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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
  • 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