Interviews with Guatemalan Activist Rigoberta Menchú Join Burgos Collection in Hoover Institution Archives

Tuesday, June 19, 2001
STANFORD
 

The Hoover Institution Archives has just acquired the interviews with Rigoberta Menchú that laid the groundwork for the Guatemalan Indian woman's receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992.

The Menchú interviews were conducted in 1982 by Venezuelan anthropologist and psychologist Elizabeth Burgos, who has also deposited other major collections in the Hoover Archives.

Burgos edited Menchú's story and produced the book I, Rigoberta Menchu (1983), which made Menchú one of the best known indigenous persons in the world.

With the 500th anniversary of Columbus's discovery of America in 1992, the Nobel Committee chose Menchú to represent the Indians who were victims of European conquest and exploitation. The committee gave her the peace prize "in recognition of her work for social justice and ethno-cultural reconciliation" and as "a vivid symbol of peace."

In 1999, inaccuracies in Menchú's account of her personal life, and the impact of her story in Guatemala, became front-page news with the publication of a study by anthropologist David Stoll.

Besides Burgos's original taped interviews with Menchú, the archive includes a complete transcription of the interviews, the original manuscripts of the book, note cards, assorted letters, photographs, and other materials.

The remainder of the Burgos archive to be housed at the Hoover Institution constitutes one of the richest collections ever compiled on opposition movements, most of which called themselves Marxist, in Latin America during the second half of the 20th century.

Because of Burgos's involvement with Latin American revolutionary movements from the 1960s to the 1980s, her access to guerrilla leaders has been extraordinary.

Included in the collection are scores of interviews with many of the most important leaders of the guerrilla wars in Central America, Venezuela, Bolivia, Peru, and Colombia, as well as with some military and civilian officials who played a role in their suppression.

The Burgos collection also includes documents related to the guerrilla war conducted by Che Guevara in Bolivia in 1966–67, including the interviews, manuscript, and papers that resulted in an autobiography by one of Guevara's Cuban guerrilla colleagues, Dariel Alarcon Ramirez (Benigno), which was also edited by Burgos.

Finally, there are Burgos's interviews with Cuban women in 1980. Several of the letters and most of the guerrilla interviews are closed for varying periods of time.

The Hoover Institution, founded at Stanford University in 1919 by Herbert Hoover, who went on to become the 31st president of the United States, is an interdisciplinary research center for advanced study on domestic and international affairs.