Rigoberta Menchu
Rigoberta Menchu
Rigoberta Menchú, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, will visit Postville Saturday, Nov. 8 to take part in a day of awareness events with people of the Postville community who were affected by the May 12 raid by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents on the Agriprocessors meat processing plant that resulted in the arrest and incarceration of some 400 undocumented workers.

Menchú is an indigenous Guatemalan of the Quiché-Maya ethnic group. She has dedicated her life to publicizing the plight and promoting the rights of Guatemala's indigenous peoples, especially those victimized by the 1960-96 Guatemalan Civil War.

She was the recipient of the1992 Nobel Peace Prize and the 1998 Prince of Asturias Award .On Nov. 8, Menchú will arrive in Postville about 11:30 a.m. She willbe part of a public speak-out session that begins at 12 noon at St. Bridget's Church that will hear the testimonies of people affected bythe ICE raid. She will be the guest at a 1 p.m. lunch with Hispanic community at St. Bridget's Church Hall.

Menchú will meet with news media representatives at 4 p.m. in a room at St. Bridget's Church. She will attend a church service at St. Bridget's at 7 p.m.

The ICE raid in Postville separated many families, and most of the arrested workers have been deported. A number of undocumented immigrant women have been directed by state and federal officials to remain in Postville to provide information and testimony in regard to possible future legal charges related to the Agriprocessors raid. Those women are forced to wear electronic shackles and they are struggling to feed, clothe and house their young children.

Many of the undocumented workers arrested in the May 12 Postville raid were native Guatemalans who were displaced, or whose parents were displaced, by the civil war and its political and social aftermath. They emigrated from the Central American country to the United States to seek employment that they could not find in their native country which suffers from an economy and living conditions devastated by years of war and by the effects of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement on rural agricultural communities.

Menchú, who was the subject of the testimonial biography "I, Rigoberta Menchú" and is the author of the autobiographical book "Crossing Borders," is widely known as a leading advocate of human rights and peace making, not only in Guatemala but throughout the Americas. She ¬has received several international awards for her work.

About Menchu

Menchú was born in 1959 to a Indian peasant family and raised in the

Quiche branch of the Mayan culture.

In her childhood she did farm work on the family farm in Guatemala's northern highlands and on coffee

plantations on the Pacific coast.

As a teenager, she was involved in social reform activities through

the Catholic Church and became prominent in the womens' rights

movement. Reformers were the target of repression by large landowners

and government, especially after the emergence of guerilla

organizations. Her family was accused of taking part in guerrilla

activities and her father, Vincente Menchú was imprisoned and


After his release, Vincente and Rigoberta Menchú joined the Committee

of the Peasant Union. In 1979-80, her brother, father and mother were

killed by the Guatemalan army and security forces.

Menchú became increasingly active in the CUC and became fluent in

Spanish and Mayan languages other than her native Quiche dialect.

She was a prominent leader in a 1980 CUC strike for better conditions

for farm workers on the Pacific coast, and in 1981 participated in large demonstrations in the capital. She joined the radical 31st of

January Popular Front, chiefly working to educate the Indian peasant

population in resistance to massive military oppression.

In 1981, Menchú fled to Mexico where she began a new phase of her

political life: ex-patriot organizer of resistance to oppression in

Guatemala and advocate for Indian peasant peoples' rights.

In 1982,

she helped found The United Representation of the Guatemalan


Menchú told her life story to Elisabeth Burgos Debray in 1983, and

Debray's book, published in English as "I, Rigoberta Menchú," drew

international attention. In 1987, Menchú served as narrator of the

film "When the Mountains Tremble" about the plight of the Maya people.

On at least three occasions, Rigoberta Menchú has returned to

Guatemala to plead the cause of the Indian peasants, but death threats

have forced her to return into exile. Menchú was one of the founders of The Nobel Women's Initiative in

2006. She and her sister Nobel Peace Laureates Jody Williams, Shirin

Ebadi, Wangari Maathai, Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan Maguire

represent North America, South America, Europe, the Middle East and

Africa launched the initiative to promote work worldwide for peace

with justice and equality and to strengthen work in support of women's

rights. In 2007, Menchú formed Encuentro por Guatemala, an indigenous peoples

political party, ran in the 2007 presidential election and received

three percent of the vote.