The narrative I, Rigoberta Menchu (1983) recounts the struggle of an individual to maintain her self-identity and sense of cultural pride despite experiencing fierce oppression. The oppression that is experienced by Rigoberta is based on cultural injustices that emerge from social class, gender, and racism. In the narrative, Rigoberta explains the ways in which she fought to preserve her Mayan culture. She represents her identity as being a part of a long-lived heritage that is threatened by the ladinos, which are those Guatemalans that seek to eradicate Indian culture and Indian values. She explains that the meaning of her self-identity and its value is connected to her heritage and culture and to fighting to save and protect this culture from those who are oppressors and exploiters.
The life that is led by Rigoberta on the finca is harsh and involves a daily struggle to not only maintain dignity and a sense of cultural freedom, but merely to survive. The fact that her gender, social class, and ethnicity all work to ensure her status as a persecuted member of society only reinforces her resolve to resist the ladinos. The deprivations, torture, and inhumane treatment that is experienced by the Indians is both tragic and unjust; however, Rigoberta’s narrative shows how the ancient cultural values of her people stands as a powerful method of resistance against the crimes committed against her and her fellow Indians. She remarks at one point in the narrative how culture and community are one and how the Indians used every little opportunity to “organize some sort of celebration using our customs” (Rigoberta, 79). This simple statement shows that culture, heritage and tradition are the ways in which Rigoberta represented and maintained her identity in the face of terrible exploitation and oppression that was committed against her people by the ladinos.
Menchú, Rigoberta . I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala. Verso, UK. 1984.