The first part deals specifically with the arrival of Columbus and the Europeans and the resources exploitations. The second part chronicles Latin American history and the most recent external interventions.
Notably, the book received a sales boost when Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez gave a copy of the book to Barack Obama. A later edition had also received a foreword from Isabel Allende, the daughter of Chilian president who had famously died in a military coup that ushered in Pinochet's dictatorship.
This book provides examples of:
- Banned in China: Because of the books criticism of the right-wing military governments all around the zone, it was banned in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay (but it isn't anymore.)
- Hero with Bad Publicity: Tiny nations that tried to resist international meddling, like Paraguay.
- Shown His Work: Galeano took four years just to compile the information. According to him, he wrote the book in just three months.
- Villain with Good Publicity: The European powers (mainly the United Kingdom, France, Spain and Portugal) and the United States.