Rigoberta MenchúRigoberta Menchu Tum Born January 9, 1959(1959-01-09) (age 49)
Chimel, Quiché, GuatemalaWebsite
Rigoberta Menchú Tum (b. January 9, 1959, Chimel, Quiché, Guatemala) is an indigenous Guatemalan, of the Quiché-Maya ethnic group. Menchú has dedicated her life to publicizing the plight of Guatemala's indigenous peoples during and after the Guatemalan Civil War (1960-1996), and to promoting indigenous rights in the country. She was the recipient of the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize and Prince of Asturias Award in 1998. Menchú is a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. She is the subject of the testimonial biography I, Rigoberta Menchú (1983) and the author of the autobiographical work, Crossing Borders.
On February 12, 2007, Menchú announced that she would form an indigenous political party called Encuentro por Guatemala and that she would stand in the 2007 presidential election. Had she been elected, she would have become Latin America's fourth indigenous president after Mexico's Benito Juárez, Peru's Alejandro Toledo and Bolivia's Evo Morales, and the second Nobel laureate after Costa Rica's Óscar Arias to become president. She would also have become Guatemala's first female president. On September 9, 2007, Menchu received 3% of the vote.
Menchú received a primary-school education as a student at several Catholic boarding schools. After leaving school, she worked as an activist campaigning against human rights violations committed by the Guatemalan armed forces during the country's Civil War that lasted from 1960 to 1996.
In 1982, she was the subject of a book about her life, "Me llamo Rigoberta Menchú y así me nació la conciencia" (My Name is Rigoberta Menchú and this is how my Conscience was Born) that was transcribed from taped interviews and edited by Venezuelan-French author and Anthropologist Elizabeth Burgos. The book became a great success when translated into English (as "I, Rigoberta Menchú"), giving her a role on the international stage at the time of the ongoing conflict in Guatemala.
Since the Civil War ended, Menchú has also campaigned to have members of the Guatemalan political and military establishment tried in Spanish courts. In 1999 she filed a complaint before a court in Spain because prosecutions of crimes committed during the civil war are practically impossible in Guatemala. These attempts stalled as the Spanish courts determined that the plaintiffs had not yet exhausted all possibility of seeking justice through the legal system of Guatemala. On December 23, 2006 Spain called for the extradition from Guatemala of seven former members of Guatemala's government on charges of genocide and torture. These include former military rulers Efraín Ríos Montt and Óscar Humberto Mejía Victores. Spain's highest court ruled that cases of genocide committed abroad could be judged in Spain, even if no Spanish citizens have been involved. In addition to the deaths of Spanish citizens, the most serious charges include genocide against the Mayan people of Guatemala.
She has become involved in the Mexican pharmaceutical industry as President of the company Salud para Todos ("Health for All") and the company "Farmacias Similares", with the goal of offering low-cost generic medicines. She currently serves as presidential goodwill ambassador for the 1996 peace accords.
Controversies about her testimony
More than a decade after the publication of I, Rigoberta Menchú, anthropologist David Stoll conducted a thorough investigation of Menchú's story, researching government documents, reports, and land claims (many filed by Menchú's very own family), and interviewing former neighbors, locals, friends, enemies, and others (although not Menchú) for his 1999 book Rigoberta Menchú and the Story of All Poor Guatemalans. Stoll confirmed that Menchú grew up in a Mayan peasant village, which was visited by Marxist guerrillas and then attacked by the Guatemalan army. However, Stoll discovered that Menchú changed many elements of her life, family and village to meet the publicity needs of the guerrilla movement, which she joined as a political cadre after her parents were assassinated.
In the book, Menchú maintained that her family was actively involved in fighting against their subjugation by wealthy Guatemalans of European descent and the Guatemalan government. She also claimed that her father, Vicente Menchú, had founded the peasant movement known as the Committee for Campesino Unity. Instead, Stoll and Rohter found that Vicente Menchú, while poor, was relatively prosperous by local Mayan standards. As leader of his community, he won a 27.53 km² land grant from the Guatemalan government. Unfortunately, his success led to a long-running dispute with his wife's relatives, in the Tum family, who claimed some of the same land. During the late 1970s, when Vicente Menchú's daughter claimed that he was an underground radical political organizer, he was at home in his village of Chimel working with U.S. Peace Corps volunteers.
