The Nobel Peace Prize 1980
Human Rights Leader, Architect, Sculptor. Believed in nonviolence. Fought for indigenous peoples.
“It is essential to have inner peace and the serenity of prayer to listen to the silence of God, which speaks to us, in our personal life and the history of our times, of the power of love.”
Adolfo Pérez Esquivel
Adolfo Pérez Esquivel is a distinguished Argentinian human rights activist, writer, painter and community organizer, who in 1980, was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for his opposition to the Argentinian civil-military dictatorship of 1976-83. During the dictatorship he was tortured and imprisoned for 14 months without a trial. Despite his experiences, he holds a firm belief that disagreements and conflicts must be resolved peacefully, using non-violent methods.
Pérez Esquivel was born on November 26, 1931. His parents had emigrated from Spain and his father was a fisherman. His mother died when he was three years old. Even though his early life was marked by poverty, Perez Esquivel attended the University of La Plata where he studied painting and sculpting. During the next 25 years, he taught architecture until relinquishing his teaching position in 1974 to become Coordinator General for a Latin American-based network which promoted the liberation of the poor using non-violent means. He specifically supported the cause of landless peasant farmers. He co-founded the Servicio Paz y Justicia (SERPAJ) in 1974 to denounce the systematic repression committed by the Jorge Videla regime.
Mahathma Gandhi, the missing Nobel Peace laureate was a hero to Pérez Esquivel.
In 1975, Pérez Esquivel was detained by the Brazilian Military police. In 1977, he was imprisoned in Ecuador. That was the same year that the Argentinian Federal Police held him without a trial. Leaders around the world, including US President Jimmy Carter, called for his release. While he was tortured and held for the next 14 months, he was awarded the Pope John XXIII Peace Prize.
Pérez Esquivel’s efforts in the defense of human rights were recognized and on December 10, 1980 he was awarded the Nobel Peace prize. He continued his fight in support of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, the indigenous people of Argentina and in support of environmentalism. During the time of harassment from the authorities during the civil‑military dictatorship, he fought against austerity policies and the Free Trade Area of the Americas.
Perez Esquivel served as the President of many organizations including the Honorary Council of Service, the Latin American Peace and Justice Foundation and The International League for Human Rights and Liberation of Peoples. In 1998 the University of Buenos Aires appointed him Professor of Peace and Human Rights Studies. He continued to oppose war and violence, and to work for the end of conflicts using non-violent means.
Adolfo Pérez Esquivel was awarded the Nobel Prize money of $212,000. He donated the money to charities in South America to help the poor.
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