Weaving Relationships: Canada-Guatemala Solidarity


322 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-88920-428-4
DDC 261.8'328'0897415207281




Reviewed by J.H. Galloway

J.H. Galloway is a professor of geography at the University of Toronto.


Though many Mayans died in Guatemala during the 1961–96 civil war,
victims of atrocities, some 200,000 fled across the border into Mexico
where they lived for years in camps before making a cautious return
home. In this book, Kathryn Anderson recounts the efforts of Canadian
volunteers to help the Mayan refugees during the 1980s. The role of the
volunteers was not only to collect money for the refugees but perhaps
more importantly to raise awareness in Canada of the Mayans’ plight
and to put pressure on the Canadian government to intervene.

This is not a scholarly work. Anderson does not use any social science
research techniques. She relies on interviews and uses anecdotal
comments as evidence in a book that might best be described as a case
study of a well-intentioned volunteer campaign in a Third World country.

The book begins with a brief historical overview of the civil war,
which is followed by a description of the work of the volunteers. The
Mayans appreciated the volunteers not only for their financial
assistance and the publicity they generated for their cause, but also
for their role as witnesses. Their presence in the camps and among the
refugees returning to Guatemala served to protect the Mayans from
unwelcome attention of police and soldiers.

Anderson then turns her focus to Canada. The two chapters on recruiting
include a rather moving discussion of the problems of re-entry to
Canadian society. Many returning volunteers could not settle back into
the old routine. They found that their “spirituality” had changed
and that the churches they had belonged to before no longer satisfied.
The campaign organizers appear to have underestimated the capacity of a
prolonged Third World experience—the encounter with poverty and
brutality—to change the outlook of people formed in a prosperous, safe

Weaving Relationships suffers from a rather dull writing style. There
is only one map, which is not very informative. Many of the photographs
are poorly reproduced and are not very interesting. More of an effort
could have been made on the part of author and publisher to attract a
wider readership than I expect this book will have.


Anderson, Kathryn., “Weaving Relationships: Canada-Guatemala Solidarity,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 19, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/18093.