Nobel laureate Rigoberta Menchu responds to allegations
GUATEMALA CITY (AP) -- Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rigoberta
Menchu, accused of distorting her autobiography, said in remarks published
Thursday she would "defend the book to the death."
The Guatemalan Indian, quoted in the newspaper Nuesto Diario, called the
criticisms of her book "political provocations by academics ... to try to
But she did not directly respond to specific claims raised by U.S.
anthropologist David Stoll that her book, "I, Rigoberta Menchu" contained
fabricated stories about her life and racist oppression in her country.
The New York Times, which reported Stoll's findings Tuesday, said a Times
reporter also conducted interviews in Guatemala that contradicted Menchu's
account in her 1983 book.
In her first comments on the allegations, Menchu accused her critics, saying:
"What they are trying to do is erase the historical memory of all of the victims
and the blood of all the Guatemalans."
"None of my accusers was (there) to see the suffering through which we
passed," she said.
Stoll has published academic articles about government repression of
Guatemalan Indians. He insisted on Tuesday that he was "not attacking the
laureate herself, but a story that did serve a useful purpose at one time."
Stoll asserts that Menchu's book inaccurately said she had no formal
education, that she watched a younger brother starve to death and witnessed
the execution-by-burning of another brother.
Stoll said witnesses told him the younger brother never existed and that
Menchu had attended two private boarding schools on scholarships. A land
dispute central to the book was a family quarrel, they said, not a fight against
rich landowners of European descent.
But he said the book might be justified because "it was a crisis situation
she wouldn't have gotten the attention that she did had she told her own
story, or if she said 'These are things I've heard have happened to other
Menchu's book helped her to become an internationally acclaimed
spokeswoman for the rights of indigenous people.
The Nobel committee has said it is not concerned about the allegations
in any case, there is no provision to revoke the award.
An Guatemalan Indian congresswoman, Rosalina Tuyuc, charged that the
criticism of Menchu's book was "racist."
Copyright 1998 The Associated Press.