Rigoberta Menchu (1959-)

Rigoberta Menchu Tum (1959 – ) is a K’iche’ Guatemalan woman, one of the Maya ethnic groups. Born in a poor Indigenous family, in her early years, she helped with their farm work in coffee plantations. Yet, growing during the Guatemala’s civil war (1960-1996), she soon became involved in social reform activities and human’s rights movements. Rigoberta’s family was involved in the guerilla movement and paid a heavy price for it. In 1980, her father was killed when the Guatemalan police put fire at the Spanish Embassy, where the Committee of Peasant Unity has just arrived to ask for help in their cause. Shortly afterwards, her mother also died after being arrested, tortured and raped. Out of her nine brothers, only three survived. In 1981, Rigoberta escaped to find exile in Mexico where she became the organiser abroad of resistance to oppression in Guatemala and of the the Indigenous cause. In 1983, she told the story of her life in I, Rigoberta Menchu, a book that attracted
substantial international attention. In 1992, she received the Nobel Peace Prize “in recognition of her work for social justice and ethno-cultural reconciliation based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples”. She was a candidate for Guatemala’s 2011 election but lost in the first round. This week, it finally seems that her cause has been revenged as Rios Montt has been convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity.

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