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Nobel effort 

A controversial Nobel laureate comes to the Central Coast

Rigoberta Menchú, the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner, will appear at a conference held by Family Life Counseling Services. The conference is designed to reach out to people affected by domestic violence. Classes and discussions with multiple guest speakers will be held on how to achieve successful solutions toward peace. According to Dr. Vida Makowksi, conference chair, Santa Maria has a very high rate of domestic battery.

“I’m hoping to inform the community so we can mobilize and do something different,� Dr. Makowski said.

Menchú is a Mayan Indian of Guatemala known for her human rights work. She was awarded the Nobel Prize “in recognition of her work for social justice and ethnocultural reconciliation based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples.�

The controversy surrounding Menchú grew after she was given the prize. She is the author of “I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala,� the story of her life growing up in Guatemala amid intense social violence. Critics claim that her book fabricates portions of her life.

In a scathing critique of “I, Rigoberta Menchú,� journalist David Horowitz, writes that “the fictional story of Rigoberta Menchú is a piece of Communist propaganda designed to incite hatred of Europeans and Westerners and the societies they have built, and to build support for Communist and terrorist organizations at war with the democracies of the West.�

Critics who claim that her book is a work of fiction raise particular debate with the treatment of her brother, who was killed by guerillas in “I, Rigoberta Menchú.� This prompted the New York Times to send a reporter to Guatemala to find the truth, but reports have been conflicting.

Menchú’s supporters counter by saying that she was not awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, she was given it for her peace work and that her book was not an autobiography of one person but of all oppressed people in Guatemala. They say her story is a story of the people. Similarly, the Nobel Prize committee never withdrew her award.

In her acceptance speech in 1992, Menchú’ said, “I wish that a conscious sense of peace and a feeling of human solidarity would develop in all peoples, which would open new relationships of respect and equality for the next millennium, to be ruled by fraternity and not by cruel conflicts.�

Later, she said that “a world at peace that could provide consistency, interrelations, and concordance in respect of the economic, social and cultural structures of the societies would indeed have deep roots and a robust influence.�

Conference planners say that Menchú’s speech in Solvang will address the power of peaceful change in society, communities, and individuals.

“She has been controversial,� said Dr. Makowski. “[The allegations] were found not to be of any merit and she still has her Nobel Prize.� ³


Staff Writer John Peabody can be reached at

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