility, and destroying naturally accumulated soil humus.”
“…but decisively it spurred the growth of Dutch, French, English, and U.S. Industry.”
“its labor force consisted mostly of slaves.”
Slavery all three “were combined into a single socioeconomic unit.”
“the cage of underdevelopment.”
"The plantation was so structured as to make it, in effect, a sieve for the draining off of natural wealth, and today the latifundio functions the same way. Each region once integrated into the world market, experiences a dynamic cycle; then decay set in with the competition of substitute products, the exhaustion of the soil, or the development of other areas where conditions are better."
"a culture of poverty subsistence and lethargy."
Barbados, Haiti, Cuba all experience
"at the price of monoculture and the relentless impoverishment of the soil."
"It is also the story of coffee which advances leaving deserts behind it, and of the fruit plantations...."
Karl Marx, 1848
"You believe perhaps gentlemen that the production of coffee and sugar is the natural destiny of the West Indies. Two centuries ago, nature, which does not trouble herself about commerce, had planted neither sugarcane nor coffee trees there."
"and condemned to sugar until our own day."
"Barbados was, starting in 1641, the first Caribbean island where sugar was grown for bulk export, although the Spaniards had planted cane earlier in Santo Domingo and Cuba. It was as we have seen the Dutch who introduced sugar into the British islands; by 1666 Barbados had 800 plantations and more than 80,000 slaves."
"Canefields devoured all this (previously produced a variety of crops...) and devastated the dense forests in the name a glorious illusion. The island soon found that its soil exhausted, that it was unable to feed its population, and that it was producing sugar at uncompetitive prices.
Jamaica entered the eighteenth century with ten times more slaves than white colonists. Its soil too was exhausted."
"...sugar needed hands and more hands."
Haiti, "in 1786 the colony brought in 27,000 slaves, in the following year 40,000 (1787)."
"The country was born in ruins and never recovered: today it [Haiti] is the poorest in Latin America."
"by 1806, Cuba had doubled both its mills and its productivity."
Sugar Castles on Cuba's Scorched Earth
Accounts of the British transformation of Cuba form diversity of crops and of employees to sugar over 14 months of occupation.
"Extensive planting relentlessly reduced the soil's fertility."
"The 'sugarocracy' piled up their fraudulent fortunes while reinforcing Cuba's dependence."
"The 1921 disaster had been brought on by the fall in sugar prices on the US market,...In December of that year the price fell to $.04 (cents) many sugar mills went bankrupt ...–as did all the Cuban and Spanish Banks."
"By 1850 the US was absorbing one-third of all Cuban trade, selling it more and buying more from it than Spain, whose colony it was..."
"A Spanish traveler found US-made sewing machines in remote Cuban villages in 1859."
""The country of sugar imported nearly half the fruit and vegetables it consumed, although only a third of the population had regular jobs and half of the sugar estate lands were idle acres where nothing was produced."
" 'Is building on sugar better than building on sand?' Jean-Paul Sartre asked himself when he was in Cuba in 1960."
"Oriente province has throughout Cuba's history been the biggest source of both sugar and rebellion."
After the rebellion "Without big sugar harvests, where would the currency for these imports come from?"
"Cuba to use five times more fertilizer than in 1958. Reservoirs built all over the island today contain seventy-three times as much water as was available in 1958...advance in areas under irrigation."
In 1965 another sugar economy, the Dominican Republic, was invaded, ....The vertical drop in sugar prices had been a factor in setting off popular indignation..."
"But sugar did not only produce dwarfs. It also produced giants, or at least contributed generously to their growth. The sugar of tropical Latin America gave powerful impetus to the accumulation of capital for the English, French, Dutch and US industrial development, while at the same time mutilating the economy of northeast Brazil and the Caribbean Islands and consummating the historic ruin of Africa.
The fulcrum of the triangular trade–manufactures, slaves, sugar–between Europe, Africa, and America was the traffic in slaves for sugar plantations. As Auguste Cochin wrote: 'The story of a grain of sugar is a whole lesson in political economy, in politics, and also in morality."
"The Dutch, however, had long experience in the business (slavery)–Charles V had given them a monopoly in shipping slaves to the Americas before England obtained the right to introduce slaves into the colonies."
