By Patricia A. Wand, Peace Corps Colombia 1963-1965
Political scientist Oliver Kaplan studies rural communities in Colombia and analyzes how they fared through the prolonged period of civil unrest. Kaplan introduced his findings to Friends of Colombia by playing the folksong “El Campesino Embejucao” by Oscar Humberto Gómez. In the song, the campesino is caught between a rock and a hard place, ensnared in the middle of opposing forces. The folksong articulates the difficulties faced by villagers whose lives are disrupted by years of political turmoil and militant aggression.
Through his observation of various municipalities in the departmentos of Caldas, Santander, Cundinamarca and Meta, Kaplan discovered that some villages suffered more disruptions than others when armed actors surrounded them and attempted to take control. What accounts for the differences in the way various communities responded to these disruptions in their daily lives?
It turns out those villages where armed actors caused less harm had certain characteristics in common. Kaplan cites examples showing municipalities with active juntas comunales more effectively resisted the violence and maintained more stability and solidarity than those municipalities with no pre-existing community-based leadership. That is, where Acción Comunal had been active through previous decades, municipalities were able to cope more effectively.
As leaders with no political party sponsorship, juntas were likely to be seen as inclusive, representing local issues and speaking with authority on behalf of the entire community. They advocated and implemented collective strategies that mitigated the divisive approach of the external terrorist groups. Furthermore, juntas continued their record-keeping practices, managing information and preserving local history.
For Friends of Colombia, as well as for Kaplan, the next question is what have been the long-run effects of the hundreds of Peace Corps Volunteers assigned as rural community developers to work with Acción Comunal in the 1960s and 1970s? As Kaplan pursues this research our experiences as RCPVs will undoubtedly offer valuable contributions.
Kaplan spoke to Friends of Colombia during Peace Corps Connect – Colorado, August 4, 2017 in Denver, as part of the annual Colombia Country Update sponsored by FOC. Oliver Kaplan is Assistant Professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver and the author of a new book on this topic, Resisting War: How Communities Protect Themselves (Cambridge University Press, 2017).
Following the intriguing presentation and discussion, Dr. Kaplan joined Friends of Colombia at Los Parcero’s, a new Colombian restaurant. For old-times’ sake we topped the evening with a traditional shot (or two) of aguardiente.
Special thanks to Michael Haviland (RPCV Colombia 1963-1965) and Nathan Mullen (RPCV Colombia 2012-2014) for helping secure locations for our Denver activities, where we were joined by Kevin and Kay Dixon (RPCV Colombia 1962-1964), Henry Jibaja (RPCV Colombia 1961-1963, staff 1967-1972) and Ruby Jibaja, Bob Kueppers (RPCV Colombia 1966-1968), Ed Ladon (RPCV Colombia 1967-1969), Olivia Mullen and Patricia Wand (RPCV Colombia 1963-1965).
“Legacy of Peace Corps and Colombia’s New Chance for Peace”
Featuring research in Colombia by Oliver Kaplan, author and professor
The first Peace Corps volunteers arrived in Colombia in the early 1960s, an opportune time to promote peace and reconciliation. Yet Colombia went on to suffer a decades-long war and nearly became a failed state. What, then, were the legacies of the development efforts like Peace Corps? What implications do previous rural development programs have for peace following the recent agreement with the FARC? All are welcome!
Friday, August 4, 2017 3:00 – 5:30 pm
Program Location – University of Denver, Sturm Hall Room #251
Hosted by Friends of Colombia and National Peace Corps Association
Details & Registration: http://www.peacecorpsconnect.org/cpages/peace-corps-connect
Welcome from Friends of Colombia Board. Brief update and introductions Patricia Wand, host and FOC Board member, RPCV/Colombia 1963-1965
Speaker Oliver Kaplan conducts fieldwork in Colombia where he studies how civilian communities organize to protect themselves in wartime violence. His most recent research is published in Resisting War: How Communities Protect Themselves (Cambridge University Press, 2017). His work appears in The Journal of Conflict Resolution; Journal of Peace Research; The New York Times; Foreign Affairs; Foreign Policy; CNN.
Kaplan, Assistant Professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver, was recently Jennings Randolph Senior Fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace and previously a postdoctoral Research Associate at Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School, and at Stanford University. Kaplan earned a Ph.D. in political science from Stanford University and B.A. at UC San Diego.
