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Why Write an Expose of Rigoberta Menchu? Author(s): Carol A. Smith Reviewed work(s): Source: Latin American Perspectives, Vol.

26, No. 6, If Truth Be Told: A Forum on David Stoll's "Rigoberta Menchu and the Story of All Poor Guatemalans" (Nov., 1999), pp. 15-28 Published by: Sage Publications, Inc. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2633921 . Accessed: 22/11/2012 09:42
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Why Write an Expose of Rigoberta Menchu?


by CarolA. Smith In the introduction, where the most casualreadercould not miss it, David 1984) book, "Thereis no Stoll says of RigobertaMenchu's(Burgos-Debray, massacredthoupoints:thata dictatorship doubtabout[her]most important sands of indigenous peasants,that the victims included half of Rigoberta's immediatefamily,thatshe fled to Mexico to save her life, andthatshe joined a revolutionarymovementto liberateher country"(1998: vii). She is only of herfamily andvillage life before misleadingor wrongaboutthe "situation the war"(1998: vii) and about having witnessed some of the incidents she describes.He adds, "Mostof the pressurethatforced the armyand the governmentto negotiate[withthe guerrillas,leadingto a peace accordat the end of 1996] came from abroad,and it was generatedby humanrights imagery" (1998: 8) in which Rigoberta'sbook played an extremely importantrole (1998: 11). After these concessions, he asks, "If Rigobertais fundamentally right aboutwhat the armydid, if her story expresses a largertruthaboutthe violence, why dissect a personalaccountthatis inevitablyselective?"(1998: viv). He answershis questionwith the following four points: thatbefell Rigoberta's family,hervillage, andother First,the catastrophes were broughton by the revolutionindigenousvillages in westernGuatemala case of Rigoberta'svilaryguerrillasas muchas by the army.Intheparticular lage, Rigoberta's father, Vicente, appears to have invited the guerrillas there-or at least to have receivedthem warmly.'Hence the targetingof his family by the armywas quite natural.In the case of VicenteMenchu'sdeath in a conflagrationat the Spanishembassy, it may be that the victims (who were protesting army murdersof their relatives) immolated themselves.2 More generally,guerrillaspursue "a high-riskstrategythat usually ends in defeat and disillusion, after sacrificing peasants to romantic images of
at the Universityof Califomia,Davis. She has done more teaches anthropology CarolA. Smiith beginningin 1969. Herbest-knownworkis Guatemathanfive yearsof fieldworkin Guatemala, lan Indians and the State, 1540 to 1988 (1990), which she edited and to which she contributed four articles.
Issue 109, Vol. 26 No. 6, November 1999 15-28 LATINAMERICANPERSPECTIVES, C 1999 Latin AmericanPerspectives 15

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resistance"(1998: 10). Despite his previousefforts(Stoll, 1993) to makethis general point about guerrillawarfare,few seem to have paid much attention-according to him (Stoll, 1998: 10) becauseof the influenceof Rigoberta's book. Second, Rigoberta'stestimonysuggests that there was powerful support among indigenouspeople for the guerrillas,when in fact supportwas very weak.Inthis way Rigobertaplayeda majorrole in mythologizingthe popular movement(1998: xv). Althoughdissectrevolutionary rootsof Guatemala's ing the legacy of guerrilla warfare may require "beating a dead horse" (1998: x)-since not even leftists support a guerrilla strategy any longer-Stoll feels it must be done because ThirdWorldguerrillasand Che Guevaracontinueto providea romanticlegacy to Westernsolidaritygroups and to the middle-classurbanitesof the ThirdWorld-giving them the illusion that they could wield real political power in an unjust world. More Rigobertahas displacedauthenticindigenousperspectivesabout important, the violence, most of which equatethe guerrillaswith the army."Rigoberta's to so many foreignersthat Mayas who version [of events] was so attractive repudiatedthe guerrillaswere often ignoredor discounted"(1998: xiv). Third,Rigoberta'sstory depicts "nobleIndians [being dispossessed by] left andits the Guatemalan evil [ladino]landlords... [whichhas] encouraged foreign supportersto continue viewing the countrysideas a contest among forces" (1998: xii). But the real social classes, ethnic blocs, and structural problemsof peasantvillages arenot these. Most contestationoverland is not butamongIndiansmallholders betweenIndiansandlargeladinolandholders (1998: 254). The povertyof those peasantvillages is broughton by indigenous livelihood practices,which involve (1998: 19)
a degenerativeprocess of populationgrowth,slash-and-bumagriculture,and migration[to frontierareas]thatis complicated,but not alteredin any fundamental sense, by the ladino-indigenaconflict and inequitableland tenure to which Rigobertagives so much attention.Romanticizingpeasantsis a hoary theirrightto theirland. traditionthathas the virtueof dramatizing