1701 Guinea Company formed by France and Spain "to facilitate the slave trade to the Americas."
"Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the architect of French industrialization, had good reason to describe the slave traffic as 'recommended for the progress of the national merchant marine."
Adam Smith "one of the principle effects of the discovery of America 'has been to raise the mercantile system to a degree . . . it could never otherwise have attained.' "
"According to Sergio Bagú, the most potent force in the accumulation of mercantile capital was slavery in the Americas; and this capital in turn became 'the foundation stone on which the giant industrial capital of modern times was built.' "
"From the dawn of the sixteenth to the dusk of the nineteenth centuries, many millions of Africans no one knows how many–crossed the ocean; what is known is they greatly exceeded the number of white emigrants from Europe, although fewer survived."
"The Royal Africa Company, . . . paid 300 percent dividends, although only 46,000 of the 70,000 slaves it shipped between 1680 and 1688 survived the crossing. On one voyage many Africans died of epidemics and malnutrition; others committed suicide by refusing to eat, hanging themselves by their chains, or throwing themselves into the sea bristling with sharks' fins."
"Traffic in slaves raised the shipping center of Bristol to the rank of Britain’s second city and made Liverpool the world's greatest port. Ships sailed with cargoes of duly blessed weapons, cloth, gin and rum, baubles and colored glass, the means of payment for Africa's human merchandise and for the sugar, cotton, coffee, and cacao of American colonial plantations."
At the end of the eighteenth century, Africa and the Caribbean were providing 180,000 textile workers in Manchester; Sheffield produced the knives, Birmingham produced 150,000 muskets per year. African chiefs received the products of British industry and delivered human cargoes to slaver captains."
"They also supplied ivory, wax, and palm oil. Many of the slaves came from the forest areas and had never seen the sea." sounded like a devouring beast to them
""Slaves were sold for cash, or on three-year credit. The ships sailed back to Liverpool carrying various tropical products: in the eighteenth century three-quarters of the cotton used by the British textile industry came from the Antilles...."
"Liverpool slave merchants garnered more than £ 1.1 million a year in the Caribbean alone, not including their fat profits from the additional trade. Ten big concerns controlled two-thirds of the traffic."
"An economist described the slave trade as 'the basic and fundamental principle of all the rest, like the mainspring of a machine that sets every cogwheel in motion.' Banks proliferated in Liverpool . . . ; Lloyds piled up profits insuring slaves, ships, and plantations."
"Slave trade profits financed the building of Britain’s Great Western railway and of industries such as the Welsh state factories. Capital accumulated in the triangular trade made possible the invention of the steam engine: James Watt was subsidized by businessmen who had made their fortunes in that trade."
"The little Caribbean Islands had been far more important to Britain than its colonies in the north: Barbados, Jamaica, and Montserrat were forbidden to make so much as a needle or a horseshoe for themselves.
"In New England the slave trade gave birth to a large part of the capital that produced the US industrial revolution."
"...from Boston, Newport and Providence; they exchanged the rum for slaves, sold the slaves in the Caribbean, & from there bought molasses to Massachusetts, where it was distilled and converted into rum, completing the cycle. The best Antillean rum, 'West Indian Rum,' was not even made in the Antilles."
Rhode Island (the Brown brothers) guns for the revolution
"Caribbean sugar plantations, condemned as they were to monoculture, were not the dynamic center of development for the thirteen colonies solely because of the impetus the slave trade gave to naval industry (timber- cordwainers, coopers, tar) and to the New England distilleries; they also provided a large market for export of foodstuffs, timber, and sugar mill implements lending economic viability to the farm and budding factory economy of the North Atlantic."
"The whole process was a pumping of blood from one set of veins to another: the development of the development of some, the underdevelopment of others."
"From Santo Domingo, a lawyer Alonso Zuazo reported to Charles V in 1518:
"Fears of a possible rising by the blacks are groundless; there are widows living tranquilly with eight hundred slaves in Portuguese Islands; it is all a matter of how they are handled. I found on arrival here some cunning niggers, and others who had taken to the woods; I thrashed some, cut off the ears of others, and there has been no more trouble."
"Four years later the first slave rising in the Americas broke out: the slaves of Diego Columbus, son of the discoverer, started the revolt and ended on gallows lining the sugarmill lanes."
