Rigoberta Menchú Tum (born 9 January 1959) is an indigenous Guatemalan woman, of the K'iche' ethnic group. Menchú has dedicated her life publicizing the rights of Guatemala's indigenous peoples during and after the Guatemalan Civil War (1960–1996), and to promote indigenous rights in the country. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 and the Prince of Asturias Award in 1998. She is the subject of the testimonial biography I, Rigoberta Menchú (1983) and the author of the autobiographical work, Crossing Borders.
Menchú is a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. She has also become a figure in indigenous political parties and ran for President of Guatemala in 2007 and 2011.
Rigoberta Menchú was born to a poor indigenous family of K'iche' descent near Laj Chimel, a small town in the north-central Guatemalan province of El Quiche. Menchu received a primary-school education as a student at several Catholic boarding schools. After leaving school, she worked as an activist campaigning against human rights violations committed by the Guatemalan armed forces during the country's civil war, which lasted from 1960 to 1996.
Her father, Vicente Menchú, was a member of the guerrilla movement Guerrilla Army of the Poor and died in 1980 during the Burning of the Spanish Embassy after being captured and tortured for his role in organizing against abusive landowners. In 1981, Rigoberta Menchú was exiled and escaped to Mexico. In 1982, she narrated a book about her life to Venezuelan author and anthropologist Elizabeth Burgos, "Me llamo Rigoberta Menchú y así me nació la conciencia" (My Name is Rigoberta Menchu and this is how my Conscience was Born), which was translated into five other languages including English and French. The book made her an international icon at the time of the ongoing conflict in Guatemala.
Since the Guatemalan Civil War ended, Menchú has campaigned to have members of the Guatemalan political and military establishment tried in Spanish courts. In 1999 she filed a complaint before a court in Spain because prosecutions of crimes committed during the civil war are practically impossible in Guatemala. These attempts stalled as the Spanish courts determined that the plaintiffs had not yet exhausted all possibility of seeking justice through the legal system of Guatemala. On 23 December 2006, Spain called for the extradition from Guatemala of seven former members of Guatemala's government on charges of genocide and torture. These include former military rulers Efraín Ríos Montt and Óscar Mejía. Spain's highest court ruled that cases of genocide committed abroad could be judged in Spain, even if no Spanish citizens have been involved. In addition to the deaths of Spanish citizens, the most serious charges include genocide against the Mayan people of Guatemala...
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