Adolfo Perez Esquivel
1980 Nobel Peace Prize Winner
"We must apply our efforts to the construction of a more just and humane world. And I want to declare emphatically that such a world is possible!”
~ Adolfo Perez Esquivel
Pérez Esquivel was born in 1931 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Despite his family's poverty, he went to school and became a well-known artist. His large-scale murals and artworks can be viewed in parks across Latin America and Europe. His faith in humankind and belief in God are reflected in his paintings, drawings, and sculptures. He also worked as a professor of architecture. In 1976, a military dictatorship took power over Argentina and carried out a policy of repression, torture, and murder called the "Dirty War.” They imposed a brutal crackdown on democratic rights that targeted artists, teachers, journalists, activists, and intellectuals.
The government censored or "disappeared" these people. Pérez Esquivel worried about human rights abuses in his country, especially the treatment of local leaders who worked for peace and democracy. In 1974, he quit teaching and became secretary-general of the newly formed Servicio Paz y Justicia (Peace and Justice Service or SERPAJ) - a group that coordinated nonviolent movements in the region. In 1977, the military dictatorship imprisoned and tortured Pérez Esquivel for 14 months. He was released after being named Amnesty International's Political Prisoner of the Year in 1978, which led to thousands of letters being written to the Argentinean government demanding his release.
Pérez Esquivel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1980 for his courageous defense of human rights. In 1983, the military government was thrown out and members of the dictatorship were brought to trial. Today, Pérez Esquivel continues his work with SERPAJ, including a campaign calling for a cancellation of the debt of third world countries. He has also created "Peace Villages” that provide training and housing for homeless and orphan children in Argentina. He has been a member of PeaceJam since 1996.