"For the people of Haiti the rainbow still symbolizes the road back to Guinea–in a ship with a white sail."
"In these villages 'obeah shrines like those in Guinea can be seen, ceremonial dances are performed that could take place in Ghana, and the people talk with drums, which are made like Ashanti drums.' The first big revolt in Guiana occurred one hundred years after the flight of the Djukas (descendants of runaway slaves in the forest): the Dutch recovered the plantations and burned the slave leaders in slow fires. But in Brazil . . . fugitive slaves . . . had successfully resisted dozens of military expeditions . . . ."
Brazil: Palmares--Black kingdom near Pernambocu
"When the sugar plantation was at it height . . . , Palmares was the one corner of Brazil where agriculture was being diversified. Guided by their own experience or that of their ancestors in African savannas and forests, the blacks raised corn, sweet potatoes, beans, manioc, bananas and other foods."
"In Cuba too, there were risings. Some slaves committed mass suicide, mocking their masters, as Fernando Ortiz pit it, 'with their eternal strikes, their unending flight to the other world."
"in Cuba –took to the woods– A magic chain gave them power and they 'flew through the sky and returned to their land'; or they lost themselves in the mountains because 'everyone wearied of life, and the other ones who got used to it were broken in spirit. Life in the forest was healthier'."
"In Cuba, overseers applied their thongs of hide or hemp to the backs of pregnant females who had erred, but not before stretching them out with their bellies over a whole to avoid damaging 'the little creature'; priests, who received 5 percent of sugar production as a tithe, gave Christian absolution; the overseers administered punishment like Jesus Christ castigating sinners.
A Catholic Sermon is quoted
"Your body may be enslaved, but your soul remains free to fly one day to the happy mansions of the chosen."
"cults of African origin are widely practiced by the oppressed whatever their skin color. The same is true in the Antilles. The voodoo gods in Haiti, Cuba's bembé, and Brazil's umbanda & quibanda are more or less the same, despite the greater or smaller transfiguration that rites and original gods have undergone through American naturalization. In the Caribbean and in Bahia the ceremonial chants are intoned in Nagó, Yoruba, Congo and other African languages.
latifundio described in Brazil after 1888; Ceará in the Northeast
"The human cattle market was open as long as there was hunger, and there was no lack of buyers. Rare was the steamer in which large numbers of Ceará people were not shipped out."
"Venezuela was identified with cacao....Cacao coexisted with indigo, sugar, tobacco and a few mines, and cattle raising on the plains, but the people correctly baptized 'gran Cacao' the slave owning oligarchy of Caracas, which supplied cacao to Mexico's mining oligarchy and the Spanish metropolis, thus using black labor to enrich itself."
"A coffee era began in Venezuala in 1873; coffee like cacao continued to expand, invading humid lands of Carúpano. Venezuela remained an agricultural country condemned to the cyclical rise and fall of coffee and cacao prices; the two products created the capital that enabled landlords, merchants and moneylenders [Holy Trinity of backwardness] to live as wasteful parasites."
"Then in 1922 the country became a fountain of oil, and oil has reigned without interruption ever since."
"Chocolate consumption grew, and with it prices and profits."
"Chocolate costs more and more; cacao less and less."
"World trade of Latin American cotton nevertheless remains lively thanks to its extremely low production costs....In Guatemala plantation owners boast of paying 19 quetzals (about $10) a month, most of it in kind at prices they themselves determine. Mexican migrant workers, moving from harvest to harvest at $1.50 per day, suffer from underemployment and consequent under nutrition. The lot of Nicaraguan cotton workers is much worse, and Salvadorans, who supply cotton to the Japanese textile industries, consume fewer calories and proteins than the hungry peasants of India."
"In Peru's economy cotton is the second agricultural source of foreign capital."
"El Salvador, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Haiti also largely depend on coffee, and it accounts for two-thirds of Colombia's foreign exchange."
"Nevertheless, one-sixth of the currency the region (Latin Amer.) obtains abroad now comes from coffee."
"Previously virgin lands (forests) were pitilessly eroded as the plunder-march of coffee advanced, weakening the plants and making them vulnerable to diseases." destructive form of cultivation in The Rio Paraiba region Brazil
"Coffee plantations in Guatemala pay even less than cotton plantations. On the southern slopes the owners claim to pay $15 per month
Guatemalan saying--"a man is cheaper than a mule."
