The Uruguayan historian Eduardo Galeano opened his 1971 book Open Veins of Latin America with an indictment: “The division of labor among nations is that some specialize in winning and others in losing. Our part of the world, known today as Latin America, was precocious: It has specialized in losing ever since those remote times when Renaissance Europe ventured across the ocean and buried their teeth in the throats of Indian civilizations.”

Galeano, who died in 2015, argued that Europe and the U.S. had plundered Latin America and impoverished the region. As Ángel Gurría-Quintana, a Mexican historian, writes in our lead essay, early Europeans to the New World saw Latin America as an Eden of “boundless resources.”

After Galeano published his famous volume, the political landscape only worsened. On Sept. 11, 1973, a U.S.-backed military coup ended over 40 years of democracy in Chile. In the mid-1970s, the Argentine military...

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