DON’T CALL MY COUNTRY “THIRD WORLD”!
Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent
Eduardo Hughes Galeano
“Latin America is the region of open veins. Everything from the discovery until our times, has always been transmuted into European–or later–United States– capital, and as such has accumulated on distant centers of power. Everything: the soil, its fruits and its mineral-rich depths, the people and their capacity to work and to consume, natural resources and human resources.”
Eduardo Hughes Galeano, Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent
Nomenclatures keep changing in all fields, and being aware of those changes is important, mostly when dealing with multicultural teams. Now we have multicultural teams in , so we all need to be aware of what and how much some nomenclatures mean. Education worldwide is based in European and North American history, with the “white man” as the focus, the hero, the one who “discovered” all other territories (wouldn’t the word “invaded” suit better here?). As if we, the “others” had only started to exist after colonization.
I do know my country’s history and we are the focus now. Before the Portuguese colonize Brazil, we had millions of indigenous in Brazilian territory, which, one time or another, were decimated by the colonizers in cold blood. A little bit of Brazilian history now: Around 1500 Portugal invaded Brazil and discovered our richness. On the other hand, the “white man” made us discover extreme violence, in order to get our natural resources, and diseases that no indigenous had ever seen, like flue, yellow fever, smallpox, and measles.
According to The National Indian Foundation, FUNAI, the organization that ensures indigenous rights and the protection of their lands in Brazil, over 70% of the indigenous population was killed since colonization started. And they are still getting killed so agricultures can take their lands to export more soy, meat, and a huge diversity of products to Europe.
By: Agência Brasil
Usually, in schools all around the world, even in Latin America, we learn the white man history, the white man literature, and all about the white man “conquer”. In Brazil, everybody wants to be European. But what do you have that we don’t? How did Europeans got to “eurocentrize” us at a point where we don’t want to be who we are? What is the mentality here?
The vision of the white man was that the indigenous were not developed, that the societies were not organized, that they used to live in sin for having another religion, gods and way of living in general. This view is the predominant one and we need to change that. There is a huge need in acknowledging the truth and what really happened in the world’s history. There was an indigenous genocide, and it is still going on since they are not considered “productive”. Eduardo Galeano says in his book: “The Indians of the Americas totaled no less than 70 million when the foreign conquerors appeared on the horizon; a century and a half later they had been reduced to 3.5 million”.
Since the colonization Europeans started with the idea that black and indigenous people were objects, were labor force, and not real persons. And they were only considered as people in Brazil, once the indigenous abdicated their own religion to serve the white God. The idea of not being a human being once you are one, that you are less than others, that you and your culture worth nothing, runs through to the present day.
The mentality of being less that my country grew with is what makes us want to be like you. The corruption brought by the Europeans is so ingrained in our societies that gets difficult to move forward and even to have a national feeling of belonging, of wanting to belong to that culture. I am the type of person who knows what my country has been through and I will always defend us with my own nails and teeth if needed. It is not easy to hear from Europeans about “third world countries” once you know everything that happened with those, and what still happens. We are still your slaves in the sense that Europe and North America got so much wealth from stealing and killing us, and after that, we still had to adapt to your economy by starting from the bottom due to the economic dependence that was already created by colonization.
Understanding the history and background of the countries our teammates are from is important, so we don’t get to be offensive unconsciously. I keep listening to people referring to my country, Brazil, as a “third world country”, and in the back of my mind I wonder, what does it mean? Maybe it means that the Europeans explored us so much (and still do) that nowadays we can’t leave the position of oppressed that it was pushed into our throats throughout our slavery and genocide history?
It is too easy to be considered a “developed” country that knows how to be more conscious with your citizens and your nature, when you are, at the same time, overexploiting other countries. That “consciousness” becomes a farce. I refuse to say that my country is underdeveloped or third world. How much do Europeans and North Americans have today that was stolen from our bare hands? Our blood is all over Europe and North America. Honestly, every time I hear the expression “third world country”, all of this and even more pops into my mind. It is distressing and disrespectful, it hurts.
In a quick historical review, during the Cold War, the world was divided into rich and poor, first and third world, North and South countries. Countries like mine, that were not directly involved in the conflicts, were automatically excluded or considered not important due to the political polarization (capitalists X communists) that existed by that time, and it suffers consequences of this situation until today.
Have you ever thought about any of those historical and sociological aspects when the sentence “third world countries” was coming out of your mouth? Have you ever said that in a multicultural meeting? Or in one of our training sessions? Would you say that again after knowing how I feel? I think probably that is not something that usually comes to Finns minds, of course, you are not the ones I’m blaming here, and nobody knows everything, including me. But you should always understand that you also get the benefits from socioeconomic exclusion that came from colonization processes around the world.
Just remember: “third world country” is an obsolete expression when it comes to history, sociology, and economy. These kinds of terms used to be taught in schools all over the world, but they are harmful and unreal. Also, the South countries are rich, so rich that we had to be made slaves and suffer genocide so you could take our natural resources, our silver, gold, and our labor force, for you to have the comfort you have today, and we keep struggling.
Galeano, E., Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, Profile Books Ltd, 2009.
Written by Luiza de Oliveira Vago.