of truthis gaining groundin the humanitiesand Fourth,"a new standard social sciences" (1998: xv), forcing Westernersto cede authority to the non-Westernsubalternand to local witnesses-that is, to people such as Rigoberta-and thus to supportthose who are invariablyapologists for one side or anotherin situationsthat cannot be reduced to two sides. Created postmodernism,and postcolonialunderthe influence of multiculturalism, portrayalsof ism, this new criterionfor veracityhas discredited"objective" complex situations."[Giventhis new standard],the underlyingproblemis

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not how Rigobertatold her story,but how well-intentionedforeignershave chosen to interpret it" (1998: xiv). She is takenas the only authenticvoice on "allpoorGuatemalans" becauseas an Indian,a woman,anda poorGuatemalan, she replaces Stoll as the "new standard of truth." Because Rigobertaandher story on the violence in Guatemalahave been grantedmoreauthority in the WestthanDavid Stoll andhis story,Stoll has to discredit her to win the argument.I will, therefore,take Stoll's arguments seriously andexamineexactly whatit is thathe assertsin contradistinction to Rigoberta-about guerrilla warfare, indigenous support for revolution in Guatemala,the extentof and reasonsfor indigenouspoverty,and the impact and the "newstandards of truth" of multiculturalism on the natureof reportage. I will also haveto considerwhatexists in the way of evidence for the two positions. Under the circumstancesI cannot go to the same eyewitness (or hearsay)accountsStoll uses butmust go to otheraccounts-not on the truthfulness of Rigoberta'stestimony (which Stoll concedes "expressesa larger truthaboutthe violence")buton Stoll's pointsaboutthe economic andpolitical situationin Guatemala-the reasons he gives for writing his expose of RigobertaMenchu'. 1. Did Guatemala'sguerrillasrecklessly target those indigenous areas least able to defendthemselves?Werethe guerrillasresponsiblefor the brutal massacres carriedout by the Guatemalanmilitary governments?Can one equatethe guerrillasandthe armyas two similarsourcesof violence affecting peasants?Stoll documents2 killings by guerrillasto nearly 1,000 killings by the army in the municipiowhere he interviewedRigoberta'sneighborsand this would lead most of us to wonderaboutthe family members(Uspantan); disparity.Stoll also wondersaboutit. After rejectingthe argumentof racism (which many specialists on Guatemalaconsider a powerfulfactorinfluencing Guatemalanviolence over the years [see Palma and Arenas, 1999]), he of Guatemala'sgovernmentthat arguesthat the "fanaticalanti-communism allowed it to slaughterso many men, women, and childrencould not have happenedwithoutthe specterof foreigncommunismas providedby the revolutionarytheatricsfrom Cuba"(1998: 279). And because insurgentsmuddy the distinctionbetween themselves and noncombatants,accordingto Stoll, result"(1998: 155). He does not towardcivilians is the predictable "brutality ask why civilian massacresby armieswere much less common everywhere else in LatinAmericawhereguerrillawarfarewas waged-as in El Salvador and Nicaragua. to make severalpoints thatweaken In the context of Cubait is important Stoll's argument. First, the period when Guatemala's guerrillas "went

