New Internationalist


June 2002

The Angel

At the end of the summer of ’96, José Luis Chilavert scored a historic goal in Buenos Aires. The Paraguayan soccer star, who blocks goals as skilfully as he makes them, shot from afar, 30 metres out. The ball flew up into the clouds, then dropped straight down and into the opposing net. Journalists wanted to know how he did it. What was the secret of that kick? How did he make the ball take that incredible journey? How could the ball fall in a straight line from such a height?

‘It hit an angel,’ Chilavert explained.

But no-one thought to check the ball for bloodstains. Nobody bothered to look. And so we lost a chance to find out if angels are like us, if only in that way.

Work Clothes

One hundred-and-thirty-five years after his death, Abraham Lincoln was spotted on the streets of Baltimore, Annapolis and other cities in Maryland. Lincoln would walk into a store, any store. Touching the brim of his top hat, he’d make a slight bow. Then he’d survey the panorama with his unmistakable, mournful eyes while stroking his greying beard, no moustache, and from his black frock coat he’d pull out a Magnum 357. And in his direct style, that of a man who makes his point without beating around the bush, he’d say: ‘Your money or your life.’ During the month of May in the year 2000, Kevin Gibson, dressed as Abraham Lincoln, held up 11 stores before the police caught him.

Gibson will be in prison for quite a while. He wonders why. After all, he was only imitating the country’s most successful politicians.

The Intruders

They had never seen a city. They travelled to Madrid from their far-off village. Dalia and Felipe, Tojolabal Indians, let themselves be carried along, not asking a thing, accompanied by friendly people from Madrid who ate and drank and walked with them.

After a few days, they were cross-eyed from watching the flow of people and cars, the crowd and the car-owd, and their necks were stiff from gawking at so many tall buildings.

When they were about to leave, Dalia and Felipe dared to ask: ‘How do you manage to live all on top of each other? Where do you plant your corn and beans?’


Leonardo Rosiello came back from the northern reaches of the world. The trip from Stockholm to Montevideo did not go smoothly, some problem connecting from one flight to another, and Leonardo arrived late at night on a plane no-one expected him to be on. At his parents’ door he hesitated. ‘Shall I wake them or not?’

For years he had been living far away, a time of exile in the blind years under military dictatorship and he was dying to see his family. But he decided it would be better to wait.

He set off down the street of his childhood and he was sure the pavement recognized his footsteps. His head filled up with old news and silly jokes and everything seemed fresh and delightful. A full moon had risen high in the sky to greet him and to light up his sleeping city. It was a freezing winter night, the city was cloaked in frost, but he savoured the air as if it were the tropics.

It took Leonardo a long while to realize he was carrying a suitcase and that the suitcase weighed more than a tombstone, or perhaps an entire cemetery. So he crossed the street, walked through an empty lot and sat himself down on his suitcase, leaning back against a wall.

The cold would not let him sleep. When he stood up and looked at the wall, he found drawings and words on its crumbling surface: hearts pierced by arrows, vows of true love and vengeance at love lost, even a slur (‘Maria has cellulitis’).

And thanks to the moonlight, Leonardo was also able to make out a few words that were nearly worn away, words that asked: ‘And so, where were you? What were you saying? Who were you talking to?’

Eduardo Galeano is one of Latin America’s foremost writers. He lives in Montevideo, Uruguay, and his latest book Upside Down is published by Metropolitan Books, New York.

Front cover of New Internationalist magazine, issue 346 This column was published in the June 2002 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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This article was originally published in issue 346

New Internationalist Magazine issue 346
Issue 346

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