Keynote 1 – Culture Theme
Presented by Rigoberta Menchú Tum
Nobel Peace Prize Winner, 1992, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Activist & Politician, Laj Chimel, Quiche’ Guatemala
Rigoberta Menchú was born on January 9, 1959 to a poor Indian Peasant family and raised in the Quiche branch of the Mayan culture. In her early years she helped with the family farm work, either in the northern highlands where her family lived, or on the Pacific coast, where both adults and children went to pick coffee on the big plantations.
In 1983, she told her life story to Elisabeth Burgos Debray. The resulting book, called in English, I, Rigoberta Menchú, is a gripping human document which attracted considerable international attention. In 1986, Rigoberta Menchú became a member of the National Coordinating Committee of the CUC, and the following year she performed as the narrator in a powerful film called When the Mountains Tremble, about the struggles and sufferings of the Maya people. On at least three occasons, Rigoberta Menchú has returned to Guatemala to plead the cause of the Indian Peasants, but death threats have forced her to return into exile.
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.