Guatemala and the Nobel Prize
In the second half of 20th century, two Guatemalans had been honored with the Nobel Prize. Miguel Angel Asturias-Literature (1967), Rigoberta Menchu-Peace (1992).
The first one undoubtedly is the most important writer in Guatemala, an obligated reference of Latin-American’s literature. Poet, novelist and dramatist; Miguel Angel Asturia`s material is a powerful renovation of the Spanish language and a called to become aware of the almost slavery, social oppression of all Guatemalan native towns and American countries. He was born on October 19th, 1899 in Guatemala City, and died on June 9th, 1974 in Madrid Spain.
He translated the Popol Vuh into French (Popol-Vuh, the sacred book of Maya-Quiche people). From this experience he began to introduce himself into the literature investigations of pre-Colombian myths of Middle America. This whole poetic and magical vision (The Cuban writer Alejo Carpienter called it the real and wonderful, and subsequently, with authors like the Nobel Prize winner, Garcia Marquez was identified as magical realism) let him bind with surrealistic movement in Paris.
The surrealist writer Valèry was one of the most enthusiastic readers of Asturía’s first work, Leyendas de Guatemala (1930). Valèry wrote the prologue for the edition issued in French. But not until Hombres de Maiz (1949) Miguel Angel reached the top of his imaginative power and his capacity of linguistic experimentation.
Even though, El Señor Presidente (1946), Asturia´s most reading novel, maybe is an X-Ray camouflaged of “theatre of the grotesque” (quote of Tirano Banderas by Ramón del Valle-Incán) of the anarchy in Guatemala at the beginning of 20th century and at the same time, it paints a portrait of a Latin American oppressor (like years later did García Marquez in El Otoño del Patriarca and Vargas Llosa with La Fiesta del Chivo).
Besides winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, Miguel Angel Asturias got the Lenin Peace Prize for his intense political and diplomatic participation.
Asturia´s masterpieces are: Leyendas de Guatemala (1930), El Señor Presidente (1946), Hombres de Maíz (1949), Viento Fuerte (1950), El Papa Verde (1954), Week-End en Guatemala (1956), Los Ojos de los Enterrados (1960), El alhajdito (1961), Mulata de tal (1963), El Espejo de Lida Sal (1967), Malandrón (Epopeya de los Andes Verdes 1969), Viernes de Dolores (1972).
Rigoberta Menchu Tum is an activist of human rights, Guatemalan and Mayan-Quiche native. She was born on October 19th, 1959, in Uspantan El Quiche, Guatemala. Since she was a little girl she suffered of discrimination, racism and extreme poverty as well as the great majority or indigenous people in Guatemala. Almost all her relatives including his parents were killed by the army at the armed conflict. This armed conflict lasted 36 years (1960-1996). Since that time, Rigoberta joined de CUC (Comite de Unidad Campesina). Her biography called “Me llamo Rigoberta Menchu y así me Nació la Consciencia”(My Name is Rigoberta Menchú and This is How My Consciousness Was Raised.") (1982) written by Elizabeth Burgos, traveled around the world and became Rigoberta widely known as a leading advocate of Indian rights and ethno-cultural reconciliation.
In 1992, when celebrating the 500 years of the Discovery of America, Rigoberta won the Nobel Peace Prize which was an acknowledgement not only for her, but for the 500 hundred years of Indian`s towns resistance and fight. In 1998 she was honored with Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation. She was Goodwill Ambassador during Oscar Berger´s government (2004) and candidate for the presidency of Guatemala in 2007.