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public"was when insurgentsin Nicaraguaand El Salvadorseemed likely to takepower.The revolutionaries took powerin Nicaraguain 1979. In El Salvador,therewas ultimatelya "brokered compromise" betweenthe guerrillas andthe army,butvirtuallyall expertsagreethatthe insurgents(stronglysupportedin the countryside)would almostcertainlyhave won in the 1980s had the United States not poured billions of dollars into El Salvador's army movements (Dunkerley,1988). The strengthof these two otherrevolutionary in CentralAmericacertainlyaffectedguerrillastrategyin Guatemala. Guatemala had always been considereda more questionablerevolutionary theater because of the time it would take to recruitthe indigenous populationto a mixed-ethnicrevolutionary strategy.When revolutionseemed imminentin Nicaragua and El Salvador,Guatemalanrevolutionaries-a large middleclass group since midcenturybecause of Guatemala'smurderousdictatorships-felt they could not hold back.Much more significantthanthis, however,is thatthe Guatemalan insurgents,in contrastto the insurgentsin Nicaraguaand El Salvador,were not suppliedwith the armsthey expected from to the fate of Guatemala's the Cubans.That fact was enormouslyimportant revolutionary movement, especially its ability to "protect"its peasant recruits. The guerrillas appear to have been relatively successful in recruiting Indianpeasantsto theircause,butbecausetheywereunableto armthem,they left their recruitsand their families extremely vulnerableto the army. Of theirpresencetheyhadno reason course,at the time the guerrillasannounced to expect thatthey would be unableto armtheir recruits.The areain which de los Pobres(Guerrilla the EjercitoGuerrillero Army of the Poor-EGP)the only guerrillagroupreally discussedby Stoll-worked, moreover,was a frontierarea,close to the Mexicanborder,over which civilians as well as the guerrillas guerrillascould presumablyescape. The otherpeasant-recruiting workedin a more vulnerablearea (nearthe South Coast) but took far fewer publicactions-although theydid chargea wartax on the largeplantationsof the South Coast.3It is difficult, then, to blame the EGP for being reckless. They were more successful thanthey expected,andthey did not get the arms they had been promised. Who, then, is to blame for the murdersand exile of more than 150,000 Most expertson Guatemala considerthe army Mayapeasantsin Guatemala? to be responsible,especially since it showed a consistenttendencyto avoid to attackunarmedcivilians. I can encounterswith the guerrillas,preferring think of no one other than Stoll who would blame persons like Vicente Many students of Menchui,even if he had been a "guerrillacollaborator." as the as much Stoll Cubans CentralAmerica blame does, but for a reason the to arm Guatemalans.Those from his-the Cuban failure different quite

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who know Guatemalanpolitics well blame the United States for replacing with a lawless one of Guatemala'sfirst democraticallyelected governments military governmentin 1954, instilling in Guatemalanelites an enormous fear of "communism"and assuring them that the United States would do themagainstcommunism,suchas helpingto whateverwas neededto support arm, train, and provide intelligence to what had formerly been a poorly organizedarmyandadvisingthatarmyaboutmodem guerrillacounterinsurgency techniques.(Stoll occasionallymentionsU.S. guilt in the situationbut it.) Thereis, it would seem, a surplusof groupsto blame. undercuts invariably I personallysee the situationas a nationaltragedythathadbeen brewingever motitook powerin 1954. Militarydictatorships since a militarygovernment as well as violent, and mark vatedvariousformsof leftist protest,nonviolent union political activists, to eliminate the period when death squads began leaders, indigenous leaders, and ChristianDemocrats.Many such murders occurred before there was a guerrillapresence. Racism accounts for the natureof the "finalsolution"-the huge massacresof indigenouspeople-in the 1980s. for whathappenedto them? 2. How muchdo peasantsblamethe guerrillas Stoll bases his analysisof indigenousresponseto the guerrillasandthe army on informationfrom only 4 (of the more than 150 primarilyindigenous) where municipios-3 in the Ixil area in additionto neighboringUspantain, I have aboutthe Rigoberta'sfamily lived. ThereforeI cannotuse information impact of and support for guerrilla warfarein other parts of Guatemala (mainly Quezaltenango,Chimaltenango,and San Marcos), where circumby stanceswere quitedifferent.Instead,I use a recentPh.D. studyundertaken Paul Kobrak(1997) in a municipio neighboringthe Ixil, Aguacatan,to discuss changes in supportfor the guerrillasthere. In some respects Kobrak (whom Stoll seems to admire)presentsno more flatteringa picture of the (also the EGP) than Stoll does of those in guerrillasoperatingin Aguacatain points that Stoll the areashe covers, but he makes two extremelyimportant fails to make. First, he observesthat supportfor the guerrillasin the remote and very poor K'iche-speaking hamlets4was initially quite strong, even though they spent relativelylittle time in the area. Locals told him that the entirepopulationcould have gone eitherway (Kobrak,1997: 142)-with the guerrillasor with the armyin mid-1982-but aftercarefulconsiderationas a group decided that it was much more dangerousto go with the guerrillas because of the greaterbrutalityof the army.Nonetheless, a large numberof them joined the civilian resistance communities in the Ixil area (Kobrak, 1997: 191).

