Eligibility

Scholarly and popular books, including non-fiction graphic works, are eligible, either edited or authored. To be eligible, books must meet the following criteria:

  • An original, non-fiction book related to issues of human rights, the rule of law, social and/or economic justice, and democracy, as they are broadly understood, in contemporary Latin America. Books should pertain to events that took place in roughly the past 50 years.
  • Published in the English language by a commercial, university, or non-profit publishing concern. Books written originally in other languages and translated into English are eligible. Self-published books are not eligible.
  • Published in the two years before the date of the award, including the year of the award. In other words, books published in 2021 and 2022 are eligible for the prize awarded in 2023. Books published prior to 2021 and before are not eligible.

The deadline for entries is November 18, 2022. There is no entry form. Publishers, authors or readers may send nominations and a single hard copy of the book to Corin Zaragoza at cmz12@duke.edu and the address below. Please use the subject line Méndez Book Award. We will contact you for additional copies if the book is included in the short list. The winner will be announced in early 2023 and invited to deliver a reading at Duke University in the Spring. There is an award of $1,000.

The 2022 address for copies is:

Méndez Book Award
Duke Human Rights Center @ the Franklin Humanities Institute
114 S. Buchanan Blvd.
Durham, NC 27708

The submission should contain a short description of the book and publishing details; no supporting materials or reviews are necessary. If books are short-listed, we will request copies for all judges. For books due to be published in 2022 but after the entry deadline, nominators may send a pre-publication copy, indicating the publication date.

Past Winners

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2021 Winner

The Water Defenders: how ordinary people saved a country from corporate greed by Robin Broad and John Cavanaugh

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2020 Winner

Reagan’s Gun-Toting Nuns: The Catholic Conflict Over Cold War Human Rights Policy in Central America by Theresa Keeley

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2019 Winner

What You Have Heard is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance by Carolyn Forché

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2018 Winner

There Are No Dead Here: A Story of Murder and Denial in Colombia by María McFarland Sánchez-Moreno

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2017 Winner

Assassination of a Saint: The Plot to Murder Óscar Romero and the Quest to Bring His Killers to Justice by Matt Eisenbrandt   

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2016 Winner

Boom, Bust, Exodus: The Rust Belt, the Maquilas, and a Tale of Two Cities by Chad Broughton

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2015 Winner

Paper Cadavers: The Archives of Dictatorship in Guatemala by Kristen Weld

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2014 Winner

 The Beast: Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Migrant Trail by Óscar Martí­nez

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2013 Winner

The Big Truck that Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster by Jonathan Katz

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2012 Winner

Oblivion: A Memoir by Héctor Abad

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2011 Winner

The Justice Cascade by Kathryn Sikkink

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2010 Winner

Hostage Nation: Colombia’s Guerrilla Army and the Failed War on Drugs, by Victoria Bruce, Karin Hayes and Jorge Enrique Botero

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The Dictator’s Shadow by Heraldo Muñoz

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The Art of Political Murder:Who Killed the Bishop? by Francisco Goldman 

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Judges

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Robin Kirk (Chair)

Faculty Co-Chair of the Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute, Kirk is a senior lecturer in the Department of Cultural Anthropology and directs the Human Rights Certificate. Kirk has written five books, including More Terrible Than Death: Massacres, Drugs and America’s War in Colombia (Public Affairs) and The Monkey’s Paw: New Chronicles from Peru (University of Massachusetts Press) as well as a young-adult fantasy series.

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James Chappel

The Hunt Assistant Professor of History at Duke University, Chappel studies modern European history. In Catholic Modern: The Challenge of Totalitarianism and the Remaking of the Church, Chappel traces the way that Catholics came to adopt a language of ‘human rights,’ and explores the limitations and opportunities of religious human rights language.

About James Chappel
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Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno

An activist, writer, and lawyer, McFarland is the author of There Are No Dead Here: A Story of Murder and Denial in Colombia, a Méndez award winner. She is currently Senior Legal Adviser to Human Rights Watch. As the former executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, Maria was at the helm of the leading organization in the US fighting to end the war on drugs. Previously, Maria held several positions at Human Rights Watch, including as co-director of its US Program.

About Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno
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Patrick Stawski

Human Rights Archivist at Duke University Libraries, Stawski has acquired and opened research access to several important collections including the papers and records of Marshall T. Meyer, the Washington Office on Latin America, Global Rights, and the Center for Death Penalty Litigation. Mr. Stawski’s research interests include record-making regimes and their relationship to governance and state power, colonial archives, and digital records in the human rights field.

About Patrick Stawski
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Kirsten Weld

Kirsten Weld is a historian of modern Latin America. Her research explores 20th-century struggles over inequality, justice, historical memory, and social inclusion. Her first book, Paper Cadavers: The Archives of Dictatorship in Guatemala (2014), analyzes how history is produced as social knowledge, the labour behind transformative social change, and the stakes of the stories we tell about the past. 

About Kirsten Weld