My position on "I, Rigobertu Menchu"

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Tue Dec 22 07:24:42 PST 1998

By the way, my own position on this book is different than Robin Blackburn's or Jim Beverly's. This is what I posted to warriornet, an indigenous struggles mailing-list, on the day the NY Times article appeared. Needless to say, it is different than Jim Heartfield's position as well, which is rather difficult to discern. He seems to be saying that Rigobertu Menchu is a "brown Marxist" like himself, while at the same time he seems to identify with the right-wing attack on her book, which is less about upholding historical accuracy than discrediting the Guerrilla Army of the Poor, a group which effectively combined Marxism and indigenism. Their very success was what prompted the brutal extermination policy of Rios-Montt.

****** posted to warriornet:

Today's NY Times front page has the latest in a series of attacks on indigenous rights from the world of anthropology. In recent months, we have been treated to various "anthropological" right-wing assaults:

1) The Indians of the Southwest practiced cannibalism. Political implication: It doesn't matter if Europeans exterminated Indians, since they did it to themselves as well.

2) Skeletal remains near the Columbia River in Washington State "prove" that Caucasians preceded the Indian historically. Political implication: land claims are meaningless because who knows who the original inhabitants were.

3) The convention of the American Anthropological Association was devoted to a discussion of the "population problem." This is a euphemism for "too many people of color." One of these cryptofascists with a PhD pointed to population concentrations in Latin America and described them as "cancerous tumors" on the face of the earth.

Today's NY Times reports on the "investigations" of anthropologist David Stoll, who has revealed numerous inconsistencies in "I, Rigobertu Menchu". This boils down to 2 main points. One, that the land claims of her parents were not really directed against rich Spanish landlords, but members of her own extended family. Two, that she was much better educated than she let on. Rather than being an illiterate Indian, she was educated in Catholic schools.

While it is absolutely scandalous that Menchu and Elizabeth Burgos, who collaborated with her, would make things up, we have to be clear what the real agenda of people like Stoll and the US government is on this question. They want to whitewash the Guatemalan regime of Rios Montt, who killed more than 100,000 indigenous peoples in a bloodbath that lasted over years, one that would cause Pinochet to recoil in horror.

The movement for indigenous rights extends from Canada through Guatemala and there is evidence that their land claims are being taken seriously, despite setbacks to the Nisga'a, etc. The murderers and land thieves are seeking desperately to tarnish the reputation of everybody involved in this struggle. Our goal should be to hammer away at the bigger truth. Whatever fictions may be present in "I Rigobertu Menchu", the larger fact is that our client state in Guatemala was guilty of genocide.

Louis Proyect


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