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Second, andmore important, Kobrak providesa historicalcontext for the periodwhen he was interviewingsurvivorsin Aguacatain (roughlythe same time Stoll was workingin the nearbyIxil area).As he describesit, the male civilian populationhadbeen so militarizedandexposed to armypropaganda underthe civil patrols(groupsof village menmaderesponsiblefor protecting theircommunitiesunderthe directionandcontrolof the army)thatthey had theirlocal history.As does Stoll, Kobrak significantlyreconstructed notes the common use by villagers of the phrase "[We were] between two armies" (1997: 130), but he observesthatthis local constructionwas a way for peasantsin thepatrolsto "neutralize" theirown positionin thewar(1997: 132): Inthe1990scontext in which I collected thesereconstructions of theviolence, wasthepreeminent in Guatemala, thearmy power having decisively defeated movement their civilpatrols theguerrilla andestablished throughout thecounfarmoreabuseagainst Thearmy hadcommitted thecivilianpopulatryside. madeit easy(andsatisfying) tion,butthearmy's victory to vilifytherebels.
in the civil patrolsystem [which involvedcarryingout Withtheirparticipation many brutalitiesorderedby the army] villagers had a strategicand psychic need to justify collaborationwith the army.Residents of civil patrolvillages [andthis included virtuallyall villages in the five municipiosdiscussed here] are most comfortablewith rhetoricthatequatesthe two sides, puttingthem in the middle as unwilling participants in the war,as spectatorsto the repression, ratherthan as participants.

The point here is thatin the late 1980s and 1990s it was virtuallyimpossible to obtaina clear view of how villagers in the affectedregions (where village civil patrols operated24 hours a day from 1982 to 1996) viewed the guerrillasor the army.Historicalmemory in a time of extreme violence is volatile, all the more so when the victoriousside takes directcontrol of village life (see Hale's 1997 critiqueof Stoll's first book on exactly this point). Almost certainly the victims of army brutality,who then had to become are going to put a differentconstruction directlycomplicit in armybrutality, on their history,on the army,and on the guerrillas-who are blamedby the armyfor all of theirsuffering.I do not questionthatsupportfor the guerrillas droppedoff dramatically everywhere(includingthe less affectedareasthatI know best) afterit becameclearthatthe guerrillaswere unableto protectthe people exposed to army retaliation.Even the redoubtableEGP guerrilla comandante Mario Payeras-who in 1984 broke away from the EGP to cofound a noncombatant group-thought the EGP strategywas a disastrous failure (Payeras, 1991). But that does not mean therewas never supportfor the guerrillasin Guatemala-or that Guatemalansblamed the guerrillasas much as the army.

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Whatmost differentiatesKobrakfrom Stoll is thatKobrakmakes it clear thatindigenouspeasantswere not the dupesof eitherthe armyor the guerrillas. Many Indianssupportedthe guerrillasbut changed their position when and soughtarmyprotection. they saw what happenedto guerrillasupporters Othersdecided to flee the countryunderguerrillaprotection.Obviously not all succeeded in finding such protection.But accordingto Kobrak,the peasants had a fairly clear idea of what they were doing-they were not, as Stoll would have it, "luredinto confrontingthe state"(1998: xii) in the absenceof knowledge about the state, which they had confrontedin various ways for more than 200 years. From what I know of indigenouspeasantsin western violent politiGuatemala, veryfew were completelyignorantof Guatemala's cal history in the 1970s and early 1980s. Indiansin the early 1980s, 3. How severe was the povertyof Guatemalan is on which institutionslike the were its This something causes? and what WorldBank have informationand comparativestatistics;the WorldBank is and its also a good source for an evaluationof Guatemala'sland distribution A World recommendations. significance,since it rarelymakesrevolutionary Bank report (1995) describes two studies, one carriedout right before the period of village massacres and one just before the peace accords were was the poorestof all LatinAmericancounsigned, showing thatGuatemala tries or close to it on virtuallyevery indicatorof poverty(income, malnutrition, infantdeath,life expectancy,literacy)in both time periods.In 1995 the povertyrateof all Indianswas 93 percent,whereasthe povertyrateof urban controlledfor all the povladinos was 40 percent.Even when the researchers erty indicators-such as rurallocality andeducation-Indians had a 15 percent greaterchance of being poorthanladinosdid. More thanthree-quarters defined of the indigenouspopulation(81 percent)lived in "extreme poverty," as lacking the income needed to purchasesufficientfood. My own work before the violence showed (as Stoll notes)5that many fewer indigenous people in the western highlands were migrating to the thanbefore,butthat SouthCoastto workseasonallyfor wages on plantations does not mean thatthey were prospering.My work has always emphasized the significantdifferencesbetween peasantsin the periphery(most of highland San Marcos, Huehuetenango,and El Quiche, which includes the area coveredby Stoll and Kobrak)andpeasantsin the core (the areanearQuezaltenango). Commercialdiversificationhad occurredin both partsof western Guatemalain the 1970s, butlargenumbersof people fromthe peripherystill workedon the plantationsandmanyin the core were becomingincreasingly indebted.The statisticson povertyfrom the WorldBank, which covers both

