Rigoberta Menchú: Nobel Prize and symbol of peace

Written by Maria José Frías

Photo: Jorge Allec. Instagram: @betoallec

We currently live in times when protests for justice and human rights are on the covers of most headlines and has grabbed everyone’s attention. However, something that doesn’t receive the same recognition or gratifications is the Latin American indigenous movement. More than a resistance, the movement has become a transformative fight for human rights and the search for peace, reciprocity, dignity and social solidarity. Women leaders like Rigoberta Menchú, Nobel Peace Prize in 1992, went from being an individual voice to being a symbol of this fight.

Rigoberta was born on January 9, 1959 in El Quiché, Guatemala, and she has a Mayan-Quiche origin. She worked with her family  in the fields for many years, enduring the abuse of authorities, malnutrition, oppression and discrimination. Despite the great losses, tragedies and adversities she faced, Rigoberta is not only a survivor but an emblem of strength that shares the perspective of indigenous communities, the beauty and its difficulties


In 1992 this Guatemalan leader and activist was recognized as the first indigenous woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. This honor was the result of years of organization, resistance and survival. As Menchú mentioned in her acceptance speech, the award gave hope to indigenous people across the continent.

Some of the ideals and principles of the indigenous movement is to seek vindication and a dignified space within society and governments. The indigenous cosmopolitan worldview  is to be admired. We should not idealize their image or customs but rather respect, celebrate and support them. Indigenous people are not myths, but are in fact active communities whose stories must be recognized, for they are a reason of pride within the Latin American culture.

Menchú continues to dedicate her life to honoring the lives of her family by fighting for the rights of the people from her homeland and throughout the American Continent. Her main revolutionary weapon is the peaceful denunciation through dialogue and education. An orator, goodwill ambassador of UNESCO, director of the Rigoberta Menchú Tum Foundation and author of several books that enhance indigenous voices, she aims to provide what she was denied for many years: peace and hope.

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