Who are some of Guatemala’s most inspiring women?
With the recent passing of Guatemala literary giant Luz Méndez de la Vega (1919-2012), and with Mother’s Day celebrated on Thursday, May 10th, it brought to mind a reflection of the most extraordinary women who have inspired me since I moved here in 1969.
These are women who are famous but also have the incredible quality of commanding attention as soon as they walk into the room—the “WOW” moment!
I met Dr. Méndez in 1972 at the University of San Carlos where she taught literature—an extremely attractive woman and soon becoming one of the foremost literary figures in Guatemala. Luz was the first woman to receive the Miguel Ángel Asturias National Literature Prize (1994), was a member of the Academia Guatemalteca de la Lengua and wrote many articles for the press defending the preservation of La Antigua Guatemala. I worked with her son, architect Rodolfo Asturias Méndez, one of the finest architectural restorers in the country, at the National Council for the Protection of La Antigua Guatemala. To him, she was “just” his mother.
Other women have inspired us throughout the years:
Rigoberta Menchú Tum—who definitely has a presence when she walks into the room—received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 “in recognition of her work for social justice and ethno-cultural reconciliation based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples.” I was honored to meet her on various occasions, including with the Dalai Lama during his visit to Guatemala. “La doctora” also established a seat for the Mayas at the Guatemalan table of politics and social rights.
Helen Mack, president of Fundación Myrna Mack, which she and a group of Guatemalans founded in 1993 to modernize and democratize the Justice System in Guatemala, standing up for justice in Guatemala. Coming up on 20 years of relentless efforts, she provides us with a sense that we are able, as women, to pioneer extremely difficult tasks.
Ana María Klein, whom I am honored to call my friend. She has done remarkable work with Madres Angustiadas, founded to facilitate Guatemalan men, women and children in the topic of security and exercising one’s rights and obligations in strengthening public institutions working in security and justice. I also admired her dedication in the 2011 Supreme Justice elections in Guatemala, a truly monumental task over the years. I also know her also as a wife and mom.
These women have contributed in an insurmountable way to improving the quality of life in Guatemala and inspire us to do better. Many are mothers. Many “mother” causes. Many do both.