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the previolenceandpostviolenceperiods,speakfor themselves-the majority of indigenouspeople were not getting enough food to eat! Was this poverty the result of ladino monopolies limiting indigenous access to economic and political power, as I argued?Was it the result of of land,as Rigobertaargued?Orwas it due to extremelyunequaldistribution populationgrowthamongthe Maya andtheirdestructivefarmuncontrolled ing practices,as Stoll argues?My dataon 124 municipiosin westernGuatebetweenindigenouspovertyand malafrom 1976 showeda highercorrelation ladino monopolies than with any othermunicipalvariable(e.g., population density, place in region, average indigenous landholding, economic spethatI am simply cialty).But Stoll woulddismiss these datawith the argument another scholar who "views the countryside as a contest among social forces" (1998: vii), thus supportingthe classes, ethnic blocs, and structural reality. of economic leftist interpretation The WorldBank highlights land distribution-which puts it in the same cencategoryas Rigoberta.In Guatemala's1979 agricultural "structuralist" was calculatedto be 85.9, higherthan sus, the Gini Indexfor landdistribution any otherLatinAmericancase. In fact, it rivaledthe figurefor land distribution in pre-reform(1969) Peru.In all land-size groupings,Indiansheld significantlysmalleramountsof landthandid ladinos.The summarysection of concludes (WorldBank, 1995: v-vi): the reporton land distribution
an armedconflict The dissatisfactionwith povertyandinequalityprecipitated thathas lasted,with varyingdegreesof intensity,for40 yearsandhasbeen estimated to have cost the lives of approximately100,000 people and displaced many more. Now that negotiationsare underwayto end the conflict, Guateto violence andrepressionto deal with probmalamust searchfor alternatives lems andinequalitythat,in manyrespects,areas severeas they were atthe start of the conflict.

for dealing with poverty The WorldBank's threemain recommendations andinequalityinclude providinggreateraccess to land for the poor and supportingan increasein tax revenueto improveeducation(humancapital)and in the rural areas. There is no mention of introducingnew infrastructure farmingpracticesor populationcontrolmeasures,policy ("lessdestructive") issues with which the WorldBank is quite familiar. by noting thatpeasants Stoll dismisses this evidence on land distribution thanfight the few majorlandfighteach otherover small amountsof it rather ownersin the country(only 2.5 percentof the farmownersown morethan65 percentof the land). By implication,squabblesover small amountsof land waste time, energy, and resources that could be better spent in a more does not know what attackon the big landlords.Stoll apparently "rational"

