I was on a boat crossing Lake Atitlan when I met an Argentinean journalist who said that I shouldn’t take another breath without reading Eduardo Galeano, and I suppose to save me from suffocation, she wrote on a slip of paper taken from her blue Guatemalan tapestry purse “We are all mortal until our first kiss and our second glass of wine.” I took that first breath in my new-world-with-Galeano in the shadow of a volcano, our boat nodding across the lake that hides guns and bodies and treasures and remains of the molten heart of America, poured forth from opened veins. I have lived with him in this hopeful upside-down world, sure that his next words would be the ones that made the entire world see how our memory is in pieces, how we are in need of hope, how desperately thirsty is this human rainbow. “The writer is someone who can perhaps have the joy of helping others see.”
I remember him, one evening in New York, when I leaped to my feet with an entire crowd at Cooper Union, unable to stay seated in the presence of his buoyant hope. But his demeanor seemed to say “Do not deposit your hope in me. You must see. You.” And he read from his Book of Days, April 13th (this day, the day of his departure) entitled “We Knew Not How to See You,” a memory of fire that destroyed (de-story-ed) eight centuries of Mayan history, when Diego de Landa committed their texts to the pyre. We have collective amnesia, he indicated, bowing his head as if the weight of this realization, the real, real-life reality of history were too much to bear. It was only a moment before he lifted his eyes. His hope. Not his alone, ours. “You must see.”
In my first breaths in my new-world-without-Galeano, I choose to remember his eyes, lifted skyward.