Menchú in 1998
Rigoberta Menchú Tum
9 January 1959
|Spouse(s)||Ángel Canil (m. 1995)|
|Children||2 (1 deceased)|
|Parent(s)||Juana Tum Kótoja|
Vicente Menchú Pérez
|Awards||Nobel Peace Prize in 1992|
Prince of Asturias Awards in 1998
Order of the Aztec Eagle in 2010.
|Website||Rigoberta Menchú Tum profile|
Rigoberta Menchú Tum (Spanish: [riɣoˈβeɾta menˈtʃu]; born 9 January 1959) is a K'iche' Indigenous feminist and human rights activist from Guatemala. Menchú has dedicated her life to publicizing the rights of Guatemala's Indigenous peoples during and after the Guatemalan Civil War (1960–1996), and to promoting Indigenous rights internationally.
She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 and the Prince of Asturias Award in 1998, in addition to other prestigious awards. She is the subject of the testimonial biography I, Rigoberta Menchú (1983) and the author of the autobiographical work, Crossing Borders (1998), among other works. Menchú is a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. She ran for president of Guatemala in 2007 and 2011, having founded the country's first Indigenous political party, Winaq.
|Part of a series on|
|NGOs and political groups|
Rigoberta Menchú was born to a poor Indigenous family of Q'iche' Maya descent in Laj Chimel, a rural area in the north-central Guatemalan province of El Quiché. Her family was one of many Indigenous families who could not sustain themselves on the small pieces of land they were left with after the Spanish conquest of Guatemala. Menchú's mother began her career as a midwife at age sixteen, and continued to practice using traditional medicinal plants until she was murdered at age 53. Her father was a prominent activist for the rights of Indigenous farmers in Guatemala. Both of her parents regularly attended Catholic church, and her mother remained very connected to her Maya spirituality and identity. Menchú considers herself to be the perfect mix of both her parents. She believes in many teachings of the Catholic Church, but her mother's Maya influence also taught Menchú the importance of living in harmony with nature and retaining her Maya culture.
In 1979-80 her brother, Patrocinio, and her mother, Juana Tum Kótoja, were kidnapped, tortured and murdered by the Guatemalan army. Her father, Vicente Menchú Perez, died in the 1980 Burning of the Spanish Embassy, which occurred after urban guerrillas took hostages and were attacked by government security forces. In January 2015, Pedro García Arredondo, a former police commander of the Guatemalan army, was convicted of attempted murder and crimes against humanity for his role in the embassy attack.
In 1984, Menchú's other brother, Victor, was shot to death after he surrendered to the Guatemalan army, was threatened by soldiers, and tried to escape.
In 1995, Menchú married Ángel Canil, a Guatemalan, in a Mayan ceremony. They had a Catholic wedding in January 1998; at that time they also buried their son Tz'unun ("hummingbird" in Mayan), who had died after being born prematurely in December. They adopted a son, Mash Nahual J’a ("Spirit of Water").
From a young age, Menchú was active alongside her father, advocating for the rights of Indigenous farmers through the Committee for Peasant Unity. Menchú often faced discrimination for wanting to join her male family members in the fight for justice, but she was inspired by her mother to continue making space for herself. She believes that the roots of Indigenous oppression in Guatemala stem from issues of exploitation and colonial land ownership. Her early activism focused on defending her people from colonial exploitation.
After leaving school, Menchú worked as an activist campaigning against human rights violations committed by the Guatemalan armed forces during the country's civil war, which lasted from 1960 to 1996. Many of the human rights violations that occurred during the war targeted Indigenous peoples. Women were targets of physical and sexual violence at the hands of the military.
In 1981, Menchú was exiled and escaped to Mexico where she found refuge in the home of a Catholic bishop in Chiapas. Menchú continued to organize resistance to oppression in Guatemala and organize the struggle for Indigenous rights by co-founding the United Republic of Guatemalan Opposition. Tens of thousands of people, mostly Mayan Indians, fled to Mexico from 1982 to 1984 at the height of Guatemala's 36-year civil war.
