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T here's no official archive of CIASP and it's history resides in our collective memory. What follows is a personal recollection...corrections are welcome. Any personal remembrances will also placed on line.

CIASP emerged during the early 1960's. By most accounts, it began in Southern California as Amigos Anonymous. The idea spread across the USA and into Canada during a period of optimism and confidence in young people.

Students occupied all leadership and coordination positions, planned and presented most training seminars, raised funds to support the projects, and supervised and directed projects in Mexico. CIASP was strongly supported by an older generation with confidence to allow young people make their own way. In particular, individual university professors, priests and nuns of the Maryknoll and Scarborough orders, and professors from many diocesan seminaries provided support and stability allowing the group to flourish.

A core unit of CIASP was probably established in 1962 or 1963 at St. Michael's College (University of Toronto). One of the Basilian priests received an invitation from a Mexican priest (Fr. Zepeda) to send students to the Municipality of Pisaflores in the Mexican State of Hidalgo.

A small core of students from St. Mike's (One of the first leaders was Betty Dweyer) were joined by seminarians from St. Augustines College and spent a summer working with Fr. Zepeda and his fledgling organization called the Union of Campesinos. In 1965, the students spent the summer working on the construction of a road connecting Pisaflores to Highway 85 close to the towns of Jacala de Ledesmo HGO and Tamazunchale San Luis Potosi. In 1966 (?) the students purchased an adobe brick maker and worked on several construction projects around the village.

CIASP expanded beyond St. Mike's and included students from Montreal (Loyola, Marianapolis College), Ottawa (St. Patricks, University of Ottawa), London (King's College, Brescia College, St. Peter's Seminary), Windsor (Assumption), PEI, and UBC.

It also expanded beyond Pisaflores "town limits". Students were placed in several smaller satellite ranchos in the sierra above Pisaflores and three other municipalities located south and east of Pisaflores. Three other major projects were located in Xochicoatlan, San Nicolas de Jacala and Molango.

CIASP became large enough to require an executive board to make all decisions about CIASP membership and the Mexican projects. One person was elected as a national chair, and others filled regional leadership roles. Each project in Mexico was directed by one student who served as coordinator and each student was assigned to specific projects.

In the years after 1964, Canadian CIASP volunteers travelled to Mexico on a bus chartered out of Coburg Ontario; everyone switched to a Mexican Bus Company at El Paso or Brownsville. CIASPers probably shudder with horr when they recall those perilous bus trip down the Central Highlands to Mexico City and eventually back up highway 85.

In Mexico City we were billeted at a convent south of the city (Tlalpan) where we sat through seminars presenting an amazing review of Mexican history and culture. For most, the first exposure to the work of Octavio Paz happened there.

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Likewise, we were amazed by visits to the National Museum of Anthropology and to the magnificent Palacio des Bellas Artes where we were awed by the Ballet Folclorico. We were probably all shocked by the poverty we saw on our walking tours of La Pedregral...and would be amazed to learn that some of the most expensive homes in Mexico now occupy those sites.

The years 1964 through 1967 were arguably the high points of CIASP involvement. Projects ran smoothly, there were too many volunteers, and there was wonderful community support for CIASP. In retrospect, we probably all wonder how CIASP managed to remain solvent and avoid serious problems.

Signs of a changing mood became apparent during 1967. Canadian students arriving in Pisaflores discovered that Fr. Zepeda had been removed from the parish...probably because a result of political pressure applied by the ruling party (PRI). However, two new parish priests (Frs. Delgado and Miguel) accepted students without hesitation and we continued with only a few minor blips.

The tragic event of 1967 was the death of Lucille Mason. She was an only child of a hard-working Montreal family and she died in Mexico from a mengiococcal infection. Her body was accompanied to Montreal by Fr. Tim Hogan. Later that summer, an American CISAPer also died from a fall and Canadian CIASP provided the funds to send his body home.

Broader currents of change eventually entangled CIASP. By the end of 1967, many were asking whether anything of long term benefit reached our Mexicans hosts. The ideas of Iván Illich presented a major challenge to CIASP and the ensuing debate was a major factor leading to it's eventual dissolution. (This speech can viewed by clicking Illich Speech htm or accessing a pdf version)

By 1968 Mexico had changed irrevocably! The government of Gustavo Diaz Ordaz was responsible for a massacre of hundreds of Mexican students at the Plaza of Three Cultures (Tlatelolco) and that action radicalized an entire generation of Mexican students and Canadians. The idealistic optimism of CIASP seemed so inadequate in that world gone mad..

CIASP continued for a short period, but by the time the 1970's arrived it was no longer a thriving national organization. John Dillon brought several documents relevant to the demise of CIASP when he attended he Reunion 2006 in Toronto. Over the next few weeks, this information will be linked to this page and will be used to describe the final years of CIASP. A special report in 1970 recommended that it be disbanded, and Canadians didn't return to Mexico after 1970.

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This web site begins as personal project. I welcome input, ideas and feedback. Wherever possible, I'll insert personal stories, fotos, reflections, or comments.

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Hidalgo State and CIASP region
Click here to download a pdf map of Pisaflores