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Rigoberta Menchu

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Rigoberta Menchu, a Quiche Indian woman native to Guatemala, is a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for politically reaching out to her country and her people. In her personal testimony tittled “I, Rigoberta Menchu” we can see how she blossomed into the Nobel Prize winner she is today. Following a great deal in her father’s footsteps, Rigoberta’s mobilization work, both within and outside of Guatemala, led to negotiations between the guerillas and the government and reduced the army power within Guatemala. Her work has helped bring light to the strength of individuals and citizen organization in advocacy and policy dialogue on the world scale. In a brief summary of the book I will explore why Rigoberta Menchu is important to Guatemalan development, what she did, and how she helped her people overcome the obstacles thrown their way.

As far back as Rigoberta Manchu can remember, her life has been divided between the highlands of Guatemala and the low country plantations called the fincas. Routinely, Rigoberta and her family spent eight months working here under extremely poor conditions, for rich Guatemalans of Spanish descent. Starvation malnutrition and child death were common occurrence here; rape and murder were not unfamiliar too. Rigoberta and her family worked just as hard when they resided in their own village for a few months every year. However, when residing here, Rigoberta’s life was centered on the rituals and traditions of her community, many of which gave thanks to the natural world. When working in the fincas, she and her people struggled to survive, living at the mercy of wealthy landowners in an overcrowded, miserable environment. By the time Rigoberta was eight years old she was hard working and almost capable of picking enough pounds of coffee to earn the unfair daily wage supplied by the finca.

Although Rigoberta lived in a traditional Indian society, she learned about the world outside of the fincas and the Altiplano at a very young age. She experiences the death of her younger brother at the finca. She feels angry and afraid of what her future holds for her as an indigenous girl. Rigoberta again feels scared, yet compelled, after her first trip to Guatemala City with her father. She starts to crave change for both herself and for her community as she gets older. She yearns for an education and hopes to learn Spanish so that she may explore the world outside of the Altiplano and the fincas; she desires to learn about the world outside and its people.

She is offered a job as a maid in the home of a wealthy landowner located in Guatemala City, and she jumps at the chance, seeing it as an opportunity to learn Spanish. However, after arriving in Guatemala City, she begins to understand the discrimination against her people. Even the dog at the landowner’s home is treated better than her. It is here that she meets Candelaria , an Indian woman like herself, working for the same wealthy landowner, but who speaks Spanish and dresses like a ladino. Candelaria often rebelled and disobeyed by neglecting chores and talking back to the mistress of the house. Rigoberta doesn’t follow in Candelaria’s footsteps immediately, but Candelaria’s rebellious and defiant disposition has an impact on Rigoberta soon after Candelaria is fired and kicked out of the house. As Rigoberta returns from home she discovers her father has been sent to jail for not cooperating with the ladino landowners. The ladinos attempted to uproot Rigoberta’s community and take their land through fake documents and misleading claims. Her father, the community leader, gave his all to prevent this from occurring because he knew it was unjust. This is the first of several times in which Rigoberta’s father was sent to jail. Rigoberta, her family, and the community members, work hard to pay his administration and lawyer fees to set him free.

After the landowners, the government, and the army repeatedly attempt to manipulate, deceive, steal from, kidnap, rape, and kill the Indigenous populations, they decide it’s time to take a stance and defend their lands, people and their culture and revolt against the Guatemalan powers. Led partly by Rigoberta’s father, the Indigenous communities formed the Peasant Unity Committee, or CUC, and gathered their resources to use against the powerful ladino government and landowners. By this time, Rigoberta has taken on a strong leadership role within her community and plays a major part in helping the Indigenous populations develop strategies to defend their land against the Guatemalan army. They used simple weapons such as traps, machetes and lime juice to outsmart the army keep the army away for good..

Rigoberta continues on the road as a representative of the CUC; helping surrounding Indian communities secure their lands and outmaneuver the Guatemalan army. As the CUC became increasingly significant, Rigoberta and her family are viewed as a great threat to the army and landowners. Their lives were at great risk. First, Petrocinio, Rigoberta’s brother, is kidnapped, tortured, and burned alive as Rigoberta’s entire family and surrounding villages are coerced to watch. Then, Rigoberta’s father leads a protest in Guatemala City and is killed in a fire along with other peasant protesters occupying the Spanish Embassy in hopes of gaining international attention to their cause. Finally, Rigoberta’s mother is kidnapped, raped, tortured, and murdered. Rigoberta reacts by turning away life as a married woman and the chance of motherhood in order to become more involved in the peasant cause within Guatemala. She led strikes and other rebellious actions across the nation until she herself became in great danger and had no option but to go into exile in Mexico. Although Rigoberta’s younger sisters joined the guerilla army to fight for the rights of Guatemala’s



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