Tag Archives: Colombia

James (Jim) C. Todd in Colombia

Country of Service: Colombia
Service Project: Educational Television Utilization Volunteer
Dates in Service: 1963-1965
Keywords: Architecture, Business, Community Development, Education, Environment, Health, Information Technology, Libraries, Literacy, Urban Planning, Youth

Accession Date: April 16, 2021
Access: no restrictions
Collection Size: 1 linear foot

Document Types

  • Correspondence
  • Photographs
  • Reports
  • Publications
  • Training Materials

Jim M. Brown in Colombia (Friends of Colombia)

Country of Service: Colombia
Place of Service: Bucaramanga
Service Type: Physical Education Teacher & Coach
Dates in Service: 1963-1964
Keywords: Community Development, Education, Health,  Sports, Youth

Accession Date: January 27, 2021
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: .5 linear feet

Document Types

  • Correspondence
  • Photographs

Helene Dudley in Colombia (Friends of Colombia)

Country of Service: Colombia
Place of Service: Barranquilla
Service Type: Urban Community Development (Colombia)
Dates in Service: 1968-1970
Keywords: Agriculture, Architecture, Business, Community Development, Education, Information Technology, Urban Planning

Accession Date: January 27, 2021
Access: no restrictions
Collection Size: .5 linear feet

Document Types

  • Correspondence
  • Photographs
  • Reports
  • Publications

Martin Hupka in Colombia

Name: Martin A. Hupka
Country of Service: Colombia
Dates in Service: 1963-1965
Keywords: Community Development

Accession Date: January 29, 2020
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 0.25 linear feet

Document Types

  • Correspondence
  • Photographs
  • Publications
  • Training Materials

Lorelei Christl Robinson and Gary D. Robinson in Colombia

Name: Lorelei Christl Robinson and Gary D. Robinson
Country of Service: Colombia
Service Project Title: Peace Corps Staff, 1965-1971
Dates in Service: 1961-1963-; 1963-1965
Keywords: Education

Accession Date: January 17, 2020 (updated May 7, 2021)
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 1.5 linear feet

Document Types

  • Photographs
  • Reports
  • Publications
  • Training Materials

Good Intentions and the Cold War: Exploring Peace Corps Service in the 1960s

Sarah Leister is an anthropology graduate student in Dr. Adrienne Pine’s Craft of Anthropology I course (ANTH-601). This blog post was written in fulfillment of a course assignment.

This blog post will analyze two items from the AU Archives associated with Margaret (Peggy) Gleeson’s volunteer services in the Peace Corps. Gleeson was a nurse who joined the Peace Corps in 1963, just two years after it was founded by President John F. Kennedy. She volunteered in a small village in Colombia called Fusagasugá, where she was tasked with teaching classes to Colombian nurses who worked at the local hospital. This post will focus on Gleeson’s Peace Corps training before she went to Colombia by analyzing two documents: the training manual and her biographical sketch. These documents highlight the political context of the Cold War and how Gleeson and her fellow volunteers felt about their upcoming Peace Corps service.

Cover of Gleeson's Peace Corps training syllabus, reads "Peace Corps Training Program. Colombia Nurses Brooklyn College of the University of the City of New York. October 28, 1963 to January 31, 1964."

Gleeson’s Peace Corps training syllabus.

In the early 1960s, Cold War tensions were high. The Cuban Revolution had succeeded in 1959, and the 1961 CIA-led Bay of Pigs invasion that attempted to reverse it had failed. The U.S. aimed to prevent a supposed threat of communism in other Latin American countries. This imperial project coincided with updated Social Darwinist ideologies proposed by U.S. economist Walt Whitman Rostow that placed Latin American countries (and especially the indigenous communities within them) in an earlier stage of development and modernity than the United States (Geidel 2010).

It is against this political backdrop that Gleeson embarked upon an intensive Peace Corps training program in 1963 at Brooklyn College. She was a member of the first group of nurses to be sent to Colombia by the Peace Corps. According to the program’s syllabus, the training included courses on common diseases in Colombia, Colombian history, Spanish language, and ten sessions on “The Challenge of Communism.”

As I looked through the Peace Corps Training Program syllabus, I was surprised to see that Brooklyn College, rather than a U.S. governmental entity, was responsible for training the Peace Corps volunteers. Fernando Purcell and Marcelo Casals (2015) point to the crucial role of U.S. universities in offering training during the Cold War, which were known to give volunteers “theoretical and practical knowledge about modernity and community development, along with a reinforcement of ideological values that were defended during the Cold War” (2). The Brooklyn College syllabus includes readings by staunch anti-communist Zbigniew Brzezinski—an advisor to President and Peace Corps founder John F. Kennedy. It explicitly frames communism as a threat and focuses on the study of Soviet models while glossing over the “great variety of revolutionary models” in Latin America (Purcell and Casals 2015).

Page from The communism section of the Peace Corps training syllabus.

The communism section of the Peace Corps training syllabus.

Also in the syllabus, a letter to the volunteers from the Office of the Mayor of New York City states “We in New York City are proud that one of our great municipal institutions is becoming part of the world-wide efforts of the Peace Corps to help the underprivileged peoples of the world.” Similarly, most of the volunteers in Gleeson’s training group stated that their reason for joining the Peace Corps stemmed from a desire to help or serve others.

