Indian Woman in Guatemala by Rigoberta Menchu Term Paper

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Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala by Rigoberta Menchu. Specifically, it will contain an interpretive essay regarding the book. Rigoberta Menchu's book is the story of a young girl coming of age in her homeland, and the story of her people, the Indians of Guatemala. It is not a tender story; it is filled with violence and oppression. Rigoberta's story is one of a determined people who will fight for what they believe in, but is their way of life worth fighting and dying for?

Rigoberta Menchu is a Quiche Indian woman from Guatemala who tells her own life story in this remarkable book. A Paris anthropologist recorded her in a series of interviews, and transcribed them to become this tale of growing up in a vastly different country from our own. Menchu was born in 1959, and by the time she was eight, she was working with her family in the finca, picking coffee and cotton on the coast of Guatemala for the rich planters, or ladinos. When they are not picking, they make the long journey back to their small village in the mountains, where they have their own plot of land to grow crops for sale. The family is desperately poor and uneducated; their only method of survival is to work incredibly hard under extremely harsh conditions. For example, the workers in the fields all share one outdoor open toilet for about 400 workers, and the landowners spray pesticides on the fields even when the workers are picking. Rigoberta saw one of her older brothers die from the spray, and others have been documented as dying because of the spraying. The landowners also routinely changed quotas and found many ways to cheat the workers out of their meager wages. Rigoberta also watched another of her brothers die of malnutrition, and as she worked on the plantations, she saw that other Indians were suffering the same hardships.

Her experiences made her angry, and she began to look for ways to escape this life of poverty and oppression. She worked as a maid in Guatemala City, but found the household as difficult to work in as the fields, and she returned to her family. Her father was also angry at the hardships they faced, and began to become active with others to attempt to save their small plot of land from large landowners who wanted it for their own. Rigoberta remembers,

My father fought for twenty-two years, waging a heroic struggle against the landowners who wanted to take our land and our neighbors' land. After many years of hard work, when our small bit of land began yielding harvests and our people had a large area under cultivation, the big landowners appeared: the Brols.
It's said there that they were even more renowned criminals than the Mart'nez and Garc'a families, who owned a finca there before the Brols arrived (Menchu 103).

Committed to holding on to what they had worked so hard for, the peasants resisted the landowners whenever they could, and began to discuss forming a union that would unite the peasants and give them more rights and opportunities. "My father came back very proudly and said, 'We must fight the rich because they have become rich with our land, our crops.' That was when my father started to join up with other peasants and discussed the creation of the CUC with them" (Menchu 115). The peasants began to fight back against the horrid conditions, but the government became involved, and began their own quest for the peasants' lands. Eventually, Rigoberta's father was jailed for resisting government land takeovers, and the family only managed to get him released by a combination of phenomenal effort and luck. The landowners and the government combined to "repress" Rigoberta's village, which meant the Indians would be shoved off the land after two years. All their hard work to create viable cropland would be in vain, and they would have to begin anew. Rigoberta began to understand that language and education were the keys to success for the Indians, and she vowed to learn Spanish so she could be more valuable to her family, and protect them from the greedy landowners. Eventually, another of her brothers and both her parents are murdered by government troops. "I told myself that I wasn't the only orphan in Guatemala. There are many others, and it's not my grief alone, it's the grief of a whole people, and….....

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