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Nobel Peace Prize Winner to Speak at UCR

Nobel Peace Prize Winner to Speak at UCR

(April 20, 2000)

The 1992 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Rigoberta Menchu, is a living example that the pen is mightier than the sword. She will speak at the University of California, Riverside from noon to 2 p.m. Friday, April 28, at University Village Theater #9, 1201 University Ave.

As a Mayan Indian of Guatemala, she endured the deaths of her parents and a brother at the hands of government soldiers. The events motivated her two sisters to take up arms with the guerilla forces.

In contrast, Rigoberta Mench?wrote about the terrible hardships of her people in "I, Rigoberta Mench? An Indian Woman in Guatemala," a book composed of a series of reminiscences she dictated in Spanish to the anthropologist Elisabeth Burgos-Debray.

That Mench?did not turn to violence, but to political and social work for her people, is the reason she received the Nobel Prize. She became an active member of the Committee for Campesino Unity and then helped found the Revolutionary Christians.

Her talk at UCR is free to the public, sponsored by Women's Studies, Latin American Studies, Anthropology, Sociology, and Economics. Her title is "Human Rights/Indigenous Rights (in Guatemala and the World): Prospects and Hopes. "

"Rigoberta Menchu brought the struggles of indigenous peoples in Guatemala to the attention of the world," said Christine Ward Gailey, chair of the Department of Women's Studies. "Through her peaceful efforts, she has exploded stereotypes of indigenous women and helped to stem the brutal repression in her country. She stands as a voice of indigenous women against the many-layered oppressions they confront on a daily basis."

Born in poverty among a suppressed people, she received a minimal education in her church. Government soldiers brutally murdered her mother and brother because her father opposed the landowners. Eventually, the soldiers set fire to the Spanish embassy where her father was protesting peacefully along with other campesinos. The protesters burned to death.

Menchu taught herself Spanish so that she could tell the world of the sufferings of her people. Driven into exile in Mexico because of her political activities, she also developed her skills of diplomacy and leadership.

The Nobel Prize announcement states, "Today, Rigoberta Mench?stands as a vivid symbol of peace and reconciliation across ethnic, cultural and social dividing lines, in her own country, on the American continent and in the world."

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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