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Rigoberta Tum


Rigoberta Menchu Tum

Nobel Peace Laureate, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, a Quiche ( Mayan) woman, born in 1959 in Chimel, Guatemala. As an activist, Ms. Menchu, dedicated the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 to her father Vicente. Ms. Menchu Tum is also the official spokesperson for the United Nations International Decade of Indigenous Peoples (1994 - 2003).

Through the publishing of her book, “I… Rigoberta Menchu”, for which she won the Nobel Peace Prize, the United Nations declared 1993 the International Year for Indigenous Populations. The $1.2 million cash prize was used to set up a foundation in her name to continue the fight for human rights of indigenous people. She was the youngest recipient at 23 years old. Ms. Menchu’s book became a controversial piece for the inconsistencies of the stories she describes.

She says that her purpose is to bring to world attention the abuses against the Indigenous Indians of her country. With the writing help of Venezuelan anthropologist Elizabeth Burgos, I… Rigoberta Menchu has been translated into several languages and is required reading in many universities. Chimel, located in the northern highlands of Guatemala was home to Ms. Menchu’s Quiche Indian family.

The Military-led government and wealthy plantation owners became interested in this area. They began taking Indian-occupied lands by force. Having no rights as indigenous people they began to organize and formed the United Peasant Committee. Menchu’s father, Vincente, was Rigoberta’s cause to follow him as an activist. He became a leader in the peasant movement that began in the 70’s.

The movement wanted to secure the territory in which the indigenous people lived. Señor Menchu had been arrested and imprisoned many times for his activities of organizing petitions and later organizing protests to secure the northern highlands and the human rights abuses against them. As Rigoberta decribes, her sixteen-year-old brother, Petrocinio, was kidnapped by soldiers in 1979, tortured and burned alive while his family stood by helpless.

The following year Señor Menchu, along with thirty-eight other Indian leaders, died in a fire at the Spanish embassy, while protesting violations of Indian human rights abuses. Rigoberta was already an activist in her father’s movement, the United Peasant Committee, when her mother, a healer, also a leader in the movement, was kidnapped, raped and tortured, then killed just a few months after the embassy fire.

Wanted by the Guatemalan government, Rigoberta left her country after her mother’s death in 1982 and fled to Mexico. Wanting to bring the social injustice of her people to the attention of world she dictated “I …Rigoberta Menchu” (1984), her autobiography, sharing her story and of the lives of the Quiche Indians. Her cause, through her book, brought international attention of the conflict between indigenous Indians and the military government of Guatemala.

Rigoberta Menchu continues her movement as a symbol of peace through her foundation, The Rigoberta Menchu Foundation, having broken the silence of the violations of her people in Guatemala. She also continues to motivate women and indigenous people to vote so they can help make a difference in their country and in the rights of the Guatemalan people.

Shaklee Independent Distributor


in the News

Edith Ramirez
Antonia Novello
Celia Cruz
Rigoberta Tum
Ellen Ochoa
Dolores Huerta
Isabel Allende

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