In the 1970s and 1980s the Guatemalan government's counterinsurgency tactics prompted nearly 2 million people to abandon their homes. Drawing on heretofore unexamined documentation produced by North American solidarity groups, this article examines how Canadian, Mexican, and U.S. grassroots organizations represented the approximately 200,000 Guatemalans who crossed the border into Mexico. It traces the gendered and racialized victim portrayals that celebrated refugee men's voices and agency while reducing refugee women to silent symbols of trauma. A close reading of new sources reveals a paradox of solidarity work in the 1980s: North American activists promoted a new social order of justice and equality, but they did so from positions both privileged and hindered by Cold War geopolitics. As a result, even as “northern” solidarists provided very real succor to “southern” people, their actions continued to be based on uneven (colonial/imperial) power relations and assumptions about an exotic Other.

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