A year later, in 1982, she narrated a book about her life, titled Me llamo Rigoberta Menchú y así me nació la conciencia (My Name is Rigoberta Menchú, and this is how my Awareness was Born), to Venezuelan author and anthropologist Elizabeth Burgos, which was translated into five other languages including English and French. Menchú narrated the book in Spanish, although she had only learned to speak it three years prior. Spanish was a language that had been forced upon Indigenous peoples by colonizers, but Menchú sought to master the language and turn it against her oppressors. The book made her an international icon at the time of the ongoing conflict in Guatemala and brought attention to the suffering of Indigenous peoples under an oppressive government regime.
|Part of a series on|
After the Guatemalan Civil War ended, Menchú campaigned to have Guatemalan political and military establishment members tried in Spanish courts. In 1999, she filed a complaint before a court in Spain because prosecutions of civil-war era crimes in Guatemala was practically impossible. These attempts stalled as the Spanish courts determined that the plaintiffs had not yet exhausted all possibilities of seeking justice through the legal system of Guatemala. On 23 December 2006, Spain called for the extradition from Guatemala of seven former members of Guatemala's government, including Efraín Ríos Montt and Óscar Mejía, on charges of genocide and torture. Spain's highest court ruled that cases of genocide committed abroad could be judged in Spain, even if no Spanish citizens were involved. In addition to the deaths of Spanish citizens, the most serious charges include genocide against the Maya people of Guatemala.
On 12 February 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. She was the first Maya, Indigenous woman to ever run in a Guatemalan 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. In the 2007 election, Menchú was defeated in the first round, receiving three percent of the vote.
In 2009, Menchú became involved in the newly founded party Winaq. Menchú was a candidate for the 2011 presidential election, but lost in the first round, winning three percent of the vote again. Although Menchú was not elected, Winaq succeeded in becoming the first Indigenous political party of Guatemala.
In 1996, Menchú was appointed as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador in recognition of her activism for the rights of Indigenous people. In this capacity, she acted as a spokesperson for the first International Decade of the World's Indigenous Peoples (1995-2004), where she worked to improve international collaboration on issues such as environment, education, health care, and human rights for Indigenous peoples. In 2015, Menchú met with the general director of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, in order to solidify relations between Guatemala and the organization.
Since 2003, Menchú has become involved in the Indigenous pharmaceutical industry as president of "Salud para Todos" ("Health for All") and the company "Farmacias Similares," with the goal of offering low-cost generic medicines. As president of this organization, Menchú has received pushback from large pharmaceutical companies due to her desire to shorten the patent life of certain AIDS and cancer drugs to increase their availability and affordability.
In 2006, Menchú was one of the founders of the Nobel Women's Initiative along with sister Nobel Peace Laureates Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Wangari Maathai, Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan Maguire. These six women, representing North America, South America, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, decided to bring together their experiences in a united effort for peace, justice and equality. It is the goal of the Nobel Women's Initiative to help strengthen women's rights around the world.
Menchú is a member of PeaceJam, an organization whose mission is to use Nobel Peace Laureates as mentors and models for young people and provide a way for these Laureates to share their knowledge, passions, and experience. She travels around the world speaking to youth through PeaceJam conferences. She has also been a member of the Foundation Chirac's honor committee since the foundation was launched in 2008 by former French president Jacques Chirac in order to promote world peace.
Menchú has continued her activism in recent years, according to the Prensa Latina, by continuing to raise awareness for issues including political and economic inequality and climate change. She continues to be a spokesperson for human rights, including the current violations occurring in Venezuela.
Awards and honors
- 1992 Nobel Peace Prize for her advocacy and social justice work for the indigenous peoples of Latin America
- 1992 UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador position for her advocacy for the indigenous peoples of Guatemala
- Menchú became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize at the time, and its first Indigenous recipient.
- 1996 Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award for her authorship and advocacy for the indigenous peoples of Guatemala
- 1998 Prince of Asturias Prize for improving the condition of women and the communities they serve. (Jointly with 6 other women.)