Friday, August 4, 2017 6:30 pm
Dinner for Friends of Colombia and guests (no host dinner)
Los Parceros (Colombian restaurant): 5922 East Colfax, Denver CO 80220
RSVP to Nathan Mullen (Colombia 2012-2015) firstname.lastname@example.org 303-378-6534
Is your RPCV/ Colombia group hosting a reunion in 2017-2018?
Please notify Patricia A. Wand email@example.com cell 202-375-8349
Send your current contact information to Gale Gibson (Colombia 1962-64) firstname.lastname@example.org
Hosts for Peace Corps Connect / Friends of Colombia activities
Here is the story of the night in photos:
Photos courtesy of the Colombian Embassy
Join Friends of Colombia and the entire Peace Corps community celebrating 55 years, Washington DC, at the National Peace Corps Association conference “Peace Corps Beyond,” September 21– 25, 2016. Many events are scheduled and inspiring speakers are still being announced. For details, visit http://www.peacecorpsconnect.org/cpages/peace-corps-connect.
Friends of Colombia events
Thursday, September 22:
2–4 pm: Colombia Country Update, NEWLY SCHEDULED EVENT!
Panels discussing 1) Current Peace Corps / Colombia programs, 2) Projects supported by Friends of Colombia, and 3) Colombia Today. Location: Woman’s National Democratic Club, 1526 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington DC 20036 (Near Q St. North Entrance of DuPont Circle Metro Stop on Red line)
Watch Friends of Colombia website for updates: http://www.friendsofcolombia.org/
6:00–8:00pm: Reception honoring Peace Corps/Colombia
Hosted by Colombian Ambassador Juan and Mrs. Pinzón. Attendance by invitation; notify Arleen Cheston, FOC President, at email@example.com if you have not received an invitation and wish to attend.
Friday, September 23
4:15–5:15 pm: The Great Surge and beyond Sponsor: Friends of Colombia
Panel featuring Steven Radelet (RPCV Western Samoa 1981-83) presenting his thesis on the progress of socioeconomic development over the past 20 years. Respondents: Constance Freeman (PC Country Director Congo Brazzaville 1978-1979, Cameroon 1979-1981) and Gary Burniske (RPCV Guatemala 1977-1979, Costa Rica 1979-1981)
NOTE: Panel is part of Peace Corps Beyond conference featuring issues and history related to all things Peace Corps. Discounts for seniors & recent returnees, One-day Conference fee for those attending Friday only. Details of Conference and registration at: http://www.peacecorpsconnect.org/cpages/peace-corps-connect
Overview of Peace Corps Beyond schedule
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Check website for meetings of interest: http://www.peacecorpsconnect.org/events
Thursday, September 22 – National Day of Action – Registration required
8:00am–5:00pm: Visit Congressional offices to advocate for Peace Corps
Information & registration at firstname.lastname@example.org
5:00pm–7:00pm: Reception for advocates and Congressional staff. The newly established Sam Farr Congressional Leadership Award will be announced
Friday, September 23 – Peace Corps Beyond – Registration required
8:00am–5:15pm: Conference featuring issues and history related to all things Peace Corps
Register at http://www.peacecorpsconnect.org/cpages/peace-corps-connect
4:15–5:15pm: Panel sponsored by Friends of Colombia: The Great Surge and Beyond
Saturday, September 24 – Peace Corps Beyond – Registration required
8:00am–6:00pm: Conference featuring issues and history related to all things Peace Corps
Register at http://www.peacecorpsconnect.org/cpages/peace-corps-connect
Sunday, September 25–Walk for Peace
For additional information contact Patricia Wand. FOC Board email@example.com 202-375-8349
Compiled August 21, 2016
2016 marks the 55th Anniversary of the Peace Corps and to celebrate, NPCA is sponsoring a national conference–Peace Corps Beyond–at George Washington University in Washington, DC the weekend of September 22-25, 2016. You may register and view the conference schedule on the NPCA website.
The Embassy of Colombia has invited FOC members, friends and family to a reception at the home of Ambassador Pinzón the evening of September 22 from 6-8 pm. You will be receiving an invitation via email from the Embassy, so please watch for it and RSVP if you plan to attend. Ambassador Juan Carlos Pinzón is very supportive of Peace Corps and is especially pleased to invite us to his home.
FOC is sponsoring one of the break-out sessions on September 23, 4:15-5:15 pm at the Marvin Center at GWU. The topic, Global Development Trends, will be introduced by Stephen Radelet, Director of the Global Human Development Program at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and author of the recent book The Great Surge: The Ascent of the Developing World. He will be accompanied by panelists representing developing countries.
