Nobel Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu Tum vividly describes her life as an eight-year old agricultural worker in her highly acclaimed book, "I, Rigoberta Menchu". In her book she states, "I worked from when I was very small, but I didn't earn anything. I was really helping my mother because she always had to carry a baby, my little brother, on her back as she picked coffee. It made me very sad to see my mother's face covered in sweat as she tried to finish her work load, and I wanted to help her. But my work wasn't paid, it just contributed to my mother's work. I either picked coffee with her or looked after my little brother, so she could work faster. My brother was two at the time. Indian women prefer to breastfeed their babies rather than give them food because, when the child eats and the mother eats, that's duplicating the food needed. So my brother was still feeding at the breast and my mother had to spend time feeding him and everything."
Rigoberta was raised in the Quiche branch of the Mayan culture. As a child she picked coffee on large plantations. As a teenager, she became involved in the social reform movement of the Catholic Church. In 1981, after most of her family had been killed, she fled to Mexico. It was in Mexico where she began her work fighting for rights of indigenous people of Guatemala. Then in 1992, she received the Nobel Peace Prize for her work for social justice. In 2007, Rigoberta ran for president for the party called Encuentro por Guatemala. She garnered only 3% of the vote. Menchu was relentlessly campaigned to have the Guatemalan politicians and military personal charged for the crimes they commited against the Mayans. Her most serious charges included genocide.
On October 21, 2008, Rigoberta Menchu Tum spoke at the University of Pacific, in Stockton, California. Vividly, she told us about how all of her family had been killed (even her in-laws) during the war. She continued by telling us how she and other Guatemalans still search the mass graves in search of loved ones and how she took it as a personal responsibility to document the genocide that had taken place. Rigoberta shocked many in attendance by saying that the violence in Guatemala became so bad that it was without limits. I especially found one of her closing sentences to be very profound. In one brief statement, she summarized the basic beliefs of all Native American religions. She stated, "Mayans believe that a mountain has a heart, and that rivers are alive, and that the wind talks to us."