MEXICO CITY (CNN) -- Guatemalan Indian activist Rigoberta
Menchu denounced those who have questioned the life story that helped
her win a Nobel Peace Prize, but hinted Wednesday that the book
could be -- as they suggest -- a historical composite rather than an
"I still haven't written my autobiography," she said at a Mexico City news
conference. "What you have is a testimonial."
Menchu became a celebrity after the 1983 publication of "I, Rigoberta
Menchu," in which she told of a childhood as a poor Indian caught up in a
bloody civil war. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992.
Last month, U.S. anthropologist David Stoll published a book claiming that
Menchu's book, "I Rigoberta Menchu", had many inaccuracies. He
challenged her claims that she had no formal education and that she watched
her younger brother slowly die of starvation and her elder brother get burned
to death by soldiers.
"I never found anything (in the book) that denies my kin are dead, and
my truth," she told journalists.
In "Rigoberta Menchu and the Story of All Poor Guatemalans," Stoll, who
interviewed more than 120 people over nearly a decade, accused Menchu
of repeatedly describing experiences she did not witness.
People interviewed for an article in The New York Times last month also
contradicted much of what Menchu wrote.
In her account, Menchu describes the killing of her mother, her father
two of her brothers, as well as the massacre of most of the people in her
Menchu said Wednesday she had to rely on verbal accounts of what
happened to her family because the whereabouts of her parents' and
brothers' bodies was not known.
The Times article said a reporter had interviewed Menchu's brother Nicolas,
although she had written he was dead. Menchu said she had had two
brothers named Nicolas, since Indian parents often gave the same name to
several siblings. *
"If it is an expert that speaks, he should know by now that in our families,
have a Nicolas I, Nicolas II," she said.
At a Mexico City news conference, Menchu also denied reports that she
had enrolled in a private boarding school, saying she worked as a maid at
In her book, Menchu said she had received no formal education.
But Menchu suggested exactly what Stoll claimed -- that her story
represented a composite of the lives of Indians who suffered through
Guatemala's 36-year civil war. She spoke of "collective memory" and said
her book presented an accurate view of life in wartime Guatemala.
"I have a right to a historical memory, a right to my memory as a woman
as a Guatemalan," she said.
"My mother is dead....If she wasn't eaten by animals, let's investigate
maybe the mother who was eaten by animals is another Indian mother,"
Stoll, in a telephone interview from Middlebury College in Vermont, said
had no quarrel with Menchu's response.
"I never called her a liar," he said. "The book expresses 500 years of
American experience in the eyes of a woman born in 1959. ... It can't be a
Francis Sejersted, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, has said
his group was aware of the criticisms of Menchu's autobiography and that
they would have no effect on her prize.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.