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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