Editor Pablo Navarrete’s editorial for issue 1 of Alborada magazine (Spring/Summer 2015)
More and more have the right to hear and see, but fewer and fewer have the privilege of informing, giving their opinion and creating. The dictatorship of the single word and the single image, much more devastating than that of the single party, is imposing a life whose exemplary citizen is a docile consumer and passive spectator…’
So goes one of my favourite quotes from Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano, who sadly passed away in April this year. As a teenager, his book Open Veins of Latin America opened my eyes to the historical dynamics at play between the region and imperial world powers, in a way that I’d never experienced. The injustices I read about were overwhelming, and the poetry Galeano used to convey them made a powerful impression on me.
I saw Galeano speak twice: the first time in conversation with Australian journalist and documentary filmmaker John Pilger in London; and then in January 2013, in Santiago, Chile, at a reading in a theatre overflowing with people, mostly students. As Galeano spoke you could hear the chants of students outside pleading to be allowed in. At one point Galeano stopped proceedings and negotiated with the organisers for those outside to be let in. More students poured in until every inch of the theatre was full. The atmosphere was electric; the respect between Galeano and the audience was mutual.
The passion shown by the young in Chile to hear a master story-teller like Galeano speak, in many ways explains why this magazine has been produced. At the Galeano event, many of the students inside the theatre or desperately trying to get in were the same ones who had formed part of the inspirational student movement that had burst onto Chile’s national consciousness in 2011 with its demands for a free, state-funded education system. These demands rocked Chile’s neoliberal consensus to its core. The students who had gone to hear Galeano recognised that their movement formed part of a historical struggle throughout Latin America for justice, sovereignty and true democracy; and that Galeano was on their side, a comrade.
This is the side Alborada is on. Since launching in 2009 with an event on Brazil’s landless movement and the release of a documentary on Venezuela under the late Hugo Chávez (via Alborada Films), we have never pretended to be ‘objective.’ Through our events, website and films we have shared some of the many stories of hope and horror in Latin America past and present, making an effort to present a range of progressive perspectives. This magazine aims to be a further window into uncovering this Latin America – a Latin America that the establishment media in the English-speaking world have little interest in covering.
In fact, the reactionary role the mass media have played and continue to play in conditioning perceptions on Latin America is something that can never be overstated. Whether it be demonising Salvador Allende’s Chile, Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution or through largely ignoring the crimes of governments friendly with the ‘the West’ (think Colombia and Mexico today), the mass media have played an insidious role. Of course, not all media outlets are the same. However it is now all too predictable when so called ‘progressive’ media outlets sing from virtually the same hymn sheet as their more right-wing colleagues when it comes to reporting on Latin America.
So this first Alborada magazine is a very humble contribution to challenging that ‘dictatorship of the single word and image’ that Galeano wrote about. In the pages that follow we offer stories that contrast with the dominant media narratives served up about Latin America. Galeano once put it like this: ‘One writes out of a need to communicate and to commune with others, to denounce that which gives pain and to share that which gives happiness.’ These words also encapsulate the sentiment behind this magazine’s production. We hope you enjoy it. Gracias Galeano. La lucha continúa!
This article was originally published in issue one (Spring/Summer 2015) of Alborada magazine