In her 1982 life story, Menchú claimed that she and her family had been forced to work as peons on a distant coastal plantation for eight months of the year, as millions of other impoverished Mayan farmworkers continue to do every year. According to neighbors, however, the family was sufficiently well-off to avoid this fate. Menchú also claimed that her father refused to allow her to attend school, on the grounds that it would turn her into a non-indigenous "ladino" who would forget her Mayan roots, but in reality, Catholic nuns supported her in a succession of schools until she reached the 8th grade.
In one episode in her 1982 story, Menchú claimed that her younger brother Petrocinio had been burned alive by Guatemala's military as she and her family were forced to watch in a town plaza. After interviewing local townspeople and reviewing contemporary human rights reports, Stoll concluded that Petrocinio was shot by Army-supported paramilitary groups, rather than burned to death and that Menchú and her family had not witnessed his death. However, Stoll argues that her 1983 story is not a hoax. The reason is that she in fact lost both her parents, two brothers, a sister-in-law and three nieces and nephews to the Guatemalan security forces.
In response to Stoll's findings, Menchú initially accused him of defending the Guatemalan military and seeking to discredit all victims of the violence, but later she acknowledged making certain changes in her story. The Nobel Committee has dismissed calls to revoke her Nobel prize because of the reported falsifications; however, Professor Geir Lundestad, the secretary of the Committee, said her prize "was not based exclusively or primarily on the autobiography". According to the Nobel Committee, "Stoll approves of her Nobel prize and has no question about the picture of army atrocities which she presents. He says that her purpose in telling her story the way she did 'enabled her to focus international condemnation on an institution that deserved it, the Guatemalan army.'"
- Ament, Gail. "Recent Maya Incursions into Guatemalan Literary Historiography". Literary Cultures of Latin America: A Comparative History. Eds. Mario J. Valdés & Djelal Kadir. 3 Vols. Vol 1: Configurations of Literary Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004: I: 216-215.
- Arias, Arturo. “After the Rigoberta Menchú Controversy: Lessions Learned About the Nature of Subalternity and the Specifics of the Indigenous Subject” MLN 117.2 (2002): 481-505.
- Beverley, John. "The Real Thing (Our Rigoberta)" Modern Language Quarterly 57:2 (June 1986): 129-235.
- Brittin, Alice A. "Close Encounters of the Third World Kind: Rigoberta Menchu and Elisabeth Burgos's Me llamo Rigoberta Menchu". Latin American Perspectives, Vol. 22, No. 4, Redefining Democracy: Cuba and Chiapas (Autumn, 1995), pp. 100-114.
- De Valdés, María Elena. "The Discourse of the Other: Testimonio and the Fiction of the Maya." Bulletin of Hispanic Studies (Liverpool), LXXIII (1996): 79-90.
- Feal, Rosemary Geisdorfer. "Women Writers into the Mainstream: Contemporary Latin American Narrative". Philosophy and Literature in Latin America. Eds. Jorge J.E. Gracia and Mireya Camurati. New York: State University of New York, 1989. An overview of women in contemporary Latin American letters.
- Golden, Tim. "Guatemalan Indian Wins the Nobel Peace Prize": New York Times (October 17, 1992):p.A1,A5.
- Golden, Tim. "Guatemalan to Fight On With Nobel as Trumpet": New York Times (October 19, 1992):p.A5.
- Gossen, Gary H. "Rigoberta Menchu and Her Epic Narrative". 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. 64-69.
- Gray Díaz, Nancy. "Indian Women Writers of Spanish America". Spanish American Women Writers: A Bio-Bibliographical Source Book. Ed. Diane E. Marting. New York: Greenwood Press, 1990.
- Millay, Amy Nauss. Voices from the Fuente Viva: The Effect of Orality in Twentieth-Century Spanish American Narrative. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 2005.
