"Pilgrimage To Chajul : Tales From Guatamala"

by Tony Maturin

Tales from Guatamala 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 organizations.

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 he heard.

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 power.

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 Bilborough)

"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 Peacemaker')

"Pilgrimage To Chajul: Tales From Guatemala" is available from the author:

Anthony Maturin,
23 Stewarts Gully,
Christchurch 9,
Aotearoa/New Zealand.

E-mail Anthony Maturin

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 that end.