- 1999 asteroid 9481 Menchú was named in her honor (M.P.C. 34354)
- 2010 Order of the Aztec Eagle for services provided for Mexico
- 2018 Spendlove Prize for her advocacy for minority groups
- I, Rigoberta Menchú (1983)
- This book, also titled My Name is Rigoberta Menchú and that's how my Conscience was Born, was dictated by Menchú and transcribed by Elizabeth Burgos
- Crossing Borders (1998)
- Daughter of the Maya (1999)
- The Girl from Chimel (2005) with Dante Liano, illustrated by Domi 
- The Honey Jar (2006) with Dante Liano, illustrated by Domi 
- The Secret Legacy (2008) with Dante Liano, illustrated by Domi 
- K'aslemalil-Vivir. El caminar de Rigoberta Menchú Tum en el Tiempo (2012)
Controversies about her testimony
More than a decade after the publication of I, Rigoberta Menchú, anthropologist David Stoll investigated Menchú's story and claimed that Menchú changed some elements about her life, family, and village to meet the publicity needs of the guerrilla movement. The controversy caused by Stoll's book received widespread coverage in the US press of the time. The New York Times highlighted a few claims in her book contradicted by other sources:
A younger brother whom Ms. Menchu says she saw die of starvation never existed, while a second, whose suffering she says she and her parents were forced to watch as he was being burned alive by army troops, was killed in entirely different circumstances when the family was not present. Contrary to Ms. Menchu's assertion in the first page of her book that I never went to school and could not speak Spanish or read or write until shortly before she dictated the text of I, Rigoberta Menchu, she in fact received the equivalent of a middle-school education as a scholarship student at two prestigious private boarding schools operated by Roman Catholic nuns.
Many authors have defended Menchú, and attributed the controversy to different interpretations of the testimonio genre. Menchú herself states, "I'd like to stress that it's not only my life, it's also the testimony of my people."  Despite accusations of factual and historical discrepancies, Menchú's testimony remains relevant for the ways in which it depicts the life of an Indigenous Guatemalan during the civil war.
The Nobel Committee dismissed calls to revoke Menchú's Nobel Prize, rejecting the claims of falsification by Stoll. Geir Lundestad, the secretary of the committee, said Menchú's prize was awarded because of her advocacy and social justice work, not because of her testimony.
According to Mark Horowitz, William Yaworsky, and Kenneth Kickham, the controversy about Stoll's account of Menchu is one of the three most divisive episodes in recent American anthropological history, along with controversies about the truthfulness of Margaret Mead's Coming of Age in Samoa and Napoleon Chagnon's representation of violence among the Yanomami.
- List of civil rights leaders
- List of peace activists
- List of female Nobel laureates
- List of feminists
- "UPI Almanac for Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020". United Press International. 9 January 2020. Archived from the original on 15 January 2020. Retrieved 15 January 2020.
… Guatemalan activist/Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchu in 1959 (age 61)
- Dulfano, Isabel (2015). Indigenous Feminist Narratives. doi:10.1057/9781137531315. ISBN 978-1-349-50686-6.
- "Rigoberta Menchú." Encyclopedia of World Biography Online, Gale, 1998. Gale In Context: Biography, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/K1631004473/BIC?u=unlv_main&sid=BIC&xid=13ab26e5. Accessed 27 Sept. 2019.
- "Meet Nobel Peace laureate Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Nobel Women's Initiative". Nobel Women's Initiative. Retrieved 21 November 2019.
- "Rigoberta Menchú Tum - Biographical". Nobelprize.org. 2013. Archived from the original on 29 August 2008. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
- "Rigoberta Menchu | Kanopy". ualberta.kanopy.com. Retrieved 21 November 2019.
- "University of Alberta Libraries". ezpa.library.ualberta.ca. Retrieved 7 December 2019.
- Grandin, Greg. "Rigoberta Menchú Vindicated". The Nation. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
- "Pedro García Arredondo". TRIAL International. Retrieved 21 November 2019.
- "#IWD2019 - Rigoberta Menchú Tum". Multimedia Centre. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
- "A day of joy, grief for Nobel winner". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Associated Press. 18 January 1998. p. A17. Retrieved 27 April 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
- Irwin Abrams, The Nobel Peace Prize and the Laureates: An Illustrated Biographical History, Watson Publishing International, 2001, p. 296.
