Pérez Esquivel was born in Buenos Aires in 1931. After
training as an architect and sculptor he was appointed Professor
of Architecture. In 1974 he relinquished his teaching post in
order to devote all his time and energy to the work of
co-ordinating the activities of the various non-violent elements
in Latin America. It was at a conference in Montevideo in 1968
that the decision was made to set up a joint organisation
covering all non-violent elements throughout Latin America. At a
conference in 1974 it was decided to give the organisation a more
permanent form, and Pérez Esquivel was appointed its
Secretary-General. In 1976 he initiated an international campaign
aimed at persuading the United Nations to establish a Human Rights
Commission, and in this connection a document was drawn up
recording breaches of human rights in Latin America. In the
Spring of 1977 Pérez Esquivel was imprisoned without cause
being shown. In May 1978 he was released, but with the obligation
to report to the police as well as being subject to various
restrictions. These have subsequently been allowed to lapse, and
in 1980 he had an opportunity of visiting Europe.
The organisation of which Pérez Esquivel is the leader, Servicio Paz y Justicia, is a well-established one. Latin America is divided into three regions, each with its own offices, and under these come the national organisations. Their activities are co-ordinated from Pérez Esquivel's office in Buenos Aires.
The organisation is based on a Christian view of life, and enjoys close contact with clergy and bishops critical of present-day conditions in Latin America. The chief task of the movement is to promote respect for human rights, a phrase that is intended to include social and economic rights. On the practical level this means that Servicio provides assistance to the rural workers in their struggle for land, and to the trade unions in their struggle to protect the rights of their workers. This is done inter alia in the form of legal aid.
Despite the opposition he has encountered, Pérez Esquivel insists that the struggle must only be waged with non-violent means.
From Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 1980, Editor Wilhelm Odelberg, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1981
This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and later published in the book series Les Prix Nobel/ Nobel Lectures/The Nobel Prizes. The information is sometimes updated with an addendum submitted by the Laureate.
Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1980