Date: March 23, 2009
Department: Sociology / Anthropology
*** NOTE: LOCATION CHANGED FROM WOODLAND COMMONS TO MAIN AUDITORIUM ***
Rigoberta Menchú Tum, winner of the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize for her human rights work, will give a talk entitled, "Human Rights and Social Justice in the New Millenium: How We Can Make A Difference," on Monday, April 6, at 3 p.m. at the UMass Dartmouth Main Auditorium.
This is a free event that is open to the public. Parking and a shuttle bus will be available in Lot 7.
Menchú Tum, an indigenous woman from a humble background in Guatemala, was witness to and a survivor of the massacres of the Guatemalan civil war during the 1970s and 1980s, which claimed the lives of most of her family. More than half of the 626 documented massacres took place in her home province of El Quiché. Human rights groups estimate that 83 percent of the more than 200,000 people killed during the war were indigenous. Menchú Tum belongs to the Maya K'iche ethnic group and shares her ethnic and geographical origins with the vast majority of Guatemalans now living in New Bedford.
Dr. Lisa Maya Knauer, professor of sociology/anthropology, met Menchú Tum in the 1980s and was struck by her "aura of tranquility, compassion and courage" and the fact that she used the tragic events of her life to fuel her advocacy for peace and reconciliation. "Her message of ethnic and racial reconciliation is one that resonates very strongly in the United States and here in our region with its diverse ethnic and cultural communities," Knauer said. "Her example really challenges all of us to think about what we can do to make a difference. Her life story is especially inspiring for women, young people and communities of color since she came from a country where women and indigenous people were supposed to remain silent and invisible."
Menchú Tum told her life story to Elizabeth Burgos Debray, resulting in an acclaimed autobiography, I, Rigoberta Menchú, which is widely regarded as one of the classics of "testimonio," or oral literature, and is used in literature, Women's Studies and Latin American Studies classes around the world.
Menchú Tum also narrated the award-winning documentary, When the Mountains Tremble, that outlined the history and detailed the atrocity of Guatemala's civil war. She created the Indigenous Initiative for Peace and was appointed as the United Nation's Goodwill Ambassador for the Year of Indigenous Peoples at the World Conference of Human Rights in 1993. Three years later, she was named Goodwill Ambassador for United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Her commitment to her homeland led her to actively participate in the signing of the Peace Accords between the Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca (representing the various guerrilla organizations) and the Guatemalan government. Subsequently, she held the post of Goodwill Ambassador for Peace Accords until 2007.
She serves as president of the Rigoberta Menchú Tum Foundation, which is devoted to peace on local, national and international levels and whose project areas include education, developing self-sufficient and sustainable economies for local communities, civic engagement and human rights.
Menchú Tum has received dozens of awards including the UNESCO "Education for Peace" Prize, the French Legion of Honor and the International Cooperation Award from the Prince of Asturias. In addition, she is the recipient of more than 30 honorary doctorates from universities around the world and is author of several books, including: The Granddaughter of the Mayas, and the children's book, El Vaso de Miel (The Honey Jar).
Primary sponsors of the event include the Chancellor's Office and College of Arts and Sciences Dean's Office. The university, in collaboration with Organization Maya K'iche in New Bedford, organized the presentation.
For more information, contact Lisa Maya Knauer, professor of sociology/anthropology, at 508.999.8405 or LKnauer@umassd.edu.