Media Discover ‘Obscure’ Latin American Book

When Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez gave U.S. President Barack Obama a copy of Eduardo Galeano’s book The Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent at last weekend’s Summit of the Americas, the corporate media appeared to be caught off guard.

In its initial report, CNN (Newsroom, 4/18/09) appeared to be completely unaware of Galeano’s classic 1971 treatise on the history of European and U.S. imperialism in Latin America, failing to correct Obama’s initial mistaken belief that the book was penned by Chavez himself.

Both CNN (CNN Newsroom, 4/18/09) and AP (4/19/09) contrasted the immediate surge in the book’s sales on Amazon with its previous “obscurity”:

It’s gone from obscurity to bestseller overnight. In just hours, it zoomed to No. 14 on Amazon.com’s bestseller list, and on Friday, it was ranked number 60,280, making its way to the top of the list very fast.–CNN, 4/18/09

The publicity about the gift of the Galeano book helped propel it from relative obscurity to No. 13 on the Amazon.com list of bestsellers by Saturday night.–AP, 4/19/09

The book may not have ranked highly a month ago on Amazon, but it can hardly be described as “obscure.” A classic Latin American history text that was banned by several military dictatorships, with its author “forced into exile as the book grew in popularity,” according to the New Yorker, the book boasts more than 50 Spanish editions, and has been translated into more than a dozen languages. As demonstrated by Chavez’s choice, it still has currency with Latin American political leaders.