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Monday, September 28, 2015

Rigoberta Menchu


Back in August I had the pleasure of sharing She Takes a Stand: 16 Fearless Activists Who Have Changed the World by Michael Elsohn Ross. One of the amazing 16 women I read about was Rigoberta Menchú. I decided then to focus on Rigoberta for Hispanic Heritage Month (there is a giveaway below). I wanted to share her story with Hazel (though she got bored--I guess I'll have to wait a few more years) and you.  Rigoberta is an indigenous woman from Guatemala. She has dedicated her life to promoting indigenous rights in Guatemala. She received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1992.
Rigoberta con Lomban y Ana Gonzalez
Rigoberta with other Human Rights Activists in 1992 By Moya110 (Own work) 
[GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Rigoberta Menchú was born January 9, 1959, in Chimel, Guatemala to Vicente Menchú and Juana Tum Kótoja. Rigoberta was the sixth child born in the family. Her family lived in their beloved village, Chimel, for four months of the year. During the rest of the year they were on the coast picking coffee beans, cotton and sugar on fincas or large farms owned by a few rich men. In 1959, Juana hardly made it home from the coffee fields before Rigoberta was born. Her birth was tended to by a midwife, Juana's parents and the village leaders. The leaders helped to show that Rigoberta belonged to the village and not just her parents. Vicente and the older children stayed at the coffee field. Following Mayan custom the midwife pierced Rigoberta's ears. Then she tied red thread around her hands and feet for eight days. The ties showed that the baby was pure and should only be used as nature had planned and warned the baby to always care for the earth that gave her life. A small red sack containing herbs, plants, salt, lime, tobacco and garlic was tied around her neck. The color red of the sack was to give Rigoberta strength and long life and the contents were to keep her safe. Rigoberta's happiest childhood memories were the times spent in the mountains in Chimel. 

At the fincas the bosses worked the pickers hard. Everyone had to pick their own share for the day or they would work for free the next day.  They often were not given enough food and what was given to them often was rotten. The children often got sick due to the bad food and too little nourishment. Children who were too young to work were given no food by the landowners so the family would have to share their small portions with them. Workers could buy more food at the landowner's store but the prices were high and often doing so would mean the time spent at the finca cost money instead of earning it. At age eight, Rigoberta began picking coffee until 8 p.m. every night. She picked about 35 pounds of coffee a day and got about 4 cents a day. One year her two-year-old brother, Nicholas, died on the finca. Rigoberta, her mother and brothers took a day to bury the young boy's body, but the landowner threw them out for losing a day of work. Their wages went towards burying the child on the finca property. A few of the other workers helped them get enough money to pay the landowner and send them home to the mountains. 

While in Chimel the villagers would work hard to clear the mountain land so they could grow their own crops. As they progressed the rich landowners suddenly tried to claim the land as theirs. Vicente was a village leader and lead the fight against the landowners. He tried to fight it within the law, but the lawyers and judges that controlled the land rights were bought by the rich landowners. The judges always gave the same answer, that the natives must move. The villagers refused to give up. In 1967 the landowners hired soldiers to try to force the villagers out. Rigoberta and her family barely escaped to their fields. The soldiers destroyed their home and stole keepsakes some of which had been her grandmothers. They also killed the animals which to Mayans is equivalent to killing people. The villagers decided they would rather die than give up their land and kept on fighting. The landowners tried another approach. They sent inspectors with papers who said if every villager signed the papers they would get to have their land. However the papers were in Spanish, so Rigoberta could not read it (her parents could not read at all). The papers actually only gave the villagers their land for two years and then it became the landowners.  

As a teenager Rigoberta became a human rights activist. She began to fight for fair treatments of her people at the fincas. She wanted fair wages, respect for their communities, respect for their religion, customs and culture, and  decent treatment.  She wanted to be treated as a person and not an animal. She joined the Committee for Peasant Unity (CUC) in 1979. This group tried to provide rural workers with political representation. During all of this time a civil war was going on in Guatemala. The leftist guerrillas had moved out to the rural areas and stayed there. The guerrillas even attacked the indigenous Maya in Quiche and other highlands. It resulted in thousands of deaths including Rigoberta's parents and brother. This did not fight Rigoberta from fighting in fact it fueled her fire more. She became a hunted woman, because of her work. People did not want to associate with her for fear of being arrested and/or tortured and killed. She had trouble finding people willing to let her stay with them for a night or two while in the capitol. She eventually took work as a maid in a convent. There she regained her strength and soon felt the need to leave for the safety of the nuns. She was able to raise enough money for a plane ticket to Mexico City. Rigoberta traveled through much of Latin America giving speeches about the situation of the Maya in Guatemala. 