"it costs less to use Indian backs."
"A quarter of all Salvadorans die of –vitamin deficiency"
"As for Haiti, it has Latin Americas highest death rate, and more than half of its children are anemic. The wages Haiti requires by law belong in the department of science fiction: actual wages on coffee plantations vary from .07 to .15 a day."
5 percent of the coffee price "goes into the wages of the workers who produce it."
"In Colombia, where suitable slopes abound, coffee is king."
"...most Colombian coffee is produced...by small farms which tend to become increasingly smaller." the prices set by the larger latifundios "the big landowners and virtually monopolizes the trade. Farms of less than a hectare produce starvation incomes--An average of $130.00 a year"
from 17 sacks of coffee to fifty-seven sacks of coffee for a jeep from 1950-1967 !
"In Latin America, private appropriation of land always came before its useful cultivation."
"…by abundant legislation that decreed purchase as the only form of access to land, and created a civil registration system that would make it nearly impossible for a poor farmer to legalize his land...."
U.S " legislation in the same period had the opposite aim: it was to promote the internal colonization of the country."
"The Homestead Act of 1862 assured every family of ownership of a quarter section, a lot one-half mile square; each beneficiary committed himself to farm his parcel for a minimum of five years."
"The public domain was colonized with startling speed and the population grew and spread like a great oil smear."
"Thus it was free farmers who occupied the central and western territories."
"In contrast the rural workers who have pushed Brazil's frontier inland for more than a century have not been--and are not--free peasant families seeking a piece of the land for their own, but braceros contracted to serve latifundistas who have already taken possession of the great open spaces."
"The two opposite systems of internal colonization reveal one of the most important differences between US and Latin American development models. Why is the north rich and the south poor?"
"...back in the colonial beginnings, north and south had already generated different societies with different aims."
"Free workers formed the basis of that (New England) society across the ocean."
Spain and Portugal
"Enslavement of the Indians was followed by the wholesale transplantation of Africans. Through the centuries, a legion of unemployed peasants was always available to be moved to production centers:"
"…internal economic development was never the goal of the ruling classes of Latin America colonial society."
"Their profits came from the outside; they were tied more to the foreign market than to their own domain."
"This also provides a key to the United States' expansion as a national unit and to the fragmentation of Latin America. Our production centers are not interconnected but take the form of a fan with a far-away vertex."
NA "It was an area where both nature and history had been miserly; both metals and the slave labor to wrest it from the ground were missing."
by contrasting North & South America’s economic developmental divergence, he asserts:
"They did not offer product complementary to the metropolis. The situation in the Antilles and the mainland of the Spanish-Portuguese colonies was quite different. Tropical lands produced sugar, tobacco, cotton, indigo, turpentine; a small Caribbean Island had more economic importance for Europe than the thirteen colonies that would become the United States."
"In Barbados and Jamaica, on the other hand, only the capital necessary to replace worn-out slaves was reinvested. Thus it was not racial factors that decided the development of the one and the underdevelopment of the other; there was nothing Spanish or Portuguese about Britain’s Antillean islands."
And England took a tolerant attitude while it strictly forbade its Antillean islands to manufacture so much as a pin."
The mineral shortages and their economic importance for the industrial appetite of the US
the us buys abroad fully one-fifth of the copper it uses (copper in bullets)
half the zinc
no bauxite, nickel, or chrome
one-third of its iron and all of its manganese are imported
one-fourth of the tungsten is imported
"This growing dependence on foreign supplies produces the growing identification of the interests of US capitalists operating in Latin America with U.S. national security."
Quote “the age of chivalry is gone; and an age of economists and calculators has succeeded.”
George Canning, 1823
“The deed is done, the nail is driven, Spanish America is free; and if we do not mismanage our affairs sadly, she is English.”
“While ports and capitals strove to be like Paris, or London, behind them stretched the desert.”
“Britain was organizing a worldwide system and becoming the great factory supplying the planet: the entire world supplied it with raw materials and received its manufactured goods.”
