Rigoberta Menchú Tum by Heather Lehr Wagner
(Activist for Indigenous Rights in Guatamala)
Rigoberta's whole family, mother, father and brothers, were tortured and murdered by the army, instrument of ruling class oppression. Although a simple woman from the mountains, she has devoted her whole life to the struggle for peace in her homeland and has become " a voice for those who have no voice." For this she has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
It is significant that she heard the news on the phone whilst resting in the local Catholic church after a mass demonstration. So this simple woman, of peasant stock, was recognised by the international community for her valiant and dangerous work on behalf of her people.
The subject of this book, one of a series on Modern Peacemakers, is the inspirational leader of the Mayan people of Guatamala. The indigenous people (Indians) are on the lowest rung of society. Above them are those of mixed blood, the ladinos. But the real masters are the criollos of European (mainly Spanish) descent.
The country's history is one of constant in-fighting between different tribes interrupted, and superseded, by the Spanish conquest. This was followed by a long period of colonial rule in which the enslaved population was decimated by cruel labour and diseases introduced by the conquerors. Since then, the lot of the Indians has not improved but actually worsened. And brutal repression by the ruling class has meant a miserable – and dangerous - life for millions of Guatemalans.
The book is one of twelve dealing with Nobel Prizewinners. It outlines the history of Guatemala, the largest and most populous country in Central America. Despite some recent controversy about the accuracy of certain details in her biography, she comes across as a steady and uncompromising champion of the rights of her oppressed people.
Read the book and feel taller and more human as a result