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Latinas who changed the world – Rigoberta Menchú Nobel Peace Prize

Rigoberta Menchú in the March 2009 march commemorating the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty on Identity and Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Rigoberta Menchú in the March 2009 march commemorating the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty on Identity and Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Only nine women have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and one of them is a K’iche Indian of the Maya ethnic group: Rigoberta Menchú, from Guatemala.

Irwin Abrams, from Antioch University, wrote: “The Nobel Peace Prizes at their best [,] set before us an array of great human spirits. The nine women Prize-winners clearly belong in this list. They come from a variety of backgrounds and represent a variety of forms of peace making.”

Rigorberta Menchú is one of the nine women who hold the Nobel Peace Prize. The award was granted in 1992 based on her book Me llamo Rigoberta Menchú, así despertó mi conciencia (1984), I, Rigoberta Menchú, An Indian Woman in Guatemala, –which she dictated in Spanish to the anthropologist Elisabeth Burgos-Debray- “in recognition of her work for social justice and ethno-cultural reconciliation based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples”. (The Nobel Peace Prize 1992. Nobelprize.org.)

The Nobel Peace Prize was not without controversy, of course, and Rigoberta was accused of taking violent actions with the guerrillas against the government, and that two of her sisters had joined the guerrilla fighters, even though her father was killed in the Spanish Embassy -which was burned down by government soldiers- where he had taken refuge in order to make a peaceful protest.

Rigoberta Menchú Tan was born in Uspantán, El Quiché, Guatemala, in 1959, a Mayan Indian who suffered firsthand the violence, discrimination and injustice Native American Indians are subjected to even in this day and age, 200 years after shaking off the so-called Spanish yoke. Indians in North, South and Central America are discriminated, persecuted, and treated as second-class citizens. Their languages and cultures are suppressed. In the United States they live in reservations.

You might be interested: This is why great leaders practice moral humility (Tedx video)

Rigoberta Menchú has many strikes against her: She is a woman. She is an Indian. She belongs to the lowest rung in society. She is not highly educated, having only a minimal education she obtained in her church. “I never had a childhood” she said because she had to work since the age of eight. She managed to teach herself Spanish as the only means to communicate with the world and help her people, the plight of the Indian in Guatemala, and in the Americas as a whole. She was driven into exile in Mexico because she feared for her life due to her political activism in favor of the underdogs.

Ever since the white man landed in America, the native inhabitants of the continent have been suffering discrimination, genocide, slavery, ignorance, poverty, social isolation… and that plight did not improve with independence from European rule. It continues to this day. Indians have been holding the short end of the stick ever since 1492, over 500 years. Father Bartolomé de las Casas (1484-1566), officially named Protector of the Indians, was one of the first to denounce the atrocities, albeit exaggerating some, and spent his life trying to defend native Americans.

Rigoberta Menchu Nobel Peace Prize

Nobel Peace Laureate Rigoberta Menchu Tum reaches out to say hello to Isela Torres, 9, and the other children attending the Holly Day of Action Project. (Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post. Getty Images)

Minorities suffer all over the world, and people like Rigoberta Menchú call attention to their predicament in order to bring dignity and freedom to peoples whom history and prejudice have dropped into the abyss of despair. Awards such as the Nobel and Prince of Asturias Prizes make known those who, otherwise, would be obscured and forgotten.

Rigoberta Menchú is also the holder of the award, premio, Príncipe de Asturias de cooperación internacional, 1998. She holds an Honorary Doctorate from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, and another one from the Universidad de Zaragoza.

She has written: “This world’s not going to change unless we’re willing to change ourselves.”

 

Thought leadership moral humility

This is why great leaders practice moral humility (Tedx video)

Our sense of moral humility is challenged when we thoughtlessly say that we would never do something cruel towards another human being and find ourselves doing just that when placed in a situation of power. In our society, we seem to be all about boosting and pumping up people’s self-worth and self-esteem, driving people to succeed in their careers and personal lives at any cost. 

