On the morning of October 13, 1980, a telegram marked urgent arrived unexpectedly at the door of Adolfo Perez Esquivel's small office in Buenos Aires, Argentina, informing him that he had just been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 1980.
The award caught everyone off-guard, especially the Argentine military junta. Esquivel has been an industrious human rights activist and ardent practitioner and advocate of nonviolence in the service of justice for the poor and oppressed throughout Latin America. He was chosen over 70 other nominees, including President Carter and Pope John Paul II. Before this, the nature of Esquivel's work usually has gotten him into situations of disfavor rather than acclaim.
The Nobel citation said that the 48-year-old Esquivel has "shone a light in the darkness. He champions a solution of Argentina's grievous problems that dispenses with the use of violence, and is the spokesman of a revival of respect of human rights....The views he represents carry a vital message to many other countries...where social and political problems, as yet unresolved, have resulted in an escalation of the use of violence."
Esquivel, head of a growing network of nonviolent workers in Latin America called the Service for Peace and Justice (SPJ), received the news with a calm, humble grace that has marked his life and work.
"I accept this prize in the name of Latin America and its workers," he said, "in the name of its campesinos and its priests who are working diligently for the peace and rights of all." He announced that he would donate the $212,000 award money to the work of SPJ.
Esquivel has coordinated the network's efforts since 1974. Its nonviolent tactics have included work stoppages, vigils, petitions, fasts, and other public demonstrations, and have in many instances resulted in measurable successes.