- "Trouble for Rigoberta". Newsweek. 20 June 1999. Retrieved 27 April 2020.
- Menchu, Rigoberta (1984). "I, Rigoberta Menchu Excerpts" (PDF).
- "Rigoberta Menchú". Teaching Tolerance. 9 August 2017. Retrieved 8 December 2019.
- ABC Australia (2014). "Mayan Indians". ezpa.library.ualberta.ca. Retrieved 7 December 2019.
- Destrooper, Tine (2014). "Come Hell or High Water: Feminism and the Legacy of Armed Conflict in Central America". ezpa.library.ualberta.ca. Retrieved 7 December 2019.
- "Rigoberta Menchú Tum January 9, 1959". Rachel Shoey. 7 June 2017. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
- "Menchú Tum, Rigoberta". UNHCR. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Archived from the original on 4 June 2016. Retrieved 14 May 2016.
- Hartviksen, Julia. "Book Review: Towards a Feminist Subaltern Understanding of I, Rigoberta Menchu". Cite journal requires
- GUATEMALA: RIGOBERTA MENCHU STEPS BEYOND TRADITION TO MOVE INDIGENOUS AGENDA, thefreelibrary.com. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
- "Recipients of the Courage of Conscience Award". peaceabbey.org. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
- Reuters, From (3 December 1999). "Activist Asks Spain to Pursue Guatemala Case". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
- "Spain seeks Guatemalan ex-rulers". BBC News. 23 December 2006. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
- Zuckerman, Adam (2007). "The Presidential Candidacy of Rigoberta Menchú: Facing Guatemala's Bitter Past". The Council on Hemispheric Affairs.
- Lakhani, Nina (15 June 2019). "Thelma Cabrera: indigenous, female and shaking up Guatemala's election". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 21 November 2019.
- "Guatemala's impossible candidate". Retrieved 9 October 2019.
- "Nobel winner seeks presidency". Tvnz.co.nz. 10 February 2007. Archived from the original on 8 February 2009. Retrieved 22 April 2009.
- "Menchú, Rigoberta | The Columbia Encyclopedia - Credo Reference". search.credoreference.com. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
- "Rigoberta Menchu Túm | United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization". www.unesco.org. Retrieved 7 December 2019.
- "Resources ::: Women, Power & Peace". www.feminist.com. Retrieved 7 December 2019.
- "OHCHR | International Decades of the World´s Indigenous People". www.ohchr.org. Retrieved 7 December 2019.
- "Directora Unesco llega a Guatemala en visita oficial para reforzar relaciones". EFE News Service. 2015.
- "Guatemalan Peace Prize Winner Opens Discount Drug Stores". Houston Chronicle. 2003.
- Nobel Women's Initiative Archived 16 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine
- Profile, BusinessWire.com, 20 April 2015. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
- PeaceJam Mission Statement
- "Honor Committee". Fondation Chirac. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
- "Rigoberta Menchú habla en ONU sobre obstáculos para la cultura de paz". Prensa Latina. 2018.
- Comercio, Redacción El (11 September 2019). "Rigoberta Menchú sobre Venezuela: "Pienso que la ONU debe ser más equitativa y seria"". El Comercio (in Spanish). Retrieved 10 October 2019.
- "The Nobel Peace Prize 1992", Nobelprize.org. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
- "Nobel Peace Laureate Rigoberta Menchu to give UNESCO Human Rights Lecture". US Fed News Service. 2012.
- "The Nobel Peace Prize 1992". NobelPrize.org. Retrieved 7 December 2019.
- admin. "Recipients of the Courage of Conscience Award | The Peace Abbey FoundationThe Peace Abbey Foundation". Retrieved 8 April 2019.
- "Premio Príncipe de Asturias de Cooperación Internacional 1998", Fundación Princesa de Asturias website]. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
- "9481 Menchu (2559 P-L)". Minor Planet Center. Retrieved 16 January 2019.
