Menchú, Rigoberta (1959–)

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Menchú, Rigoberta (1959–)

Mayan indigenous-rights activist. Name variations: Rigoberta Menchu; Rigoberta Menchú Tum or Menchú-Tum. Pronunciation: Ree-go-BER-ta Men-CHU. Born Jan 9, 1959, in Chimel, Guatemala; dau. of Vicente Menchú (peasant and political organizer) and Juana Tum (peasant midwife and healer); m. Ángel Canil also seen as Angel Camile, Jan 1998; children: Mash Nahual J'a.

Was born 5 years after one of the most traumatic events in Guatemalan history, the 1954 coup that overthrew the left-leaning government of Arbenz; at 8, began working full days picking coffee and cotton; went to Guatemala City as a 13-year-old, to work as a maid; father, who had become active in efforts to organize the Mayan peasantry to resist encroachments on community lands, was jailed for 14 months; when father became an organizer for the Committee of Peasant Unity (Comité de Unidad Campesina or CUC, mid-1970s), also joined it (1979); during civil war, brother Petrocinio was tortured and murdered (Sept 1979); father died after massacre at the Spanish embassy (Jan 1980); mother tortured and murdered (April 1980); escaped to Mexico (1980); published Me llamo Rigoberta Menchú (I, Rigoberta Menchú, 1983); briefly arrested on her return to Guatemala (1988); awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (1992); headed United Nations' Decade of Indigenous Peoples (1993–). Although widely read and admired, her memoir also provoked controversy after the publication of Rigoberta Menchú and the Story of All Poor Guatemalans (1999), a book by anthropologist David Stoll which asserted that she exaggerated and even fabricated certain events.

See also Crossing Borders: An Autobiography (Verso, 1998); and Women in World History.

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Menchú, Rigoberta (1959–)

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