Guatemala - Without a Trace of Bitterness in Her Voice

Essay by Stacye RothbardCollege, UndergraduateA+, January 1996

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Guatemala is the land of Eternal Springs and the home of the richly cultured and historic Mayan people. It it also the country of Rigoberta Menchu, an illeterite farm worker, turned voice of oppressed people everywhere. Guatemala also has the sad distinction of being home to Latin America's oldest civil war. 'For more than three decades, left-wing guerrillas have fought a series of rightist governments in Guatemala. The war has killed an estimated 140,000 in the country, which has 11 million people.' (N.Y. Times June 14, 1996 pA4 col 2) This is a story of a people in crisis, and one woman's struggle to use truth, as a means of setting her people free.

The majority of the population are Indians, and much of the struggles arise out of the ashes of the past. Spain conquered Guatemala in 1524, which was the start of the oppression of the native people of Guatemala.

Since this time the native people have been ruled by the Spanish speaking minority, the Ladinos, many of which are descended from the Spanish colonists.

Beginning in 1954, when Guatemala's elected government was overthrown by the army, the military began a brutal war against the Indian people. This type of torture and oppression continued, and during the 1970's the repression was especially harsh; during this time more and more Indians began to resist. It was during this time that Rigoberta Menchu's family became involved in the resistance.

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The situation in Guatemala is similar to South Africa, where the black majority are ruled with absolute power by the white

minority. Like South Africa, the Indians in Guatemala are lacking in even the most basic of human rights. 'Indeed the so-called forest Indians are being systematically exterminated in the name of progress. But unlike the Indian...