Repeat after me: just because the average (Anglo-white monolingual) U.S. pundit has not heard of a book, writer or cultural figure does not make it "obscure."
Almost uniformly, the first round of news reports in U.S. media about the book gift characterized Open Veins as "obscure" (examples here and here) or outright dismissed it as a leftist tract. In Spanish-language accounts like this one, it's more neutrally referred to as "a classic of the Latin American left." And at least one English-speaking newspaper writer (albeit in the UK) seems to be familiar with it.
Open Veins of Latin America, written shortly before Galeano's native Uruguay would end up under a harsh military dictatorship and he in exile, was the model for his idiosyncratic, semi-poetic, semi-polemic, but indelible writing style.
A perennial big seller, it's gone through 50 Spanish-language editions and been translated into at least a dozen languages. And name one US-authored "pamphlet" that has had its own ska-punk song by a world-famous band.
Like his more mature masterpiece trilogy Memory of Fire, Open Veins mined a trove of documents to undo the willed forgetfulness imposed by so many Latin American governments and by fantasies about how the American Dream is underwritten.
Is the hard-line Marxist-Leninist language a bit dated? Perhaps. Has the analysis survived intact for 38 years? Not really, though the main points about rapacious U.S. capitalism in Latin America still hold up well enough (see ongoing military support in Colombia and fights over gas and other "raw" materials).
Alvaro Vargas Llosa, a long-time critic of Galeano in general and Open Veins in particular, wrote in Foreign Policy that "its content has been ridiculed line by line by that most cruel of literary critics -- reality," using examples of rising economies among formerly colonized nations like Brazil. That clearly must mean that we're done with imperialism and strong-armed exploitation of resources. Just like Obama's presidency has ended racism.
(If you recognize the last name, yes, he is Mario's son, who uses his patronymic and matronymic last names in incorrect order to retain the name recognition without which he would long have been dismissed as the knee-jerk neoliberalist buffoon he is.)
Not that Galeano is as behind the times as Alvarito would like his fans to think. He had some more up-to-date advice for Pres. Obama after his election, advice that might have come in handy before saying in Trinidad that "I didn't come to debate the past. I come to deal with the future."
The past is not so easily forgotten for Latin Americans, and for Cono Sur people least of all. In a Nov. 5 interview with Amy Goodman, Galeano asked for less, not more, "leadership" from the U.S. in Latin America:
Maybe it would be better if Brother President is not Superman after all.