This latest issue of DeRLAS looks at three lives of great interest to Latinamericanists--Ignacio Bizarro Ujpán (a pseudonym), Rigoberta Menchú and Eva Perón.
James D. Sexton and Ignacio Bizarro Ujpán have published a series of books based on a diary that Ignacio has been keeping for the last twenty-nine years at Sexton’s request. Those who have read Son of Tecún Umán (1982), Campesino (1985) and Ignacio (1992) understand the terrible insight and immediacy that Ignacio’s diary offers as it presents, among other issues, the violence that pervades the daily lives of the Tzutuhil Mayas of the mid-western highlands of Guatemala. We are proud to have the opportunity to publish this paper which begins with a short history of Sexton’s relationship with Ignacio, then gives us a more personal look at Ignacio’s backgound, and finally identifies and discusses prominent themes in Ignacio’s story.
Our second article is a critique by Jorge Rogachevsky of David Stoll’s scholarly book Rigoberta Menchú and the Story of All Poor Guatemalans followed by a response from Stoll and a rejoinder by Rogachevsky. We believe that the controversy generated by Stoll’s book deserves further exploration of the issues it presents. We would invite readers’ comments and would consider publishing them in further issues should there be sufficient interest.
Our final article is a review of Feminine Stereotypes and Roles in Theory and Practice in Argentina Before and After the First Lady Eva Perón, by Marta Raquel Zabaleta, a very thorough and interesting look at the true impact of the Peróns on women’s issues in Argentina.
(Latin American Studies Program, University of Delaware, Newark, DE, 2001-07-15) Sexton, James D.
For the past twenty-nine years, Ignacio Bizarro Ujpán (a pseudonym) has been keeping a diary about his life, town (San José, a pseudonym), and country (Guatemala). During this time, I have been translating and editing his story, and, to date, we have published Son of Tecún Umán ( 1990), Campesino (1985), and Ignacio (1992). The last volume in this series, Joseño, will be published in 2001. This paper identifies and discusses prominent themes in Ignacio’s story, using examples from each of these books to illustrate the themes, and it offers insight into what it has meant to be a Tzutuhil Maya Indian living in the mid-western highlands for nearly three decades.
(Latin American Studies Program, University of Delaware, Newark, DE, 2001-07-15) Rogachevsky, Jorge R.
The publication of Rigoberta Menchú and the Story of All Poor Guatemalans (Westview Press, 1999) by the anthropologist David Stoll has unleashed a major controversy. According to Stoll, a lengthy investigation carried out on the ground in Guatemala led him to question some aspects of Rigoberta Menchú’s life as narrated in the text, I, Rigoberta Menchú, a testimonial account of the Nobel Peace Laureate’s growing up in an indigenous community in Guatemala in the midst of poverty and increasing repression and violence. In the media, Stoll’s account has been taken at face value, starting with a front-page exposé-type article by Larry Rohter, published in The New York Times on December 15, 1998, under the title, "Tarnished Laureate". According to the media account of this controversy, Stoll has proven that Menchú lied about significant aspects of her life, and she is dismissed as yet another tarnished idol.
This account of Stoll’s text is curious because he tells us that his intention was not to tarnish Menchú’s public stature. Neither was it to dismiss the validity of the account that the Rigoberta Menchú text provides regarding the repression suffered in Guatemala during that country’s thirty-six year civil war. Stoll’s intent is not to question the victimization of the indigenous population, but rather to promote his thesis that the indigenous population was not a class-conscious protagonist in the civil strife. Stoll takes up an analysis of the Menchú family as an emblematic representative of the indigenous community, and, by providing a revised account to the one narrated in I, Rigoberta Menchú, purports to demonstrate that the indigenous population in Guatemala was victimized by both the army and the guerrillas, and never constituted a rebellious class with its own agenda and activism.
This paper looks carefully at Stoll’s own language to demonstrate that what is at stake in this controversy is the relative roles assigned to the investigating scholar and the object of investigation within a classical anthropological discourse. The Menchú text presents an active subject within an active community and provides an ideological lens to interpret the recent historical experience in Guatemala. Stoll’s lengthy account attempts to remove the agency represented in the Menchú text, defining indigenous Guatemalans solely as victims, denying their role as protagonists in the social struggles that convulsed their society, and dismissing the ideological lens as representative of an imposed perspective from outside, rather than characteristic of an indigenous perspective. In so doing, Stoll reinscribes the role of the scholar, and in particular the anthropologist, as the guardian of truth claims, and relegates indigenous Guatemalans to the role of objects of study with no legitimate independent role in the creation of historical understanding. Through a careful analysis of Stoll’s revisionist challenge, this paper intends to demonstrate that his account is logically incoherent.