Rigoberta Menchu Tum

May 29, 2009
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Rigoberta Menchu Tum

I read the book Rigoberta Menchu Tum by Heather Lehr Wagner which was published in 2007 by Chelsea House. This biography was fascinating because it informed me about the Mayan culture and why Rigoberta Menchu received her Nobel Peace Prize.

In the book, Rigoberta Menchu, a Quiche Indian, fights for indigenous rights in Guatemala. She faces several obstacles such as her father’s arrest and family’s death but that only motivates her to keep fighting for her country’s rights. Once Menchu started to become a well-known international figure, she was nominated and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

I enjoyed the book because it illustrated the ways of the Mayan K’iche’ Culture. The book described the process in which a child is born. The child belongs to the community. The elected leaders in each K’iche’ community agrees to be the “grandparents” to the child and help raise the unborn baby. Each day the mother-to-be is visited by neighbors and receives small gifts. In the seventh month, she constantly talks to her baby about her day-to-day tasks. At the baby’s birth the husband, village leaders, and both sets of the couple’s parents are present. The newborn baby stays with her mother for eight days and on the eighth day the family counts the number of people who brought gifts for the baby. “If most of the community has provided something during the eight days, this is a great honor and means that the child must be responsible for the community when he or she grows older” (Rigoberta Menchu Tum, p.10). The book also wrote about the responsibilities of the Mayan children and revealed many traditions about them including Holy Week.




I also liked the book because Rigoberta Menchu won the Nobel Peace Prize. Since her teenage years she protested tirelessly against the discrimation her people deal with from the Guatemalan government and wealthy landowners. In the book, Heather Lehr Wagner wrote how Menchu worked as a maid for a ladino couple and their three children in Guatemala. She was given a small mat to sleep on, where the trash was kept. The family’s dog was fed meat, rice, and scraps from the meals but Menchu was only given a few beans and stale tortillas. It also stated that in 1978 the Guatemalan army began setting up military camps in many of the villages. A year later, Menchu’s brother, Petrocinio, was taken away to one of these camps and came back nearly dead. Many unfortunate events took place in Menchu’s life but she never stopped fighting for her country’s rights, and that was why I was glad that Rigoberta Menchu won the Nobel Peace Prize. I would absolutely recommend this book to others because it informed me a lot about the Guatemalan’s culture and struggles.

Rigoberta Menchu Tum was extremely interesting. It truly taught me a lot about the country of Guatemala. Hopefully you will benefit from this book like I did.





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