Guatemalan human rights activist to receive Notre Dame Prize

Author: Arts and Letters


Guatemalan human rights activist Helen Mack Chang has been awarded the 2005 Notre Dame Prize for Distinguished Public Service in Latin America by the University of Notre Dame’s Kellogg Institute for International Studies. The award will be presented Sept. 7 (Wednesday) at a ceremony in Guatemala City.

Mack is the founder of Guatemala’s Myrna Mack Foundation, which she formed in a quest for justice for the brutal murder of her sister Myrna Mack and for the thousands of other citizens who lost their lives at the hands of the country’s military.

An anthropologist, Myrna Mack was stabbed to death Sept. 11, 1990, by members of a military death squad in response to her investigations of the destruction and massacre of entire indigenous communities by the Guatemalan military.

Since the Myrna Mack Foundation’s establishment in 1993, Helen Mack has succeeded in making significant progress in the fight for human rights, reform of the judiciary system and fortification of the rule of law. In addition, she obtained the conviction of one the soldiers accused of committing the crime — and several years later, the conviction of one of the three officers accused of masterminding Myrna Mack’s murder.

“Ms. Mack is a symbol of the impact one courageous person can have in the political process,” said Rev. Edward A. Malloy, C.S.C., president emeritus of Notre Dame and a member of the prize committee. “Since her sister, Myrna Mack, was brutally murdered by members of the military, she has become an unlikely champion for human rights and justice in a country where that can be a hazardous occupation.”

As part of the prize, Mack will be awarded $10,000, with a matching amount donated to the Myrna Mack Foundation. Dr. José García Noval, vice president of the Myrna Mack Foundation, will accept the matching cash award on behalf of the foundation.

Mack is the recipient of numerous awards and accolades, including the Swedish Parliament’s Right Livelihood Award, known as an “alternative Nobel Prize.”

Established in 2000 by Notre Dame’s Kellogg Institute and funded by The Coca-Cola Foundation, the Notre Dame Prize has been awarded to some of the leading political, civil and religious figures in Latin America. Among the previous recipients are Sofía Macher, former commissioner of the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission; Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who received the award jointly for the peaceful transition of power in Brazil; Latin American Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga; former Chilean President Patricio Aylwin Azócar; and Enrique V. Iglesias, president of the Inter-American Development Bank.

Originally published by Dennis Brown &Kelly Roberts at on August 29, 2005.