I, Rigoberta Menchu

4 April 2015
An examination of the Guatemalan story “I, Rigoberta Menchu” by anthropologist Elisabeth Burgos-Debray.

This paper explores anthropologist Elisabeth Burgos-Debray description of the Guatemalan women, Rigoberta Menchu , who describes her Indian peasant life to the author. The paper exhibits the relationship between life and the larger political struggles taking place across Guatemala and Latin America as a whole. It also describes the Civil war in this country and the persecution of Rigoberta Menchu ‘s family by the national security forces.
The Indians constitute the majority in Guatemala, which differentiates their situation from that of most countries in Latin America where the Indians are a minority without even the most elementary rights. Still, a white minority has the power in Guatemala, and it seems likely that the fact that the majority Indians are divided into 22 different ethnic groups may have contributed to their largely powerless position in their society. Rigoberta wishes to change this situation, and this one woman is not fighting for a mythical Indian past but is instead seeking to play a part in the shaping of contemporary history (Burgos-Debray, 1983), xiii).

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The world into which this woman was born is a world where the people live in a subsistence economy, working the land for others and moving from place to place as they follow the work through the seasons. This is also a world at war, with Guatemala in the grips of a civil war for more than 30 years. This war affected Rigoberta directly as her father, mother, and younger brother were tortured and killed by the Guatemalan security forces that have been persecuting the peasantry.

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