Globe, Latin America, Migrants, Multiculture

Manuel Galich: Word vs. oppression

His ability to teach history to the student in such an enjoyable way through the use of fine irony, humor and profuse anecdotes were some of the features that defined the character of the Guatemalan intellectual.


Randy Saborit Mora


He was baptized as The Voice of the Guatemalan Revolution in 1944 for his oratory skills and actively participated in the student movement during the overthrow of the 15 year dictatorship of Jorge Ubico and his transient successor, General Federico Ponce.

However throughout the life of Manuel Galich (1913-1984) he did not only stay in this one career, but also consistent with his principles, he became Chancellor, Minister of Education, Guatemalan ambassador in Uruguay and Argentina, besides becoming President of the Congress.

In the last post he introduced the Galich Law, which proposed to make it a crime for one country to be servile to another, recalled one of his daughters, Eva Galich, who argued that such legislation would not be prosperous in the legislature .

Eva recalled in a panel held last week in the capital’s San Carlos University Museum that since childhood she always remembers seeing her father in front of a typewriter or with a book in his hand.

Galich served as the highest representative of his homeland in Argentina, where President Jacobo Arbenz was overthrown in June 1954, in a coup led by the U.S. government and implemented by the Central Intelligence Agency.

After nearly a decade of exile in Argentina he won the 1961 Casa de las Americas Prize with his play, The Indigestible Fish.

The following year he began to work in the field of culture in a prestigious regional institution, which has its headquarters in Havana, Cuba . During the ’60s and ’70s the workers went home at seven in the morning, an hour before the working day began, to listen with delight to the comments Galich made about what he had read in the Cuban press, recalls Lilliam de la Fuente, who currently works in the centre.

As an orator, he had no rival who possessed the ability to express ideas and the understanding to give opinions regarding political and cultural affairs, said de la Fuente.

To tell the story of the history of Latin American theatre, he remarked, it is necessary to refer to the magazine he founded in 1964 in Casa de las Américas .

In his opinion Galich helped spread the word about the history and culture of the native people of the region, and as part of this he contributed prefaces to editions of the Popol Vuh (1969 ), Annals of the Cakchiquel (1967) and Our First Parents (1979).

Lilliam de la Fuente, also a literature graduate, who was one of his students in American History confessed that he had a knack for teaching classes which went beyond the dates of events and transported everyone into a world of thinking.

He said that he disliked the ‘dates of events’ teaching style which he could not understand because everything had to be learnt by heart, however when offered this module in the fifth year of Arts at the University of Havana, with Galich, he was able to really understand.

In this regard, the prestigious Cuban scholar, Sergio Guerra Vilaboy, mentioned in an article released this year in Jiribilla – a Cuban culture magazine, that the passionate Latin American History lessons given by Galich are still referred to today.

“Galich’s classes, true lectures seasoned with his incredible anecdotes, were a virtuoso performance of pedagogical expertise combined with a clear anti-imperialist Latin American vocation, founded on the legacy of leaders like Simón Bolívar and José Martí, who quoted profusely from memory”, recalled Vilaboy in the text.

The professor at the University of Havana also mentioned that Galich, along with Arbenz, trained in Cuba in order to fight against oppression in their hometown.

He came to figure precisely, as a founding member and director of the Guatemalan Patriotic Union Committee, where he emerged in support of the cause of national liberation headed up at that time by the Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca.

Assistant Professor at the Bicentennial Havana Institute of Higher Learning, Dagoberto Rodriguez, recalled that Galich wrote for the Latin American news agency Prensa Latina and Bohemia magazine, the doyen of such publications in Cuba. Evoking Galich’s work is to make him reborn, as his writings are still valid for the America of the present time, he underlined.

According to Guatemalan playwright Victor Hugo Cruz, Galich had the gift of playing with words and creating  double meanings in pieces like Un Percance en el Brassier(A Mistake in the Brassier), Un Primo en Segundogrado (A Cousin in Second Grade) and El Recurso de Amparo (The Resort to Protection).

In his opinion, his first significant theatrical creation was M’hijo el Bachiller (My Graduate Son), in which the author satirizes the falsity of the traditional Guatemalan education system.

The leading researcher of the life and creations of Galich also referred to Papa Natas (1938), a comedy in three acts, El Canceller Cadejo (1945), in which he described it as social satires aimed at criticizing the dictatorship of General Jorge Ubico .

“Manuel Galich was a cultural phenomenon.”  He sailed in the fields of literature, drama, social anthropology, ethnic issues and political strife. He didn’t have a limit” said the Guatemalan anthropologist, Jorge Solares.

An essential work for understanding the ideology of Galich is Del Panico al Ataque (From panic to Attack), describing it as a childlike account of events occurring at the time of the overthrow of Ubico, said Solares in an interview for the daily paper, Siglo 21.

The book Why does Guatemala Struggle, he said, is like a review of the above, which incorporates the political baggage gained during years of exile. Galich was a lawyer, public notary, diplomat, essayist, historian, politician, author, speaker and teacher.

You would perhaps think that someone with all of these titles would lack time for their family, however his daughter Eva testified that his work never hindered his duty of being a father.

One of his granddaughters, Beatriz Fernandez, also preserved a memory of her Grandfather, of when he used to take her and her sister to the beach and to the movies.

Fernández, who said she lost her Grandfather when she was 15 years old, never forgets that there were many Cuban intellectuals and personalities who attended his funeral on August 31, 1984.

That day the body of Galich died, however he still lives on in the memory of those who knew him, including several teachers who received lessons from him, and then later had given classes to Beatriz,who was one of their students. (PL)

(Translated by Amanda Flanaghan) – Photos: Pxabay

Share it / Compartir:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *