In honor of Columbus Day I present you with this book. It is an autobiographical account of Rigoberta Menchú, a Guatemalan Quiché Mayan and Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Rigoberta and my mom actually grew up around the same time period. I’ve heard my mom’s horror stories of life in Guatemala at the time many times before. I always thought they were exaggerated because my mom has a flair for embellishing stories. But um, no, turns out she wasn’t being dramatic. The government really did do all of those awful things. And to think my mom was a child and witnessed all those atrocities. That brings tears to my eyes. No one should live in a state of fear.
Menchú narrated her story when she was about 24 years old to anthropologist Elizabeth Burgos. I actually didn’t know much about Rigoberta Menchú going into this book. I knew there was some kind of controversy surrounding her but to what it extended to I had no clue. Honestly, I still don’t. It’s her story. Every memoir has to be taken with a grain of salt.
Menchú talks about her childhood. How she was brought up in a traditional Quiché way, tinged with Christianity. She discusses how the Church made its way into her village and how the elders in the community dealt with it. She also documents how she was made to feel worthless by the treatment of non-American Indians. Her revolutionary ideals are also discussed as she recounts how the military robbed, raped, and pillaged the Mayan communities. It’s brutally heartbreaking.
There is also a lot of information on Quiché traditions and customs. I was surprised by how detailed she was in certain aspects. Because she makes it known early on, that everyone in her community is brought up to keep those traditions/customs secret. But, she explains that non-American Indians have been taking advantage of American Indians by spreading lies about them. So to prove that they actually have a rich way of life, she is divulging secrets that provide insight into how the communities function. It’s also why Rigoberta chose to learn spanish. How else would she be able to fight her oppressor and attempt to right the wrongs committed against her and her people?
Some of her stories sounded like ones I’ve heard my mom tell me before. My mom once told me that sometimes when there was no food to eat, my grandma would make tortillas with chile. That was her meal for the day. And lo and behold, Rigoberta recounts a similar story. Reminded me of my privilege and made me incredibly appreciative of my mother.
Now, there is a lot of repetition in the book. A lot. Also, Rigoberta had only been speaking spanish for 3 years at the time she narrated her story, which actually made it easier for me to read. All in all, it’s given me a new perspective on my identity. There’s a sense of responsibility now weighing on my shoulders…
2018 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge.
Prompt: a book tied to your ancestry [I’m Guatemalan 🙂 ]
Challenge Update: 43/50