Rigoberta Menchú is an activist from Guetamala who has been fighting for indigenous rights since the early 70s. She was forced to leave her country so many times, or she basically had to leave herself because of the death threats. A great portion of her life has passed in countries outside of Guetamala. In 1992 she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and she won it. Originally from the K’iche origin, Rigoberta fought for not only “K’iche”s, but also for all the natives of Latin America.
Rigoberta was born in 1959 in a K’iche village of Chimel in Guetamala. In those years, Central America was said to be a huge “Banana Republic”. K ‘iche people were trying to protect their own structures, culture and their own faith; but they were simply not allowed to do that. Towns like Chimel, towns inhabited by poor natives were under the control of the landowners. The locals in a sense unofficially were the stuff of the landowners.
Rigoberta and her family were going to the coastal region of Guetamala in summer as seasonal workers. They were working in the fields of sugar cane. In those years, Guatemala Civil War (1960-1996) erupted. It was one of Central America’s most violent civil war ever. The civil war was also the most dangerous and the most violent years of Guetamala history. When the war was over, more than 200,000 people were killed or disappeared. The civil war was basically between the state-controlled officials and army, and various left-winged guerilla organizations. Rigoberta Menchú‘s father also participated in one of these groups. However, he was arrested and tortured in the 80s. After her father’s death, Rigoberta also decided to join rebellious movement.
After joining the resistance Rigoberta witnessed the destruction of her family one by one. Her brother was kidnapped, beaten, and then burned alive in the town square in front of the eyes of Rigoberta. Her father was captured, tortured and this time killed. His mother was arrested, tortured and raped. And then she was also killed.
In the mid-80s Rigoberta went to Mexico as a refugee. Then she went to France. Rigoberta wrote her autobiography in France and named it: “I, Rigoberta Menchú“.The book was so hard to read that some people thought that it was not a real story, but a fiction. The book told the story of native people of Guatemala, as well as the sufferings of war and human rights violations in Guatemala.
After the book “I, Rigoberta Menchú”, Rigoberta gained an international reputation. Thanks to her, the voice of the suffering Latin Americans was heard. But she had to spend most of her life with death threats. Rigoberta Menchú, among all Latin American ethnic activists, has a special place. Rigoberta received the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize, at the 500th anniversary of the infamous trip of Christopher Columbus to the Americas.