7-12 October 1991
Xelaju, Guatemala

Rigoberta Menchu arrives in Xelaju* (along with 100s of other delegates from South, North and Central America) late in the evening of October 7th to a huge and emotional welcome.

The meetings/commissions set out to consider issues of:

Human Rights/Indian Rights
Land and Life
Colonialism/Neo-colonialism and Self-determination


On October 12th we marched through the streets of Xelaju, clearly not to honor Columbus, but to declare that this day was a day to celebrate 500 years of indigenous resistance and persistence.

The international meetings and actions which had began in the late1980s demanded that 1992 was not to be a time to "celebrate" Columbus and his "discovery" but a time to reexamine the truth and the impact of the "invasion" and conquest on the indigenous peoples and nations of the hemisphere.

Clearly, the planning and actions by indigenous organizations and solidarity groups had a profound impact, altering the manner and level of "national" celebrations which did occur in 1992, as they also generated a broad dialogue on issues such as cultural contact, indigenous rights and the prevailing eurocentric "histories."

This embrace and show of solidarity with Rigoberta Menchu during the march was repeated often - it was emotional and tender - it was also a display to the Guatemalan government and military that the people would no longer accept the threats and intimidation - they would no longer hide their support for the just struggle out of fear of torture or death at the hands of the military.

During the march we chanted "Rigoberta Menchu - Nobel Prize in 1992" and one year later in 1992 she most deservedly was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize - a real victory. But during this 10 day stay in Guatemala, one year before the "official" recognition by the Nobel committee, Menchu was in constant danger.

In the communities surrounding Xelaju - such as here in Totonicapan - cultural programs were presented to the public, giving a strong sense of the depth and vitality of indigenous cultural expression.

* There are a number of spellings for the indigenous name of this city which on the map is normally designated "Quetzeltanango" - the second largest city in Guatemala.

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