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happens to peasantswho attackmajorlandlordsin Latin America. Almost everywherethey end up in jail (if they are lucky) or dead. RobertWilliams (1986) has a brilliantdescriptionof political relationsbetween latifundistas and minifundistasfor all of CentralAmerica, including Costa Rica. Even without the guerrillamenace, large landlords in Latin America viciously attack peasants who compete for their land, usually with state support.In peasantbattles, by contrast,a persistentsmallholder(like Vicente Menchui) Most of us has at least a 50 percentchance of winningagainsthis neighbor.6 who workwith peasantsdo not assume, as Stoll believes we do, thatthey are noble, but we have discoveredthatthey arerelativelyrational.I am puzzled by Stoll's question:does he really thinkthatfinding strugglesamong smallholders more common than struggles against majorlandlordswould mean that land concentrationwas not a majorproblemin Guatemala? Stoll's claim that the real developmentissues in Guatemalaare uncontrolled populationgrowthand ecologically destructivefarmingpracticesis much more serious. He is quite right that Guatemala's(especially its rural, indigenous)populationhas a highrateof growth,buthe appearsnot to appreciate the difference between cause and effect. Most population experts believe thatthe underlyingcause of high populationgrowthis povertyand a primitiveeconomy wherein most income is made throughexpendituresof raw,unskilledlabor.It is now well knownthatwhere the ratesof infantmortality,income inequality,andlandinequalityarelow, wheremost childrenare sent to secondaryschool (true of a very small minorityin Guatemala),and rateis very wheremost womenworkoutsideof the home (again,Guatemala's a with country In transforming fall dramatically. otherwords, low), birthrates economic reform a calls for rate "revolutionary" a high populationgrowth thatGuatemalamay well neversee because the only political sectorthathas supported such an economic policy is the left. Such a radical economic reform in Central America has been most fully achieved in Costa Rica (throughlandreform,high taxation,andhigh educationalachievement),and are not caused has significantlydeclined. High birthrates there the birthrate culturesas Stoll implies. CatholicItalycurrently by the churchor traditional in the world, well below nationalreproduction. has the lowest birthrate exists betweenwealthandecologically soundfarmA similarrelationship ing practices.To be able to affordecologically sound farming,farmershave to have significantand steady sources of cash income, which peasantsrarely where no one has had enough do. The artisansof San Miguel Totonicapan, land to be a full-timefarmerfor morethan50 years,arethe only Guatemalan farmersI know who havethe time to terrace,rotatetrees overtheirfields, and use organicfertilizer.Those who are clearingnew land in frontierareas(the situation of Vicente Menchuiand others in areas that Stoll knows) are

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probablyin the worstpossible situationin this regard.7 They haveinsufficient labor, very little infrastructural support, and a pressing need to produce enough to keep their families alive each year. Under such circumstances, is typical-whether undertaken clear-cutting by a smallholdingpeasantor by a plantation.Regardless of whether peasants or plantationsare the worst offendersin this situation,it seems utterlygratuitousto blame Guatemalan peasantsfor theirpovertyby notingtheir"destructive" farmingpractices(not to mentionuncontrolledpopulationgrowth).Stoll gives no review of the literatureon eitherissue, and I very much doubtthathis analysis of Guatemala's poverty would be accepted as it stands for an M.A. or a Ph.D. by any social science department emphasizingdevelopmentissues. 4. Objectivereportage,accordingto Stoll, is no longer appreciated in the social sciences, heavily influenced by literarytheory,postmodernity,and a generalpostcolonialormulticultural uncertainty aboutthe trustworthiness of white FirstWorldmen. Witnesseswho representthe subaltern-people like Rigoberta,who come from oppressedclasses in ThirdWorldcountries-are bettersourceson the oppressedandon the meaningof theirlives thanareoutside reporters.This has given Rigobertaan "unfair" advantageover Stollthe objectivereporter, just tryingto get at the truth.Perhapsthe best response to this charge would be a brief synopsis of the discussion about "situated knowledges"in feminist theory.In this literaturemen cannot be trustedto representwomen, white women cannotbe trustedto representblack women, anthropologistsfrom the imperialcenterscannotbe trustedto representthe 6"natives"-not becausethey areless "objective" butbecausewe areall positionedin the worldwith bias so thatwe cannotfully see the realityof another herself sees the worldthrougha distinctpositionalityor world.The subaltern bias andthus needs to be in dialoguewith people and scholarswho represent other positions and positionalities.Hence the stress by most contemporary scholarson bringingnew anddifferentvoices into the canon-not just Marx, Weber, and Durkheim on oppression and exploitation, for example, but Marx, Weber,Durkheiin,and Rigoberta. aboutnew voices, new ways of repMost scholarsconsiderthe argument resentingthe world, andnew ways of seeing such things as truthandresponsibility a progressiveone. Theremay havebeen excesses, andit is not always fromthe ThirdWorldwill have a more useful the case thatthe representative from the First. But Stoll's very take on its problems than a representative positionalityin the debatehe has set up betweenhimself andRigobertaMenthatRigobertaexists as one (not the makesit seem all the moreimportant chui and that Stoll exists to representthe only) voice for "allpoor Guatemalans" illusory truthof "objective" reportage.

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I have used Rigoberta'sbook for many years in my classes and have always emphasizedthe phrase she uses on her first page (Burgos-Debray, 1984: 1):
This is my testimony... [but]I'd like to stressthatit's not only my life, it's also the testimonyof my people.. . . My story is the story of all poor Guatemalans. My personalexperienceis the realityof a whole people.

