Rigoberta Menchú Tum was born in 1959, in the village of Chimel, Guatemala, a community continuing the millennium-old Maya-Quiché culture. In her youth she worked in the fields and later in the city as a domestic employee. She lived in the midst of the injustice, misery and discrimination suffered by the Indigenous Peoples of Guatemala.
Various members of her family were tortured and assassinated by the repressive armed forces. Persecuted, Rigoberta Menchú Tum was exiled to Mexico in 1980.
Self-educated, she has shown herself to be a natural leader of great intelligence. Rigoberta Menchú Tum became a vociferous political activist for a number of human rights groups as well as fighting the authorities in order to secure basic civil rights for all Indigenous People. In 1983, her autobiography, I, Rigoberta Menchú, An Indian Woman in Guatemala was published to wide acclaim. She has since published a number of her poems and most recently her highly moving book Crossing Borders.
Through her work, Rigoberta Menchú Tum has received world-wide recognition and several honorary doctorates. In 1993, she was nominated by the United Nations as Goodwill Ambassador for the International Year of the Indigenous Peoples. At present, she is the Promoter of the International Decade of Indigenous Peoples, mandated by the General Assembly of the United Nations and she was also appointed to be the Personal Advisor to the General Director of UNESCO. Concurrently Rigoberta Menchú Tum presides over the Indigenous Initiative for Peace.
A highly emotional and forceful speaker, the flamboyant Guatamalian is now in great demand as a speaker on political and human rights issues at conferences the world over. Rigoberta Menchú Tum delivers her presentations in Spanish.