Growing Up in an Indigenous Society: The Story of Rigoberta Menchu, Part 2, The Indigenous Worldview, Part 13

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

Why can’t we just get along? This is a question that I have been working on in my new book, Divided: Colliding Ways We See the World. In the next several posts in this blog series I am looking at one of the five worldviews: Indigenous Worldview. I would like to share with you some ideas that I have been exploring.

Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents,
it was loaned to you by your children.
We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors,
we borrow it from our Children.
  … Ancient Proverb

Growing Up in an Indigenous Society: The Story of Rigoberta Menchu, Part 2

 We Indians never do anything which goes against the laws of our ancestors.”
Rigoberta Menchu

Rigoberta’s father had a very hard life. His father died when he was a child, leaving his wife to raise three small boys. Her grandmother went to work as a servant for the town’s only wealthy family, while the boys

13 farmer

Farmer in Guatemala

did small jobs around the house, such as carrying wood and water and tending animals. As they grew into young men, her employer didn’t want to keep feeding them, so her grandmother had to give away her eldest son, Rigoberta’s father, to a man who fed and worked him.

Her father soon left that situation and found a job on a plantation growing coffee, cotton, and sugar cane. He sent for his mother and brothers to live with him. They earned very little money but were finally able to save enough to move to the high country. Shortly after the move, Rigoberta’ grandmother became ill and died. The brothers decided to split up and the army forcibly recruited her father.

After her father’s discharge from the army, her parents met and soon after married. Her mother also came from a very poor family who lived in the Altiplano. The couple moved about looking for work. 13 houseThen, her parents scraped together enough money to pay a fee to the government to cultivate land in the Altiplano. Since it took many long, hard years of working the land to finally produce crops, her parents had to travel down to the coast to work on the plantations for an income.

The family grew rapidly; Rigoberta was the sixth of nine children. Like other indigenous families, the children suffered from malnutrition. Most children didn’t reach the age of fifteen years old. When she was a little girl she remembered spending only four months in the family’s home in the Altiplano and the rest of the year working on the coastal

13 coffee pickers

Picking coffee in Guatemala

plantations. Only a few families owned the vast plantations producing cash crops that were sold abroad. Poor families like the Menchu’s tended the crops, a harsh life that her parents and others endured for many years.

About the Author

Dr. Denise R. Ames is a long-time educator, grade 7-university, author of seven books, and president of an educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. CGA provides books, resources, and services with a holistic, global- focused, and perspective-taking approach for their three programs: Global Awareness for Educators, books and resources for educators and students grade 9-university; Gather, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a self-organizing study and conversation program for adults focusing on seeing different perspectives of pressing global issues; and their most recent program Turn, Transformative Understanding and Reflection Network, which encourages lifelong and transformative learning to help us arrive at a place of personal and global well-being using a seven “path” approach.

wviewscoverPlease email or visit for more information.

For more about worldviews see Dr. Ames’ book Five Worldviews: How We See the World. $9.95



This entry was posted in awareness, cultural divide, differences, diversity, indigenous, perspectives, Uncategorized, worldviews and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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