Rigoberto Menchú arriving at the Quito airport in Ecuador. She is standing in front of the country's flag in a colourful outfit.

1959 –

“When you are convinced your cause is just, you fight for it.”

Rigoberta Menchú was born into a poor indigenous family in Guatemala. Growing up she helped pick coffee with the adults on one of the large plantations. As a member of the Catholic Church, she became a social reform activist and joined the Committee of the Peasant Union (CUC), despite the considerable risks in doing so. Her father, mother and younger brother had been killed by government forces for their activism in protesting the government’s harsh treatment of indigenous Guatemalans. Rigoberta became increasingly active in the CUC, she taught herself Spanish and began to organize protests and strikes.

When she was 22 years old, Rigoberta Menchú had to flee her home in Guatemala and make her way to Mexico. She did not give up the fight and in Mexico, she joined international efforts to achieve social justice for indigenous peoples and victims of government repression in her native country. In 1983, she told her story to Elisabeth Burgos Debray and the book I, Rigoberta Menchú became internationally renowned. She also featured as the narrator in a film called When the Mountains Tremble which describes the struggles and difficulties of the Maya people. Rigoberta became a skilled public speaker and organizer, and she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1992.

Other indigenous voices that can be explored on the site are Makereti Papakura and Sacagawea. Discover their very different stories and how being indigenous affected their lives.

Do you have the courage to speak up for what you believe in despite that fact it may get you in trouble?

Photo: Cancillería Ecuador, CC BY-SA 2.0