Cultural Fight to Survive Essay examples

Submitted By Monkeetintin
Words: 2464
Pages: 10

Since the Spanish colonization of Latin American countries in the sixteenth century, the indigenous populations in Latin America have faced oppression from the Spaniards. The testimonial novel, I, Rigoberta Menchu, edited by Elisabeth Burgos-Debray and told by the title character, details the eyewitness events of an Indian Guatemalan woman who faces the daily struggles of her people. Because of her people’s lack of wealth and landownership, they must deal with the oppression and violence of their wealthier counterparts. Through Rigoberta’s real life accounts, the reader sees how working in the fields as a young child has shaped her perception of the life of her people and the Guatemalan genocide that ensues. The Indian populations of Guatemala deal with problems from ladinos because they still possess more racial superiority to the Indians. The ladinos are oftentimes wealthy landowners or overseers who have power over the Guatemalan government, and thus can dictate control over the indigenous people who work under them. In I, Rigoberta Menchu, the indigenous people of Guatemala preserve their Mayan Indian culture and livelihood during violent warfare through their reflections on racial-class, religion, and gender. Throughout many events in Latin American history, the whiter Spanish have been able to flourish off the physical labor of the poor indigenous populations. Race in Guatemala dictates social and economic class like many of its neighboring countries and thus influences and functions in the Indian struggles. Rigoberta notes as a young child while on a trip to the country’s capital with her father how ‘“Those houses, those people,’ I thought, ‘this is the world of the ladinos.’ For me it was, the world of the ladinos. We were different” (Menchu 32). Even as a young girl, she was able to distinguish between racial classes and thus adds to the influences that cause her to fight for her people. While the ladinos have the nice sturdy homes, an indigenous family who previously lived in Rigoberta’s community and had moved to the capital for better opportunity lives in “a tiny shack made of cardboard…[and] hardly had any food to eat in the house” (32). There is a clear distinction between who is allotted the better opportunity for success, the ladinos who have the Spanish descent can gain wealth, while the pure Guatemalan Indians must suffer through the discrimination of their race. In many Latin American countries, such as Cuba and Mexico, race rather than leadership and dedication, determines class. In the film, The Last Supper, the audience sees how the blacks mixed with Spanish blood obtained high-ranking jobs such as overseer, while the full blacks remained slaves in the Cuban sugar plantations. In another film, Like Water for Chocolate, the Mexicans with more Spanish descent owned large ranches while the darker Indian Mexican worked for the land owner. Throughout many depictions of historical events in Latin America, the audience sees the distinction between race and class. The lighter skinned person will always possess a higher position in the social ladder than a darker skinned person. Latin America has based their class system on race during the Spanish colonial period and more so after. The distinction between race and class has become interconnected, and thus creates tension between the different classes. Even as a child Rigoberta notes that “We were different.” She compares how the ladinos are different from her own community and she includes herself by stating “we.” The Guatemala Civil War, which lasted from 1960 to 1996 was a very long fight, and was an internal war between the government and rebels who fought for basic civil and human rights. Incapable of blurring racial and class system lines, inequality and the ignorance of human rights led to the fight for humanity. In order for the Mayan culture to survive, the people must fight for the rights they should be born with. The ladinos are able to thrive