- "What is the Order of the Aztec Eagle?!". México News Network. 6 July 2015. Retrieved 30 April 2019.
- "Guatemalan Nobelist Announced as this Year's Spendlove Prize Recipient". Targeted News Service. 2018.
- Menchú, Rigoberta (2013). "I, Rigoberta Menchú an Indian Woman in Guatemala". The Literature of Propaganda – via Credoreference.
- Burgos, Elizabeth (2005). Me llamo Rigoberta Menchú y así me nació la consciencia. Siglo veintiuno editores. ISBN 9682313155. OCLC 775861208.
- Menchú, Rigoberta (1998). Crossing borders. Wright, Ann, 1943-. London: Verso. ISBN 1859848931. OCLC 39458909.
- Menchú, Rigoberta (1999). Enkelin der Maya : Autobiografie. Lamuv. ISBN 3889775551. OCLC 175122620.
- Menchú, Rigoberta (2005). The girl from Chimel. Groundwood Books. ISBN 0888996667. OCLC 57697284.
- Menchú, Rigoberta (2006). The honey jar. Liano, Dante., Unger, David., Domi. Toronto: Groundwood Books. ISBN 9780888996701. OCLC 61427375.
- Menchú, Rigoberta (2008). The Secret Legacy. Toronto: Groundwood Books. ISBN 9780888998965. OCLC 209585664. Retrieved 13 December 2019.
- Menchú, Rigoberta (2015). K'aslemalil, vivir : el caminar de Rigoberta Menchú Tum en el tiempo. ISBN 9786070271700. OCLC 955326314.
- "Guatemalteca Rigoberta Menchú celebra 56 años con libro autobiográfico". Notimex. 2015.
- "Rigoberta Menchú and the Story of All Poor Guatemalans". archive.nytimes.com. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
- Rohter, Larry (15 December 1998), "TARNISHED LAUREATE: A special report; Nobel Winner Finds Her Story Challenged", The New York Times, retrieved 27 November 2017
- Beverley, John (1989). "The Margin at the Center: on "Testimonio" (Testimonial Narrative)". Modern Fiction Studies. 35: 11–28. doi:10.1353/mfs.0.0923.
- Sanford, Victoria PhD. "The Silencing of Maya Women From Mama Maquin to Rigoberta Menchu", pp. 135-43; see p. 142 for critique on Stoll's informant, Alfonso Riviera.
- Feffer, John (2010). "Not-So-Magical Realism". Foreign Policy in Focus.
- Johnson, David (2001). "The limits of community: How "we" read me llamo rigoberta menchu". Discourse. 23: 154.
- "The Nobel Peace Prize 1992". NobelPrize.org. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
- 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: Lessons 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 1996): 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 (17 October 1992):p.A1,A5.
- Golden, Tim. "Guatemalan to Fight On With Nobel as Trumpet": New York Times (19 October 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, 1988
- 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.
- Nelan, Bruce W. "Striking Against Racism". Time 140:61 (26 October 1992): p. 61.
- 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 "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.
- Wise, R. Todd. "Native American Testimonio: The Shared Vision of Black Elk and Rigoberta Menchú". In Christianity and Literature, Volume 45, Issue No.1 (Autumn 1995).
- Zimmerman, Marc. "Rigoberta Menchú After the Nobel: From Militant Narrative to Postmodern Politics". The Latin American Subaltern Studies Reader. Durham: Duke University Press, 2001.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Rigoberta Menchú.|
- Rigoberta Menchú Tum on Nobelprize.org
- Salon.com: Rigoberta Menchú meets the press
- "Peace Prize Winner Admits Discrepancies", AP story in New York Times, 12 February 1999 (Subscription only.)
- "Spain may judge Guatemala abuses", BBC News, 5 October 2005
- "Liar, Rigoberta Menchu" by Dinesh D'Souza, Boundless webzine, 1999.
- "Anthropologist Challenges Veracity of Multicultural Icon" – The Chronicle of Higher Education. (Subscription only.)
- on YouTube
- Sound recording of Elizabeth Burgos-Debray interviewing Rigoberta Menchu.
- Appearances on C-SPAN