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Author's biography

Rigoberta Menchú was born in 1959 to a poor Indian peasant family in Guatemala, a community continuing the millennium-old Maya-Quiché culture. In her youth she worked in the fields and later in the city as a domestic employee. She lived in the midst of the injustice, misery and discrimination suffered by the indigenous people of Guatemala. Various members of her family were tortured and assassinated by the repressive armed forces. In 1979, Rigoberta joined and became increasingly active in the Committee of the Peasant Union (CUC), and taught herself Spanish as well as other Mayan languages apart from her native Quiche. Later, she joined the radical 31st of January Popular Front, in which her contribution chiefly consisted of educating the Indian peasant population in resistance to massive military oppression.

In 1981, Rigoberta Menchú had to go into hiding in Guatemala, and then flee to Mexico. That marked the beginning of a new phase in her life: as the organizer abroad of resistance to oppression in Guatemala and the struggle for Indian peasants’ rights. In 1983 her testimonial and overwhelming book, I, Rigoberta Menchú, An Indian Woman in Guatemala , was published & translated into several languages, and followed by various of her texts and poems.

Over the years, Rigoberta Menchú has become widely known as a leading advocate of Indian rights and ethno-cultural reconciliation, not only in Guatemala but in the Western Hemisphere generally, and her work has earned her several international awards and world wide recognition: in 1992, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and in 1993, she was nominated by the United Nations as Goodwill Ambassador for the International Year of the Indigenous Peoples.

At present, she is the Promoter of the International Decade of Indigenous Peoples, mandated by the General Assembly of the United Nations, works as the personal advisor to the general director of UNESCO and presides over the Indigenous Initiative for Peace.

Rigoberta Menchú has written 5 children books with Dante Liano. They bring alive vividly the world in the highland villages of the Maya. The origin of the stories lies in the ancient oral tradition of the Maya.

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