Meet the Laureates
Meet the Laureates

Rigoberta Menchú Tum – Guatemala, 1992

Rigoberta Menchu PortraitRigoberta Menchú Tum was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 in recognition of her work for social justice and ethno-cultural reconciliation work based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples in her native Guatemala. She is the first indigenous person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

In 2007, Rigoberta ran for Presidency of Guatemala with Encuentro por Guatemala in 2007.  Subsequently, Rigoberta made important contributions in spearheading the first indigenous party in Guatemala, and garnering enough votes to make her WINAQ party official, and ran again for President with this party in 2011. Despite the fact that she was not elected, she remains a steadfast presence in Guatemalan politics and the struggle to end impunity.  


Rigoberta was born in 1959 to a poor Indian family in the highlands of Guatemala. Like many other countries in the Americas, Guatemala has experienced great tension between the descendants of European immigrants and the native Indian population. The Menchú family experienced extreme hardship as a result of their Mayan background.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Guatemala’s repressive military dictatorship began a large-scale repression of Indian peoples. Before she was 21, Rigoberta's mother, father and brother were brutally tortured and murdered by the Guatemalan army.

Rigoberta confronted the oppression faced by her family and her peoples by actively protesting labor and human rights abuses. In 1981 she was forced to seek exile in Mexico, where she became an eloquent defender of the rights and values of indigenous peoples and other victims of government oppression. On several occasions, Rigoberta returned to her home country to plead the cause of the Indian peasants, but death threats forced her back into exile. In 1983, Rigoberta's testimonial book I, Rigoberta Menchú, catapulted the plight of indigenous people in Guatemala into global headlines.

After receiving the Peace Prize, Rigoberta established the Rigoberta Menchú Tum Foundation which promotes the rights of indigenous people around the world.  In 1998, she published Rigoberta: La Nieta de los Mayas, later translated into English and titled Crossing Borders.

From 1994 to 2003, Rigoberta served as the official spokesperson for the United Nations International Decade of Indigenous Peoples. She has held the position of Good Will Ambassador for the Peace Accords in Guatemala since 2004. Rigoberta is also president of the company Salud para Todos ("Health for All"), which aims to offer affordable generic medicines to indigenous people in Guatemala.

Nobel Peace Prize

Rigoberta Menchú Tum Foundation

Books

I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala (1984, 2009)

Crossing Borders (1998)

The Girl from Chimel (2005)

The Honey Jar (2006)

The Secret Legacy (2008)

Statements & Media

Click here for the latest media and statements from Rigoberta Menchú Tum.

Featuring

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Video: Learn what drove Rigoberta to a life of activism in the trailer for the film ‘GRANITO’.

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Watch Rigoberta in the video “2012: The True Mayan Prophesy”

Quotes

This world’s not going to change unless we’re willing to change ourselves.

What I treasure most in life is being able to dream. During my most difficult moments and complex situations I have been able to dream of a more beautiful future.

We have learned that change cannot come through war. War is not a feasible tool to use in fighting against the oppression we face. War has caused more problems. We cannot embrace that path.

We are not myths of the past, ruins in the jungle, or zoos. We are people and we want to be respected, not to be victims of intolerance and racism.

I resolutely believe that respect for diversity is a fundamental pillar in the eradication of racism, xenophobia and intolerance. There is no excuse for evading the responsibility of finding the most suitable path toward the elimination of any expression of discrimination against indigenous peoples.

In my opinion, the Nobel Peace Prize calls upon us to act in accordance with what it represents, and the great significance it has worldwide. In addition to being a priceless treasure, it is an instrument with which to fight for peace, for justice, for the rights of those who suffer the abysmal economic, social, cultural and political inequalities, typical of the order of the world in which we live, and where the transformation into a new world based on the values of the human being, is the expectation of the majority of those who live on this planet.

This Nobel Prize … encourages us to continue denouncing the violation of human rights committed against the people in Guatemala, in America and in the world, and to perform a positive role in the pressing task in my country, which is to achieve peace with social justice.