Photograph of Gleeson and her biographical info, reads "Margaret J. Gleeson, from New Rochelle, New York where she was graduated from high school. Her professional work was done at the Nursing School in New Rochelle. She received her B.S. in Nursing Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Her most recent position was as Administrative Supervisor at the New Rochelle Hospital. Margaret enjoys out door sports, theater and travel. The Peace Corps is her means of living with and helping people of another culture."

Gleeson’s biographical sketch featured in a booklet of volunteers’ biographical information.

These documents show an interesting parallel between the U.S. government’s battle against perceived communist threats and the volunteers’ desires to help. They also shine light on the ways in which volunteering, aid efforts, and even social science research have coincided with U.S. imperialism, despite volunteers’ and researchers’ good intentions. While Gleeson and many other Peace Corps volunteers went abroad with a desire to be helpful, a consideration of the broader political context might evoke the title sentiment of Ivan Illich’s provocative speech given to a group of U.S. volunteers in Mexico in 1968: “To Hell with Good Intentions.”

As a white anthropology student from the U.S. who has also traveled to Latin America with good intentions, I am in many ways similar to Peggy Gleeson and other Peace Corps volunteers. This leads me to ask, how can U.S. students, volunteers, and workers analyze their individual intentions within structures of power? To what extent do our intentions matter? How can we make our intentions match up with our actions? How can we combine our intentions and actions in pursuit of international solidarity and social justice, rather than as charity that ultimately reinforces empire?

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The North American: A Peace Corps Serenade

Join the Peace Corps…and become an artist’s muse? That is exactly what happened when Cathie Maclin Boyles arrived in Colombia. Boyles served as a nurse between 1974 and 1979; however, her first year must have been one of the most memorable. Boyles recounts one evening at her village’s festival:

“During my first year of service I worked in a very small town on the Mojana River in the Department of Sucre. Once a year the town celebrated its patron saint, Santa Catalina, with a town festival. The year I was there the town succeeded in obtaining Alfredo Gutierrez and his band to perform at the evening celebration.

Alfredo Gutierrez is a Colombian singer famous for his vallenato. Vallenato is a form of folk music, which originated in Colombia on the Caribbean coast and Alfredo Gutierrez is the Johnny Cash of the vallenato. He is still well known and admired today.
As his band was playing during the evening fiesta, Alfredo Gutierrez spotted me, the only Gringa (slang for American woman) in the crowd and asked to dance with me. We danced numerous times during his breaks and he told me that he was going to compose a song for me. He had way too much to drink, but later in the evening he belted out his early rendition of La Norteamericana. Much to my and everyone in the town’s surprise he polished the song and put it on his next album. For months the song played on the radio and I became quite the celebrity in the whole area!”

 English From the United States She has come to this country But Cathie has found her way Into my heart I tell her that I love her And she tells me that she loves me too I don’t understand English But I understand my heart What I never expected To happen to me Was that I would fall in love With a North American I love you, I love you my love Yes my love I love you, I love you my love Yes my love For the pearl of the Mohana! When I told her How much I loved her I told her in Castilian And she answered me in English This Gringa is a goddess A beautiful North American I met her in the Mojana And she will stay in my heart forever What I never expected To happen to me Was that I would fall in love With a North American I love you, I love you my love Yes my love I love you, I love you my love Yes my love Spanish (Original) De los estados unidos Ha llegado a esta nacion Pero Cathie se ha metido Dentro de mi Corazon Yo le digo que la quiero Y ella me dice que si El ingles yo no entiendo Pero mi Corazon si Lo que yo menos pensaba Que me pudiera pasar Que me fuera enamorar De una Norteamericana I love you, I love you my love Yes my love I love you, I love you my love Yes my love Para la perla de la Mojana! Cuando me le declare Que mucho la estaba amando Se lo dije en castellano Y me contest en ingles Esa Gringa es una diosa Linda Norteamericana La conoci en la Mojana Y en mi Corazon reposa Lo que yo menos pensaba Que me pudiera pasar Que me fuera enamorar De una Norteamericana I love you, I love you my love Yes my love I love you, I love you my love Yes my love

Boyles finished her first two years of service in Sincelejo, where she worked with the Ministry of Health to teach rural health programs, train local midwives, and supervise child vaccinations. After extending her service for two additional years, she became a nursing supervisor in a small regional hospital outside Bogota.

Boyles donated her original album by Gutierrez to the Peace Corps Community Archive in 2019.

Listen to Gutierrez serenade Boyles in “La Norteamericana”:

Cathie Maclin Boyles in Colombia

Name: Cathie Maclin Boyles
Country of Service: Colombia
Place of Service: Department of Sucre and Sincelejo
Service Project Title: Nurse
Dates in Service: 1974-1979
Keywords: Health, HIV/AIDS

Accession Date: October 6, 2019
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 0.01 linear feet

Document Types

  • Sound

Digital Surrogates

Fortune Zuckerman in Colombia

Name: Fortune Zuckerman
Country of Service: Colombia
Place of Service: Antioquia, Bolivar, Atlantico Department
Service Type OR Service Project Title: Associate Peace Corps Director
Dates in Service: 1974-1980

Accession Date: July 31, 2019
Access: No Restrictions
Collection Size: 1 folder

Document Types

  • Reports

John Montoya in Colombia

Name: John O. Montoya
Country of Service: Colombia
Place of Service: Tenjo
Service Type: Community Development
Dates in Service: 1961-1963
Keywords: Agriculture, Community Development, Health

Accession Date: March 26, 2019
Access: No Restrictions
Collection Size: 1 linear feet

Document Types

  • Correspondence
  • Photographs
  • Scrapbooks
  • Publications
  • Journals