To Chajul : Tales From Guatamala"
by Tony Maturin
To cut short
quite a long story, in May, 1990, Tony Maturin of
Christchurch, New Zealand, packed into a shoulder-bag a
video camera and 20 tapes, a pocket instamatic and films,
a towel and a change of clothes and went to Guatemala. He
went with the intention of making video documentaries of
the human rights situation there and writing a book that
would give the courageous Guatemalan people a voice in
the wider world. A book that would pay homage to
Rigoberta Menchú's little brother tortured to death in
the village of Chajul by the military, and through him,
to all the martyrs and 'disappeared', not only in
Guatemala, but wherever there are repressive regimes.
An insert provides a 1997 update on the situation.
John Lee of Amnesty International New Zealand
describes the book thus:
It's one thing to be an arm-chair Human Rights
Activist [and I'm not knocking them] - and rather
another to be an activist who decides to put his eyes
and ears where his pen had been.
The Guatemalan military massacred in Chajul in
September 1979; Rigoberta Menchú's brother was
tortured to reveal where were his family and why he
had a bible.
Tony Maturin, the author of this fascinatingly
readable book [if you can cope with horror stories
aptly interspersed with the rugged beauties of that
country], had heard about this massacre, among
others, through his work for Amnesty International,
and through contact with other human rights
The book is a personal account not only of his
travels through Guatemala, but a personal odyssey
which tested and strengthened his determination to be
more than a transient observer of abuses and of warm
hearts, and tested his own ability to cope with what
It compels you to consider issues .... the right
of people and - in particular - indigenous people,
questions about land, about power, both overt and
covert, about institutions of the powerful, and -
principally - about the realities of the abuses of
So no mere travelogue [though, at that level, an
evocative picture of life in Guatemala where I could
almost taste and smell the dust of villages and the
colour of the people], but a very personal and
sensitive commentary on [extra] ordinary Guatemalan
people coping somehow within a world ruled -
ruthlessly at times - by a powerful few, often with
the support of major world governments.
Children and bus drivers, peasants on long
uncomfortable and hair-raising bus trips, inn owners,
and then activists who, knowing all the risks, know
that they have to keep protesting.
But, overwhelming, overpowering behind the
individuals - institutions of the powerful, the
military and the churches:
"The rich people think that with a
concern for human rights here, they would lose
much of what they have".
".. we the Catholic Church should be the
light of the people. .. you have to be incarnated
with the sorrow and pain of the people."
Anyone who cares about Human Rights Abuse should
read this personal snapshot of oppression, and
realise, as Tony post-scripts; "There's no more
room on the fence..."
(Amnesty International New Zealand)
"This could be a bald and didactic book. It's
not. Sure, the author doesn't pull his punches - some
of the stories of the atrocities make very difficult
reading - but it's beautifully written: fluent,
intimate, with vivid detail. It's also a scary book
written by a brave man."
('Evening Post' review by Norman
"He combines a photographer's eye with an
ability to capture scenes and incidents in words; his
writing is notable for its freshness and simplicity.
Those who share in this readable account of
pilgrimage will find in the author an endearing
companion and an encouraging example."
(Richard Thompson for the 'NZ
"Pilgrimage To Chajul: Tales
From Guatemala" is available from the author:
23 Stewarts Gully,
Prices including air-mail:
U.S.A. - US$17.50 ; U.K. - £8.30 ; Canada - CAN$23.16 ;
Australia - AUS$26.00 ; New Zealand - NZ$30.00 + post.
A proportion of all sales will go to help support some
of the widows of Guatamala through some of the
organisations mentioned in the book, and when the authors
expenses have been met nearly all proceeds will go to