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Rigoberta Mench ú Tum. Born in 1959 in Guatemala’s department of El Quiche Native language is Quiche (K’iche) Mountainous topography of Quiche: site of much guerilla activity and subsequent army repression. I, Rigoberta Mench ú.

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Rigoberta mench tum

Rigoberta Menchú Tum

Born in 1959 in


department of El Quiche

Native language

is Quiche (K’iche)

Mountainous topography of Quiche: site of much guerilla activity and subsequent army repression

I rigoberta mench
I, Rigoberta Menchú

  • Menchú and her family participated in CUC (Peasant Union Committee)

    • Brother tortured and killed by army in 1979

    • Father (Vicente Menchú) killed in Spanish embassy fire in 1980

    • Mother was raped, tortured, and killed by the army later that year

    • Menchú (in her early 20s) went into hiding and then went to Mexico in exile

I rigoberta mench an indian woman in guatemala 1983
I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala (1983)

  • While living in exile in Mexico, Menchú gave a testimonial account of Guatemala’s civil war to Elisabeth Burgos Debray

  • David Stoll critique: Menchú could not have been eye-witness, account is unreliable

  • 1992: Menchú awarded Nobel Peace Prize (500th anniversary of Columbus arrival to the Americas)

  • Activism towards recognition of indigenous rights throughout the Americas

  • Presidential candidate in 2007

Ethnic identity markers in guatemala
Ethnic Identity Markers in Guatemala

  • Language

    • not easily learned or assumed

    • generally requires intense interaction with native speakers

  • Dress

    • Marker of ethnicity: marks one as indigenous (traje) or ladino (Western clothing)

    • more fluid than language

  • Religion, surnames, phenotype

Huipil p ot blouse corte uq skirt faja ximbal belt
huipil (p’ot): blousecorte (uq):skirtfaja (ximbal): belt


  • Dress and fluidity of identity: can emphasize and present different aspects of identity

  • Place specific: traje associated with ethnic group and with specific towns

  • Traje also indicates wealth, age, religion, worldliness of wearer

Cultural significance of weaving
Cultural Significance of Weaving

  • Connects modern women to pre-Conquest ancestors

  • Symbolic of Maya women’s work in the household

Men s traje
Men’s Traje

  • Tecpan region: white pants, blue or white shirt, dark wool jacket, hat, sandals

  • Use of traje disappearing among men

    • Greater participation in non-Maya world

Declining use of traje
Declining Use of Traje

  • Kaqchikel girls not learning how to weave because spend more time on schoolwork

  • Globalization:

    • Influence of television that gives status to Western clothing (shorts, miniskirts, jeans)

    • Ropa americana (second-hand clothing from US sold cheaply in Latin America)

Maya revitalization
Maya Revitalization

Mixing of traje:

  • Solidarity

  • Status

  • Admire beauty of clothing

  • Men’s bomber jackets symbolic of participation in Maya movement in 1990s

Maya movement
Maya Movement

  • Cultural revitalization: encourage women to use traje and learn to weave

  • Why don’t men return to using traje?

    • Male participation in non-Maya world

    • Impossibility to hide one’s identity in traje

    • Did not grow up wearing traje