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Guatemala is the land of Eternal Springs and the home of the richly cultured and historic Mayan people It is also the country of Rigoberta Menchu an illiterate farm worker turned voice of oppressed people everywhere Guatemala also has the sad distinction of being home to Latin Americas oldest civil war For more than three decades left-wing guerrillas have fought a series of rightist governments in Guatemala The war has killed an estimated 140000 in the country which has 11 million people NY Times June 14 1996 pA4 col 2 This is a story of a people in crisis and one womans struggle to use truth as a means of setting her people freeThe majority of the population are Indians and much of the struggles arise out of the ashes of the past Spain conquered Guatemala in 1524 which was the start of the oppression of the native people of Guatemala Since this time the native people have been ruled by the Spanish-speaking minority the Ladinos many of which are descended from the Spanish colonistsBeginning in 1954 when Guatemalas elected government was overthrown by the army the military began a brutal war against the Indian people This type of torture and oppression continued and during the 1970s the repression was especially harsh during this time more and more Indians began to resist It was during this time that Rigoberta Menchus family became involved in the resistanceThe situation in Guatemala is similar to South Africa where the black majority are ruled with absolute power by the white minority Like South Africa the Indians in Guatemala are lacking in even the most basic of human rights Indeed the so-called forest Indians are being systematically exterminated in the name of progress But unlike the Indian rebels of the past who wanted to go back to pre-Columbian times Rigoberta Menchu is not fighting in the name of an idealized or mythical past Menchu xiii Rigoberta is working toward drawing
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