Stories From Colombia2020-11-29T21:12:28+00:00

Images of Peace

By Alyssa Galik, RPCV 2016–2018 This story originally appeared in the 60th Anniversary Exhibit for the Museum of the Peace Corps Experience. Cartagena has always been a place of contradictions, a city of “magical realism” (realismo mágico), where Gabriel Garcia Marquez set his novel “Love in the Time of Cholera.” The poorest city in Colombia, yet also the epicenter of luxury and wealth. Sometimes, while traveling between the city and my Peace Corps site in Manzanillo Del Mar (a fishing village of 1,200 established by escaped slaves) I had a feeling of whiplash. Once an enclave on the far side of [...]

Nineteen Volunteers describe how they went from college to Colombia in 1962

By Jim Brown, Colombia IV (1962-1964) The Wild West years of Peace Corps recruiting were 1961 and 1962. An understaffed office in Washington was inundated by thousands of applications. There were delays, cancellations, and inconsistencies, but also spectacular successes. Screening was lax in some ways, demanding in others. Yet, the process somehow worked. By early 1963, 7,300 volunteers were at work 44 countries. Recruiting volunteers for Colombia IV (1962-64) was particularly challenging. Because they were to be the first Peace Corps group assigned to teach at the university level, every person had to have at least a BA, BS, or [...]

Flower Parade

By Kay Dixon, Colombia III (1962-1964) Today’s the day we check the Desfile de Silleteros from our bucket list.  From my youngest years, I have loved parades. When my childhood playground program featured a pet parade, I was one of the first kids to line up to see it. When my town’s volunteer firemen’s drum and bugle corps practiced marching through my neighborhood on summer evenings, I was there twirling my baton hoping they would notice and invite me to march along; they never did. For several years, I chaired a Fourth of July parade and celebration on Cape Cod with nearly [...]

It was poor Marquesa

By Bill Salerno, Colombia VI (1963-1966) It was mid-June, ‘64. Dan Taylor and I and his lovable pooch Marquesa were on a direct flight from Medellin to Bahia Solano on the Pacific rainforest coast of the Choco, the most underdeveloped, poorest departemento in the nation. Total annual rainfall about three meters. Really? I had been in Barbosa, Antioquia for eleven months, to a disappointing conclusion. The efforts to turn the pineapple into a marketing success had failed. We had given it our best try. I organized the Cooperative. I got the town to contribute a storage space. There was no [...]

Colombia IV: The First and Last Peace Corps Colombia Basketball Team

How a touring team of volunteers won games, earned credibility, and almost had an international incident By Jim Brown Like many other groups during the early days of the Peace Corps, the Colombia IV physical education/coaching volunteers had a credibility problem. How do you assign American volunteers to universities throughout Colombia and expect students (and faculty) to accept instruction from young people no older than themselves with still-developing Spanish language skills? The Carrasco Effect Eliseo (Ellis) Carrasco, the bilingual native of El Paso, Texas, had been a hall of fame high school coach in California before signing on with the [...]

Return to Dibulla

By: Abby Wasserman December 2008 My little Ana is a grandmother. There’s white in her wiry black hair and she is missing teeth. It wrings my heart to see her so fragile. Ana was my compañerita for a year in Dibulla, La Guajira, in 1964 and 1965, when I was a PCV there. Ana’s younger sister, my goddaughter Clea, is tall and robust. Mentally, she is still a child. She lives under the watchful eye of her mother, Ida. The last time I saw Clea she was a plump baby, light-skinned and blue-eyed. Her mother and I joked that she [...]

Sushi for Breakfast and Reggaetón from the Rooftops

By Brynn Smith Today marks one month since I landed back in the States, and every day I still wake up dazed and confused, wondering whether my whole life in Colombia was just a dream, or if all of the chaos here is just a nightmare.  At about 10:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 15, the United States Peace Corps announced they would be evacuating all volunteers from their sites worldwide due to the Covid-19 pandemic. I was a few blocks away at my sitemate’s house when we got the email. We were bracing for news, but we didn’t know it [...]

A Man and His Animals

By Jerry Cronin Many consider the Peace Corps Volunteers pseudo-hippie idealists who don’t accomplish anything. When I arrived in Bogotá in September, 1964, I had no idea where I would be sent. I had just completed training at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, NM and it was very rigorous. It included Outward Bound type activities which meant we had to rappel off of cliffs, climb back up, and spend three days in the wilderness with a map and a compass. In my cohort, 75 were invited to the training and only 25 were selected to serve on a [...]

Corona Contradictions

By Margarita Sorock A man in bermudas and a T-shirt arrives at the entrance to the Pearly Gates. St. Peter (very harried): Where are you from? Man in bermudas: Cartagena. St. Peter: Don’t you have strict orders not to go out? This past weekend (May 23-25) was a long one, including Monday. Sunday and Monday were days of strict quarantine and dry law, even for beverages made and consumed at home. No stores were open except, perhaps, an occasional pharmacy.  Today’s newspaper reported the weekend tally: 720 fights requiring police intervention and 600 underground parties. It sounds like a normal [...]

Transformative Chocolate

Recently evacuated Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) Elyse Magen would like to thank FOC for contributing to her National Peace Corps Association fundraising campaign “Economic Empowerment of Women in Colombia.” The campaign funding will be used to support a chocolate dessert business called Transformación, located in the municipality of Santa Marta, Colombia.    Transformación is run by four women and one young man who are all members of a farming collective called Guardabosques de la Sierra. The farming collective finds both national and international markets to sell the cacao grown by its members. As a small scale farmer, it is [...]

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