I tell my studentsto readthe book as if it were a generalratherthana particulardepictionof life in Guatemala,noting thatin testimoniesit is typical for a personto presentthe experienceof a whole people as if it had happened to a single individual-because that may be the only way outsiders can understandand empathizewith anotherway of life. Even though I do not teach and I doubtmanystudentsgo away with the literalistreadingthatStoll feels compelled to refute,my studentslearna greatdeal abouta life of povby readingRigoberta'sbook. erty,politicization,andstrugglein Guatemala We read many other things about Guatemalaat the same time. On the issues of povertyandrevolutionwe readWorldBank statistics,a David Stoll article,and RobertWilliams(1986). We also readarticlesby one of the first and most importantcritics of guerrillastrategyin Latin America, Timothy Wickham-Crawley (1991; 1992),8and by Mario Payeras(1983), who proAlso includedis a wonderfulshort brutality. vides a frankaccountof guerrilla Moore (1967) on the costs of peasantrevolutionspostarticleby Barrington poned. Hardlya radical,Mooredescribesthe high costs of any kind of peasant struggleand thencomparesthose costs to the costs of unfulfilledrevoluclass and state murder malnutrition, tion-in terms of deathsby starvation, and oppression,anddelay in achievingpolitical and economic "modernity." or postcolonial The point is thatin most courseswherevariousnew subaltern voices are introduced,they are almost always introducedin dialogue with very differentperspectives.In the futureI will probablyeven introducechapand/orpostcolonial"move to add tersfrom Stoll's expose. The "postmodern of peris not an attemptto restrictthe repertoire new voices to ourexperience never it include voices before to to reprean but expand attempt spectives sented. Only reactionariesin the academyobject to this move. Onereasonwe now emphasizethe complexityof truthandthe need to hear one is thatfacts do not speakfor manyvoices ratherthana single "objective" For example, Stoll asserts themselves-they always have to be interpreted. that Guatemala'sconservativesimmediatelyrecognized the falsehoods in Rigoberta'stestimony(1998: 198), andit is almostcertainly"factuallytrue"

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that most did reject her depiction of indigenous life in Guatemalafrom the beginning.But on whatbasis did theyrecognizefalsehoods?Whatdo Guatemala's conservativesknow aboutRigoberta'sor Guatemalan peasantlife? I was always shockedat how very little they knew.Whatmakes Stoll thinkthat theirrejectionof Rigoberta'stestimonywas anythingotherthana statement of their political convictions?It is ludicrousto presentconservativeknowledge as some kind of bolstering"factual"evidence for one's own position of who the charactersare and why they believe without any interpretation whatthey do. Stoll's rhetorical device-of which therearea greatmanyin his book-nonetheless rests on an absurdkind of objective "truth." I am sure many conservativesarguedthatRigoberta'stestimonywas false. If I were forcedto omit one of the perspectiveslisted above from a course on CentralAmerica,then,it would more likely be Stoll's thanany of the others. The reasonis thathe takesratherextremeantileft,antipostmodern, antisandantisolidarity tructuralist, positions-but he claims to be objective,positioned only in supportof voiceless peasants. And he tries to bolster weak scholarshipon the largerissues (Guatemala'sguerrillas,historicalmemory, with spuriousargumentsabout povertyandits causes, andmulticulturalism) unrelated matters(whom Rigoberta'sfatherbattledoverland,who witnessed the death of Rigoberta'sbrother).Stoll's polemic seems to arise less from scholarly conviction than from frustrationabout losing a monopoly on authority.This, I think, explains why Stoll wrote an expose of Rigoberta Menchui.One wonders if he will try to topple all the alternativevoices on Guatemalawith exposes.

NOTES
1. Stoll arguesthatVicente Menchuhad little connectionto the Comit6UnidadCampesino (PeasantUnity Committee-CUC), a civilian front of the Ejercito Guerrillerode los Pobres (Guerrilla Armyof the Poor-EGP), butmay havebeen directlyconnectedto theEGP.Although the chaptertreatingVicenteandthe EGP makesit clearthatthe evidence supportingthis allegation is very thin (a few neighbors'accusationsversusdenialsby manyothers),this does not prevent Stoll from describingVicente as a guerrillacollaboratorwithoutqualificationlater in the book (1998: 277). This is not atypicalof the way he argues. 2. This is only Stoll's speculation, for which there is little to no evidence-although he devotes a chapterto it. His evidence is not always so weak, but the mixtureof argumentson which thereis some, none, anda greatdeal of evidence makeshis case seem much strongerthan it actuallyis. 3. Accordingto Stoll, an armyis likely to treatwith brutalityanypopulationwhose loyalty is uncertain(1998: 154). Yet the armycarriedout no massacresof the plantation populations,cer"taxes"were much more subtainly not of plantationowners, even thoughtheirrevolutionary

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Sniith/ WHY WRITEAN EXPOSE?

