full title · I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala
author · Edited by Elisabeth Burgos-Debray, from interviews with Rigoberta Menchu
type of work · Autobiography
genre · Memoir; testimonial; bildungsroman
language · Spanish
time and place written · 1982; Paris
date of first publication · 1983
publisher · Editorial Argos Vergara
narrator · Rigoberta Menchu
point of view · The narrator speaks in both plural first person and first person. This fluctuates, based on the events being described. The narrative remains with Rigoberta, although she describes events she could not witness with panoramic detail. As a narrator, Rigoberta represents a highly subjective, limited view of the other characters.
tone · Confessional; sentimental; explanatory
tense · Past; switches to present when describing traditions
setting (time) · 1959–1982
setting (place) · The mountains and coast of Guatemala; Guatemala City; Mexico
protagonist · Rigoberta Menchu
major conflict · Various Indian tribes, including the Quiches, of which Rigoberta is a member, are repeatedly exploited by the Spanish-speaking ladino population of Guatemala until they begin defending themselves in a movement led by Rigoberta and her family. Rigoberta’s determination to pursue knowledge goes against some of the conventions of her people and limitations placed on her because of her gender. Rigoberta struggles to stand up for herself and her people.
rising action · When ladino landowners begin to stake their claim on the Altiplano, where Rigoberta and her people live, the Indians refuse to give up their land and begin defending their territory using makeshift weapons and traps. Rigoberta is empowered by her experience working as a maid in Guatemala City.
climax · The capture and burning of Rigoberta’s brother, Petrocinio, fortifies Rigoberta’s family’s fight against the Guatemalans, causing Rigoberta’s father to organize the storming of the capital, which results in his death and the persecution of Rigoberta and her family.
falling action · After the murder of her parents, Rigoberta views being an activist as her calling in life. She renounces marriage and embraces her work as a revolutionary in Guatemala and abroad.
themes · The power of language; the cost of progress; the virtue of hard work
motifs · Tradition; community; storytelling
symbols · The lorry; Rigoberta’s corte; the Old Woman