Memory: “My Father Vicente”
Rigoberta Menchú, the storyteller in Pamela Yates’ film When the Mountains Tremble, is the first indigenous woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Menchú’s mother, father and brother were all killed by the army during the era of dictatorial regimes. In exile she began her international campaign to stop the violence in Guatemala. After the peace accords were signed, Menchú returned home and started the political movement WINAQ that is now working to achieve a more inclusive and democratic Guatemala.
This interview was recorded in June 2012 for the Granito: Every Memory Matters project.
Menchú: Greetings to Pamela, I wish great successes to Pamela and Granito and to everyone.
Interviewer: Thank you very much. Pamela wanted to ask you: What memories do you have of you father, especially of his teachings?
Menchú: My father was a leader. He had a lot to teach. Teachings that I carried throughout my life.
He was a man of faith, for example. He always believed in what was possible. Everything he proposed he set out to do. I believe that he accomplished many goals. Goals of his rural organization, goals of planting crops on our own land… the trees that I see now in (Chimil) are the ones my father planted.
He left footprints (a legacy). More than anything, I remember him as a sincere man, a peasant, humble, someone who set out to achieve what he knew he had to do.
I don’t know… my dad… he was an early riser, he would do everything, he’d cheer people up. Maybe he passed that on to me. I always try to rouse people wherever I go, because I know that people are important allies in our own personal struggles.
I always remember his sense of humor – he was rarely sad. He would always make up his own jokes and his own stories. What I remember most about my father is his positive attitude. When I feel stuck in what I am doing, I remember how my father would inspire me to find a solution. I believed in him.
The passing years have made it possible for me to really get to know him. And now I know him from new angles, perhaps now, I also understand the more serious side of him.
My dad didn’t like to talk about politics or about organizing – he didn’t like to bring external problems into our home, which is why I try to do the same. I try to leave all of my problems outside the door.
Yes, I believe that my dad always tried to keep his ideas and actions separate from us, unless it was a natural process to include us in it. We were never obligated to think the way he did, nor to repeat his ideas.
We also knew that he dealt with many external issues. People around us were sometimes violent; there were many accusations, persecutions. But within the house he was nothing more than a sincere humble man, a father.
He would ask, “Hi, how are you? Everything is fine, thank you,” – that was all. That is to say, he was very careful to keep us from mental illness or psychological harm. He kept us from the irrational “illness” of adopting ideas that weren’t our own. It is part of his spirituality.
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