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stantialthan the small amountsof subsistencegoods peasantsprovidedthe guerrillas.In other againstcivilians as a mereeffect of theiruncertainty words, it is simplisticto see armybrutality about the enemy. 4. The K'ichd-speakers in Aguacatan,unlike those in Uspantan,were the poorestpeople in Stoll's essentialistimage of the K'iche (1998: 17), Rigoberta's the municipio,thuscontradicting ethnic-languagegroup.The people living nearthe pueblo in Aguacatanhad very little contact with the EGP,althoughsome of them were still heavily attackedby the army. 5. This is practicallyall Stoll offers in the way of evidence for his claim that the economic attempt.He essentially has no situationof Indianswas improvingrightbefore the revolutionary data on indigenouspoverty. 6. Stoll makes much of the fact thatVicente Menchumainly fought his indigenousin-laws over land ratherthan ladino owners of large estates in Uspantanas Rigobertasuggests in her book. While this may very well be the case, it is quite likely that Rigoberta'sfatherand others were critical of the large estate owners in the vicinity, several of whom were known to pay extremelylow wages to their indigenousworkers. 7. Throughouthis book, Stoll describesVicente Menchi as the owner (holderof a title) of 2,753 hectares-an enormousamountof land in the context of Guatemala-who continues to fight for 151 hectares with his in-laws. It appears,however, from Stoll's own discussion that Menchd is holding the title for at least 45 families, as is typical in a land-settlingoperationby thatmost of the landexcept the disNationalInstituteforAgrarian Transformation, Guatemala's puted piece is poorly watered,and that making this land productivewill take decades of hard labor. develops a 8. On the logic and negative featuresof guerrillawarfare,Wickham-Crawley thanStoll by presentinga fullerpictureof variation. muchstrongerandmorereasonedargument recordof peasantmassacreandmurderby the governHe notes, for example,thatGuatemala's ment in both the 1960s and 1980s went well beyond the recordsestablishedin any othercase of to supporthis argumentthat guerrillawarfarein Latin America.Stoll uses Wickham-Crawley guerrillawarfareis costly to peasantsbut never mentionsthis differencein degree.

REFERENCES
Elizabeth(ed.) Burgos-Debray, in Guatemala.New York:Monthly Review 1984 I, RigobertaMenchu:An Indian Woman Press. Dunkerley,James 1988 Power in the Isthmus:A Political History of Modern CentralAmerica. New York: Verso. Hale, CharlesR. 1997 "Consciousness,violence, andthe politics of memoryin Guatemala:'CurrentAnthropology 18: 817-838. Kobrak,Paul Ph.D.diss., Universityof Guatemala." 1997 "Villagetroubles:the civil patrolsin Aguacatan, Michigan. Moore, Barrington 1967 "Revolutionsof the oppressed:a case made,"pp. 504-506 in Social Origins of Dictatorshipand Democracy.London:Penguin.

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Payeras,Mario 1983 Days of the Jungle. New York:Monthly Review Press. 1991 Los fusiles de octubre.Mexico City: JuanPablos. Palma,Gustavoand ClaraArenas(eds.) 1999 Identidadesy racismoen Guatemala.GuatemalaCity: FLACSO. Stoll, David 1993 BetweenTwoArmiesin the Ixil Townsof Guatemala.New York:ColumbiaUniversity Press. Boulder:WestviewPress. 1998RigobertaMenchuand theStoryofAll Poor Guatemalans. TimothyP. Wickham-Crawley, 1991 ExploringRevolution:Essays in LatinAmericanInsurgencyand RevolutionaryTheory. Armonk,NY: M. E. Sharpe. 1992 Guerrillas and Revolution in Latin America. Princeton,NJ: Princeton University Press. Williams,Robert and the Crisisin CentralAmerica. ChapelHill:Universityof North 1986ExportAgriculture CarolinaPress. WorldBank 1995 Guatemala:An Assessmentof Poverty.ReportNo. 12313. Washington,DC.

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