You may wish to gather after the session for dinner in one of the many restaurants close to GWU. We will make a few suggestions and encourage you to make reservations ahead of time. There are major events in town that weekend.
We hope to have a good representation from the second generation Colombia RPCVs, known as Colombia II. It will be a good opportunity to reconnect with friends and share experiences. I hope to see you in D.C. September 21-25.
Colombia #46, RCD-UDC, 1966-1968, does it once again by holding the 6th reunion for the 50th Anniversary since COS. This time the joyous reunion was held at Kiawah Island, South Carolina, and hosted by the ever gracious Bruce and Judy Newton. Some 20+ persons were in attendance and a few were accompanied by spouses and significant others. The ever popular “Talking Stick” was passed from person-to-person, so as to allow each person to update the others on what has occurred of significance in their lives since the last reunion they attended. Our group has acquired and adopted as our own a few additional RPCV’s from other Colombian PCV groups. This has occurred because we are a cohesive and vibrant collection of eclectic personalities who never lack for a discussion topic of interest to the group. We have known each other for right at 50 years and when we look at each other, we still see the ambition, drive and the youthful commitment which led us to follow the searching cry of that great leader when he called for volunteers to go abroad and try to change the world for the better! The group also held a reunion in Cartagena, Colombia in 2014.
The next reunion is planned for 2018 in Wonderful San Antonio, Texas, where the unfortunate and culturally deprived non-Texans will be introduced to Texas Pickles, Texas-size Margaritas, and the ever popular Mariachi Music!
Attendees: Hosts Judy Sperling-Newton and Bruce Newton, Mari Kae Ennis Applegate and Terry Applegate, Tony Bartilotti, Joe Benitez, Susan Cole, Ed Eng, David Lehmann, Denise Martin, Roger Martin and Janet R. Whelan, Shirley and Bill McGrath, Iya and Rick Merrill, Susan Tower Racine, Debbie and Richard Sanders, Marthi and Jerry Ungar.
By Richard Sanders
This year’s Peace Corps Connect conference will take place September 23-24 in Washington D.C. Relevant information can be found here: http://www.peacecorpsconnect.org/community/annual-gathering/
Further details concerning events hosted by Friends of Colombia, during this weekend, will be made available on this site. Check back for further details!
Aahh…sancocho! That hearty and comforting soup from Antioquia…a favorite of all Colombians…was the centerpiece of an RPCV gathering in Washington, DC February 21. Constance Ray, Colombia II-4, administrative specialist for the Peace Corps’ InterAmerica and Pacific regions and the new social chairman of Friends of Colombia, hosted the party which attracted two dozen RPCVs from the early years and the most recent ones. While slurping their soup, RPCVs who served in the 60’s shared stories with RPCVs newly returned from assignments on the Colombian coast. The newer RPCVs updated the older ones about living and working in Colombia today.
Fun facts: The sancocho de pollo was prepared by Constance’s friend and housemate Regis Ryan, an RPCV from Mali and a devoted cook who is currently a mixologist at The Four Seasons in Washington, DC. Constance baked cakes iced with frosting in the colors of the Colombia flag. She greeted her guests dressed in an authentic Costeno skirt, a gift from a Colombian friend.
Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet presided over a festive 25th anniversary celebration of the Peace Corps in Colombia at the Hotel El Prado in Barranquilla on October 21. An outstanding exhibit chronicling the early years and latter years– separated into those who arrived in country between 1961-81, and the latest group who began again in 2010—was also on display throughout the ballroom with about 150 attendees.
About a dozen elders from the early years traveled to Colombia for the anniversary and each early volunteer present was called to the stage by Carrie Hessler and presented with a special pin. “Flaco” Bob Arias won the unofficial distinguished service award for having served five different times in the Peace Corps, once as a Colombia volunteer tk date, once as a Colombia Response Corps volunteer tk date, and as a Country Director in three different countries in Latin America. The older volunteers took great delight in trying to recognize one another in the old photos while younger volunteers took selfies in front of the exhibits. Between speeches by Hessler, the Secretary of Education of Atlantico State, current Peace Corps staffers and the Deputy Chief of Mission of the US Embassy in Bogota, videos showed Colombians who work with current volunteers expressing their gratitude for the contributions that the Peace Corps continues to make in Colombia.
The grand finale was a series of amazing Costeño musical performances in both song and dance—a mini Barranquilla Carnaval. Seeing those colorful performers made it hard to believe that today in Colombia the number one mission of the Peace Corps is “safety and security.”