By guest contributor Laura Carbonell

Thought leadership moral humility

Humility is when you know your self-worth but don’t boast about it or take it for granted. Sometimes, it would appear that a person is humble when, in fact, they have low self-esteem so let us not confuse the two.
Low self-esteem stems from adaptation problems which may be linked to a child’s upbringing if parents didn’t praise them enough, treated them poorly or had too high expectations of them, as Psychology Today explains. Symptoms are those of fear, low self-worth and often self-hatred resulting from feelings of inadequacy.

Pope Francis (rea.net / Korean Culture and Information Service )

Pope Francis (korea.net / Korean Culture and Information Service )

In contrast, humble people have an accurate view of themselves but don’t allow their ego to interfere. Humility is a powerful tool to move ahead and grow in life, knowing where you stand, ready to accept that you, like everyone else, will make mistakes. Humble people usually outsmart people who are controlled by an inflated ego who think they are all powerful and right all the time. Since humble people put more thought into what they do and don’t overestimate themselves, humility turns out to be a powerful tool in life.

Negative effects of an ego boosting society
In our society, we seem to be all about boosting and pumping up people’s self-worth and self-esteem, driving people to succeed in their careers and personal lives at any cost. Sometimes, overestimating how far they can go, results in ego-driven individuals with exceedingly over-important views of themselves who will thoughtlessly do whatever it takes to stay in power with horrifying results. According to The New York Times’ Opinion Pages’, David Brooks, in a panel he attended at the APS convention, so much has been done to boost people’s self-esteem in the past few decades that, in many cases, this has created people with unstable self-worth, who bounce back and forth from high pride to low self-worth, creating equal despair for all.

Rigoberta Menchú in the March 2009 march commemorating the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty on Identity and Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Rigoberta Menchú in the March 2009 march commemorating the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty on Identity and Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Why choose to be humble?
• Humility keeps you down to earth, in touch with reality and, funnily enough, this in itself boosts self-esteem.
• Being humble enables you to improve since you are more open to learning from your mistakes, people around you and life experiences.
• Humility enables you to assess situations and handle them with caution thereby accepting your limitations without fear.
• Humility makes you more aware and understanding of others’ strengths and weaknesses, since you are able to accept your own limitations and mistakes without your ego suffering.
• It leaves little room for envy since you don’t compare yourself to others.
• You are more level-headed and success won’t corrupt you, having you do that which you swore you would never dream of doing.
• It will keep you honest because you are honest with yourself.
• You are braver since you are not threatened by fear of failure.

Moral humility: Why you need it

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (Public Domain)

It’s important to know that, no matter how humble we are, we will sometimes over-estimate our moral humility and this is something to watch out for. Moral humility helps us be more tolerant and open-minded. We think things over more and assess how we would realistically act in a given situation, and then we are more ready to act accordingly, sticking to our moral principles and values. Our sense of moral humility is challenged when we thoughtlessly say that we would never do something cruel towards another human being and find ourselves doing just that when placed in a situation of power. The following TEDxNewEngland talk by Nitin Nohria: “Practicing Moral Humility,” explains the importance of moral humility.
In general, if you are not humble, life has sneaky, painful and sometimes harsh ways to make you humble. When you make a mistake, you get to watch in awe and shame, how wrong (and human!) you were. So, why not try humility over an inflated ego and sense of self? You have so much to gain and nothing to lose.

Mohandas K. Gandhi

Mohandas K. Gandhi
(Public domain)

“Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone.”

This blog was originally posted on “On Life, Hope y Todo lo Demás” under the title “Are you morally humble?” on December 10, 2015

In her own words, “I am a bilingual and bicultural language teacher in San Francisco, the place I call home. Born into a family of writers, I enjoy sharing my vision of empowerment and motivation in blogs and articles, having successfully overcome serious addictions and life challenges.
“My hope is to share my humble views on life and bring some optimism, cheer and encouragement. Life has its ups and downs, but there is always light at the end of the tunnel if you keep walking.
“If you would like to collaborate with me, please drop me a line at lcb.laura@gmail.com.”