|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.