UK advantages were:
1. greatest port
2. potent financial apparatus
3. highest level of commercial specialization
4. monopoly on insurance and freight (assurance)
5. control of the international gold market
“But free trade only became revealed truth for them after they became sure of being the strongest power, and after they had developed their own textile industry under the umbrella of Europe’s toughest protectionist legislation.”
Mexico in 1800-1829
“Nevertheless, as von Humboldt noted, industry had grown when foreign trade was stagnant, sea communications were being interrupted or obstructed, and the manufacture of steel and the use of iron and mercury had begun. The liberalism that accompanied independence added new pearls to the British crown and paralyzed the textile and metallurgical workshops in Mexico City, Puebla, and Guadalajara.”
“Yet the industry had been so modernized that in 1840 U.S. textile mills averaged fewer spindles than did those in Mexico.”
“By 1850 Mexico’s textile industry had stopped progressing.”
The argument is that free trade advocates, the laitfundista / encomienda system and mining interests (raw materials) all conspired to strangle the industrialist minority, where ample water power (as opposed to coal) and a vast easily trained mestizo and indigenista work force existed to train.
War Against Paraguay
“The economic surplus from agricultural production was not squandered by an oligarchy (which did not exist)
How loans and railroads deformed the latin american economy
Only 1/3 of the money from Ten British loans to Latin America amounting to £21 million “scarcely £7 million actually reached Latin America.
“Free trade involved a frenzied increase in imports, especially the luxury articles; governments contracted debts, which in turn called for new loans, so that a minority could live fashionably.”
“The countries were mortgaging their future in advance, moving away from economic freedom and political sovereignty.”
“the prices of Brazilian exports fell 40 percent… (1821-1850), while foreign prices remained stable: Latin America’s vulnerable economies compensated for the decline with loans.”
“The use of debt as an instrument of blackmail is not...a recent U.S. invention.”
“Railroads formed another decisive part of the cage of dependency, where monopoly capitalism was in flower, imperialist influence extended into the colonial economies’ remote backyards.”
Santiago de estero timber industry –description, of Argentine railroad’s impacts
USA development and its impacts on New England trade & protectionism
“This was far from true of the Latin American colonies, which delivered their air, water, and salt to ascendant European capitalism and, in return, received a largesse of the finest and costliest luxury goods to pamper their ruling classes.”
“the economic and political interests of the mining and landlord bourgeoisie never coincided with the need for internal economic development, and businessmen were linked less with the new world than with foreign markets for the metals and foodstuffs they wanted to sell and with foreign sources of the manufactured items they wanted to buy.”
“By the end of the eighteenth century, The US had the world’s second merchant fleet, consisting entirely of ships built in its own yards, and its textile and steel mills were in surging growth.”
“In this, as we have seen, the Antilles trade–including the sale of African slaves–had played a major role, but the US achievement would not have happened if it had not been kindled from the outset by a fierce nationalist flame.”
American isolation, self-reliance, and exceptionalism from Washington-Emerson
“Of all the direct private investment in Latin America coming from abroad, less than one fifth was from the US (1916....Today (1970s) nearly three-quarters is from the United States.”
“Industrialization was the privilege of the metropolis.... investments in petroleum and, above all in, manufacturing have proportion. At the present  time $1 of every $3 invested in Latin America is invested in industry.”
“It is true that United Fruit’s railroad in Guatemala stopped being profitable,”
“The US economy cannot, as we have seen, do without the vital supplies from the south and the juicy profits they bring.”
“Latin America continues exporting its unemployment and poverty; the raw materials that the world market needs and on whose sale the regional economy depends.”
“hunger wages in Latin America help finance high salaries in the United States and Europe.”
This book was written to have a talk with people. . . . about certain facts that official history, or history told by conquerors, hides or lies about.
"Whatever Latin America sells–raw materials or manufactures–its chief export product is really cheap labor."
"Hunger is the dynamite of the human body." Maria Carolina de Jesus, Sao Paulo
In 1977 Latin America was experiencing -- "the vicious senility" of capitalism,
"And because in the history of humankind, every act of destruction meets its response, sooner or later, in an act of creation."
 Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, (1937 ed.) p. 591
 Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1944.
 Eduardo Galeano, Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1973-1997.
GDP per capita is gross domestic product divided by midyear population. GDP is the sum of gross value added by all resident producers in the economy plus any product taxes and minus any subsidies not included in the value of the products.