- Logan, Kathleen. "Personal Testimony: Latin American Women Telling Their Lives". Latin American Research Review 32.1 (1997): 199-211. Review Essay.
- Stanford, Victoria. "Between Rigoberta Menchu and La Violencia: Deconstructing David Stoll's History of Guatemala" Latin American Perspectives 26.6, If Truth Be Told: A Forum on David Stoll's "Rigoberta Menchu and the Story of All Poor Guatemalans" (Nov., 1999), pp. 38-46.
- ---. "From I, Rigoberta to the Commissioning of Truth Maya Women and the Reshaping of Guatemalan History". Cultural Critique 47 (2001) 16-53.
- Sommer, Doris. "Rigoberta's Secrets" Latin American Perspectives, Vol. 18, No. 3, Voices of the Voiceless in Testimonial Literature, Part I. (Summer, 1991), pp. 32-50.
- Stoll, David "I, Rigoberta Menchu and the Story of All Poor Guatemalans" (Westview Press, 1999)
- ---. "Slaps and Embraces: A Rhetoric of Particularism". The Latin American Subaltern Studies Reader. Ed. Iliana Rodríguez. Durham: Duke University Press, 2001.
- Ward, Thomas. La resistencia cultural: la nación en el ensayo de las Américas. Lima: Universidad Ricardo Palma, 2004: 285-302,
- Zimmerman, Marc. "Rigoberta Menchú After the Nobel: From Militant Narrative to Postmodern Politics. The Latin American Subaltern Studies Reader. Durham: Duke University Press, 2001.
- ^ Nobel winner seeks presidency | WORLD | NEWS | tvnz.co.nz
- ^ Rigoberta Menchú Tum - Biography
- ^ Rigoberta Menchú Tum - Biography
- Rigoberta Menchu Tum Foundation
- Guatemala Human Rights Commission
- Biography at the official Nobel site
- Nobel Peace Prize lecture
- Rigoberta Menchu para Presidenta de Guatemala
- Salon.com: Rigoberta Menchú meets the press
- "Peace Prize Winner Admits Discrepancies", AP story in New York Times, February 12, 1999 (subscription only)
- "Spain may judge Guatemala abuses", BBC News, 5 October 2005
- Truth Commission report "Guatemala: Memory of Silence"
- "Fraudulent Storyteller Still Praised" by Dinesh D'Souza, Boundless Webzine, 1999
- "Anthropologist Challenges Veracity of Multicultural Icon - The Chronicle of Higher Education
- The Rigoberta Menchú Controversy
- Healing Communities Torn by Racism and Violence a talk by Rigoberta Menchu at Vanderbilt University, Feb 7, 2008.
Betty Williams / Mairead Corrigan (1976) · Amnesty International (1977) · Anwar El Sadat / Menachem Begin (1978) · Mother Teresa (1979) · Adolfo Pérez Esquivel (1980) · United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (1981) · Alva Myrdal / Alfonso García Robles (1982) · Lech Wałęsa (1983) · Desmond Tutu (1984) · International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (1985) · Elie Wiesel (1986) · Óscar Arias (1987) · UN Peacekeeping (1988) · Tenzin Gyatso (1989) · Mikhail Gorbachev (1990) · Aung San Suu Kyi (1991) · Rigoberta Menchú (1992) · Nelson Mandela / F.W. de Klerk (1993) · Yasser Arafat / Shimon Peres / Yitzhak Rabin (1994) · Pugwash Conferences / Joseph Rotblat (1995) · Carlos Belo / José Ramos-Horta (1996) · International Campaign to Ban Landmines / Jody Williams (1997) · John Hume / David Trimble (1998) · Médecins Sans Frontières (1999) · Kim Dae-jung (2000)Complete roster · 1901–1925 · 1926–1950 · 1951–1975 · 1976–2000 · 2001–present
PersondataNAME Menchú, Rigoberta ALTERNATIVE NAMES
Menchú Tum, Rigoberta (full name) SHORT DESCRIPTION Political activist DATE OF
BIRTH January 9, 1959PLACE OF BIRTH Chimel, Quiché, GuatemalaDATE
OF DEATH living PLACE OF DEATH
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