We here at EGCR wanted to feature those who motivate and inspire us to become influential individuals.
This month we feature Rigoberta Menchú Tum, a political activist from Guatemala.
Rigoberta was born to an indigenous family in K’iche’, which is a small town in the Guatemalan province of North-Central El Quiche. As a child, she often went to big plantations and gathered coffee beans with her family.
At the age of 10, as a Mayan woman, Rigoberta had an impacting role in her religion serving as a Castequista (Oral Instructor). Through her participation with the Catholic Church, she became heavily involved in social reforms for her community. During this time, she encountered intense amounts of injustice, discrimination, and racism, which caused thousands of indigenous civilians to face poverty conditions.
Her father was part of the C.U.C (Committee of the Peasant Union) and was arrested for planning a resistance against abusive landowners. He was murdered at the Spanish Embassy along with other peasants after security forces stormed the capital. Shortly after, Rigoberta’s mother was arrested, tortured, and raped. The traumatic experience led to her death.
After losing both her parents, Rigoberta joined the C.U.C. and taught herself Spanish along with other Mayan languages. The following year, in 1980, Rigoberta became a prime figure in the C.U.C’s strike protesting better conditions for farm workers along the Pacific Cost.
In 1981, Rigoberta fled Guatemala and went to Mexico. However, her work did not stop. In Mexico, she continued to fight the oppression in Guatemala. She organized groups actively fighting for the rights of the Indian peasants.
In 1982, she narrated a book about her life called, Me llamo Rigoberta Menchú y así me nació la conciencia (My Name is Rigoberta Menchú and this is how my Conscience was Born).
After the Guatemalan Civil War, she become president of Salud Para Todos (Health for All) which promoted affordable generic medications.
In 1992, Riogberta Menchú-Tum received the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in social justice, cultural reconciliation, and for defending the rights of indigenous people.