Rigoberta Menchu Tum was born in 1959 in northwestern Guatemala to a Quiche-Mayan family. When she was young, a couple of her siblings and friends died because of unsafe labor conditions and extreme poverty. Because of this, Rigoberta never had a formal education. When she was just eight years old, she worked with her family as a migrant agricultural laborer on large coastal farms. After that, she worked in Guatemala City as a maid.
Soon, Rigoberta began to protest against human-rights abuses by the military. However, this put her life in danger and in 1981, she went into exile in Mexico to hide from the Guatemalan authorities that were hunting her down. Her mother, father, and brother had been murdered, but she escaped. In Mexico, she spoke on the cruel treatment of the indigenous people in Guatemala, hoping she could make a difference.
In 1983, Rigoberta published Me Llamo Rigoberta Mencho Y Asi Nacio La Concienca, later translated into English and titled I, Rigoberta Menchu. This book made her famous and she became a symbol of the brutality endured by native and marginalized people.
In 1992, Rigoberta received the Nobel Peace Prize, allowing her to return to Guatemala and work to make the treatment of her people and others better. In 1998, she published Rigoberta: La Nieta de los Mayos, later translated into English and titled Crossing Borders.