Rigoberta Menchú, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (and one of my heroes), will visit Postville November 8 for a day of awareness events with people of the Postville community who were affected by the May 12 raid by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents on the Agriprocessors meat processing plant that resulted in the arrest and incarceration of some 400 undocumented workers.
Menchú is an indigenous Guatemalan (Quiché-Maya ethnic group). She's dedicated her life to publicizing the plight and promoting the rights of Guatemala's indigenous peoples, especially those victimized by the 1960-96 Guatemalan Civil War.
She received the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize and the 1998 Prince of Asturias Award. Menchu will participate in a public speak-out session that at St. Bridget's Church, hearing the testimonies of people affected by the ICE raid. Her day will include lunch with the Hispanic community, a press conference and worship service at St. Bridget's.
Many of the undocumented workers arrested in the raid were native Guatemalans who were displaced, or whose parents were displaced, by the civil war and its political and social aftermath. They emigrated to the United States to find the employment that's unavailable in their native country which suffers from an economy and living conditions devastated by years of war and by the effects of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement on rural agricultural communities.
I did my Spanish language studies in Guatemala over a period of three years. Trying to understand the context of the country I read Menchú's testimonial biography "I, Rigoberta Menchú." It turned me on to a new way of thinking. She's received numerous international awards for her advocacy for human rights, particularly giving voice to indigenous peoples.
Menchu's presence in Postville brings international attention to this horrible situation, a mess which Diva Jood so beautifully described last month in her comments on this blog:
I think the Postville raid and the abuses by Agriprocessors has become the poster child of everything wrong with America. Greed, short-cuts, lies, dissembling, arrogance, brutality. Not what those immigrants expected when they came to this country - legally or illegally. No. They came seeking hope and wound up with leg bracelets to monitor their where-abouts.