Guatemalan Indian-rights activist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for
Peace in 1992.
Menchu was a Mayan Indian of the Quiche group. Her father, a leader
of a peasant organization opposed to Guatemala's military government,
died in a fire while protesting human-rights abuses by the military.
Her younger brother was kidnapped, tortured, and burned to death by
a military death squad in 1979, and her mother was kidnapped, raped,
mutilated, and murdered by soldiers the following year. Menchu fled
to Mexico in 1981 and was cared for there by members of a liberal Roman
Catholic group. She soon joined international efforts to make the Guatemalan
government cease its brutal counterinsurgency campaigns against Indian
peasants, becoming a skilled public speaker and organizer in the course
of her efforts. Menchu gained international prominence in 1983 with
her widely translated book I, Rigoberta Menchu, in which she tells the
story of her impoverished youth and recounts in horrifying detail the
torture-murders of her brother and mother. She received the Nobel Peace
Prize in 1992 for her continuing efforts to achieve social justice and
mutual reconciliation in Guatemala.