Around 1982 and 1983 her life changed. She met activists from Europe who arranged for Rigoberta to accompany them on a ten-nation speaking tour in Europe. She was not use to be treated as an equal by white people. On this tour she was encouraged to write her story so the world could hear it. She did not have the skills to write it herself but was introduced to Elisabeth Burgos who acted as an interviewer and editor of her first book,  I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala.  
Concentracion caso Chervron III (17228217941)
By Cancillería del Ecuador from Ecuador 
(Concentracion caso Chervron III) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
 Rigoberta Menchú suffered greatly in her life and yet she has worked hard for the rights of her people as well as other indigenous people in Latin America. Her work is truly amazing as is her story.To learn more Hazel and I got some books from the library. We have not had a chance to read them all, but I have used them as resources for this post. I hope you will take time to learn more about this amazing woman.


Other resource: Wikipedia

Multicultural Kid Blogs Hispanic Heritage Month Series and Giveaway

Hispanic Heritage Month Series 2015 | Multicultural Kid Blogs 
Multicultural Kid Blogs is excited to be hosting its FOURTH annual Hispanic Heritage Month series and giveaway! Throughour the month (September 15 - October 15), you'll find great resources to share Hispanic Heritage with kids, plus you can enter to win in our great giveaway! Visit our main page for a full schedule of the articles in this series
Enter below for a chance to win one of these amazing prize packages! Some prizes have shipping restrictions. In the event that a winner lives outside the designated shipping area, that prize will then become part of the following prize package. For more information, read our full giveaway rules. Giveaway begins Monday, September 14 and goes through October 15, 2015.
Hispanic Heritage Month Giveaway: Grand Prize

Grand Prize

Home Learning Series Level A Curriculum from Calico Spanish US Shipping Only
Puzzle and app from Mundo Lanugo US Shipping Only
Sheet of Mexico themed nail wraps from Jamberry US & Canada Shipping Only
Complete set of If You Were Me and Lived In... books (15 countries) from Carole P. Roman US Shipping Only
Large Latin American prize basket (scarves, purse, bracelets, books, map) from Spanish Playground US Shipping Only
Growing Up Pedro & Mango, Abuela, and Me (in English or Spanish) from Candlewick Press US & Canada Shipping Only
The Giraffe That Ate the Moon and Caroline's Color Dreams (bilingual books in English and Spanish) from Bab'l Books US, UK, & Europe Shipping Only
Bienvenidas las raras (bilingual book in English and Spanish) from Delia Berlin
Los Animales CD from Mister G US Shipping Only
Hola Hello CD from Mariana Iranzi US Shipping Only
Kids' T-shirt from Ellie Elote US Shipping Only
Hispanic Heritage Month Giveaway: 1st Prize

First Prize

Perú, México and Portugal books from the If You Were Me and Lived In... series from Carole P. Roman US Shipping Only
Smaller Latin American prize basket (scarves, purse, bracelets) from Spanish Playground US Shipping Only
Bienvenidas las raras (bilingual book in English and Spanish) from Delia Berlin
Los Animales CD from Mister G US Shipping Only
Hola Hello CD from Mariana Iranzi US Shipping Only
3 picture books: Finding the Music/En pos de la música by Jennifer Torres Water Rolls, Water Rises/El agua rueda, el agua sube by Pat Mora The Upside Down Boy/ El niño de cabeza by Juan Felipe Herrera (in honor of his recently being named the Poet Laureate) from Lee and Low Books US Shipping Only
3 board books: 3 Board Books - Loteria, Zapata, Lucha Libre from Lil’ libros US Shipping Only
Kid's foreign language T-Shirt (available in Spanish, French, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Swahili, Hawaiian, Italian, in infant onesies, toddler and youth sizes tees and tanks; women's tees and tanks SM-XL) from Mixed Up Clothing US Shipping Only
Hispanic Heritage Month Giveaway: 2nd Prize

Second Prize

Perú, México and Portugal books from the If You Were Me and Lived In... series from Carole P. Roman US Shipping Only
Smaller Latin American prize basket (scarves, purse) from Spanish Playground US Shipping Only
2 picture books: Maya's Blanket/La manta de Maya by Monica Brown Call Me Tree/Llámame Árbol by Maya Christina Gonzalez from Lee & Low books US Shipping Only
Bienvenidas las raras (bilingual book in English and Spanish) from Delia Berlin
Los Animales CD from Mister G US Shipping Only


Bonus Prize!

Luchador piñata
Mexican luchador piñata from Las Piñatas de Laly EU Shipping Only

a Rafflecopter giveaway