Nobel Peace Prize winner to speak at Whitman

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WALLA WALLA — Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú will present “From Chimel to Nobel, The Story of a Maya Woman: An Evening with Rigoberta Menchú” as the keynote speech for the Whitman College student-organized Power and Privilege Symposium on March 27 at 7 p.m. at Cordiner Hall, 46 S. Park St.

Menchú was awarded the Nobel in 1992 for her work.

She will discuss race and ethnic relations, gender studies, social change and human rights.

Over the years, Menchú has become widely known as a leading advocate of Indian rights and ethnocultural reconciliation in Guatemala and the Western Hemisphere.

She was born in 1959, to a poor Indian peasant family and raised in the Quiche branch of the Mayan culture.

She became involved in social reform activities through the Catholic Church and as a teen, became prominent in the women’s rights movement.

In 1979 she joined the Committee of the Peasant Union and took on a prominent role. Her family was accused of taking part in guerrilla activities and her father, brother and mother were killed in subsequent years.

She then joined the radical 31st of January Popular Front in 1981, educating the Indian peasant population in resistance to massive military oppression.

She went into hiding in Guatemala, then fled to Mexico and became an out-of-country organizer of resistance to oppression in Guatemala and the struggle for Indian peasants’ rights.

In 1982, she took part in the founding of The United Representation of the Guatemalan Opposition.

At least three times, she has returned to Guatemala to plead the cause of the Indian peasants, but death threats have forced her to return into exile.

Her 1983 biography, “I, Rigoberta Menchú. An Indian Woman in Guatemala,” edited by Elisabeth Burgos Debray, attracted considerable international attention.

A simultaneous translation of her lecture will be provided in English and a book signing will follow. There is no admission charge.

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