How do the Quiche Indians combat their oppression and exploitation in I, Rigoberta Menchu?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In a sense, this entire book charts the Quiche Indian struggle for liberation, however to focus on one specific method that the Indians adopt in order to try to resist the position in which they find themselves, I would definitely single out literacy.

The book details the oral tradition of the tribe, which means that instead of relying on reading and writing and books, information, knowledge, myths and legends are passed from one generation to the next. However, Menchu quickly realises that because Indians speak so many different languages, they are unable to communicate with each other easily, in spite of their shared position as exploited groups. In addition, we can see that Menchu's family are very suspicious of the Spanish language, as they believe that learning Spanish will corrupt their daughter. Menchu realises gradually how challenging it is to not be literate, particularly in Spanish, when her family signs documents that they do not understand which leaves them without any land.

Menchu as a result makes a decision to learn Spanish with the intention of organising peasants more effectively. Her reason for doing this is borne out of necessity, for she says:

Since Spanish was a language which united us, why learn all the twenty-two languages in Guatemala? ... I learned Spanish out of necessity.

Therefore, one very important step that the narrator of this account takes in terms of trying to resist the exploitation of her people is to deliberately learn the language of her oppressors in order to be able to resist them better.


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