Old friends and new friends alike gathered at the residence of Colombian ambassador to the United States, Juan Carlos Pinzon, in Dupont Circle, Washington D.C, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Peace Corps Colombia.
Guests included returned Volunteers from both phase one (1961-1981) and phase two (2010-2015) of Peace Corps operations in Colombia, Peace Corps HQ staff, and a few friends of Colombia.
Embassy staff welcomed guests will a warm cafecito and pan de yucca before Ambassador Pinzon began with an interesting discourse on the history and current state of Colombia, thanking Peace Corps Volunteers for their contributions and continued service in the country.
Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler Radelet spoke next, offering her heartfelt appreciation to Ambassador Pinzon as well as the former Volunteers in attendance. Radelet recognizes Peace Corps Colombia as one of the earliest Peace Corps programs and praised the Group 1 Volunteers for their bravery and continued support of Colombia.
Group 1 Volunteers then presented Radelet with a copy of the bronze plaque that hangs at Rutgers University, commemorating the first group to go into training in 1961. A copy of the original plaque now hangs proudly at Peace Corps Headquarters.
There was a sense of collective comradery in the room and spirits were high as guests remembered their own experience with Peace Corps and Colombia.
United States Congressman Sam Farr was also in attendance for the 25th anniversary celebration and as a parting gift, each guest received a photography book called, “Colombia; A Country of Opportunity.”
From Oct. 12-16, 2015, 26 of the remaining Colombia I (1961-1963) Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) reunited in Galveston, Texas to reconnect and honor their time together, more than 50 years after their first experience in Colombia.
Colombia I included 62 Volunteers who were assigned, along with local counterparts, to do community development work in rural Colombia. Primarily, they were instrumental in getting the Colombian government’s fledgling Acción Communal program up and running. According to CARE, the organization that administered the group even before Peace Corps was fully operational worldwide, Colombia I Volunteers played a role in the realization of the following local projects: 44 schools, 29 farm-to-market roads, 27 aqueducts, 4 health centers, 100 sports fields, 1000 latrines, and 26 cooperatives.
Two members of the Colombia I team, David Crozier and Larry Radley, were the first Peace Corps Volunteers to pass away during service, in a plane crash in the Colombian jungle on Easter Sunday, 1962. Peace Corps later named two training facilities in Puerto Rico, Camp Crozier and Camp Radley, in their honor.
In a time of doubt and uncertainty, the success of Colombia I helped secure the future of the Peace Corps, demonstrating the important impact of service abroad. Now, the remaining members of Colombia I still get together every few years, in addition to the national NPCA reunions that happen every five years in D.C.
Following their four days in Galveston, Colombia I RPCV Darrel Young composed the following piece describing the reunion.
Oh Galveston, welcomed, with charms wide open, twenty-six of the remaining fifty members of Colombia I, along with twenty wives, including two widows, for a get-together age-appropriately entitled “The Older We Get, The Better We Were!”
Texas was perfect, not only the weather, but in Texas, exaggeration and embellishment are not only allowed, they’re admired! Days and nights, enhanced by succulent seafood and occasional sips of Aguardiente Cristal and/or Ron Viejo de Caldas, were spent sharing ourselves with one another and with the city at large. Everyone had their moment, recounting how Peace Corps made each of us more.
We heard by phone and text from those who couldn’t be there. We got updated on Peace Corps and NPCA. We walked the seawall; we swam; we took a boat tour into the twilight. We dined together and honored those no longer with us.
We reaffirmed how much we are still a part of one another.
We discovered once again that we are at our best when we are together.
By Patricia A. Wand, Colombia VIII 1963-1965
July 11, 2015
After the final session of Peace Corps Connect – Berkeley, as I got on the dorm elevator to retrieve my bags and head out, another returned PCV got on with me. He was probably in his sixties and, making small talk, I asked, “Is this the first Peace Corps Connect you’ve attended?” With a smile he said, “Yes, it is. And next year will be the second.”
That pretty well summed it up for all of us.
He went on to explain. The speakers were informative and stimulating, the contributions of fellow RPCVs to the world and their communities continue unabated and their stories are astounding. Most of all and overall, the spirit of Peace Corps was pervasive. Throughout the plenary sessions, the breakouts and individual interactions he was reminded of the reasons so many of us signed up in the first place.
For every Peace Corps Connect, Friends of Colombia joins forces with National Peace Corps Association to offer something special focusing on Colombia. And now that Peace Corps has come alive again in Colombia, it makes our efforts even more rewarding.
Peace Corps Connect – Berkeley was no exception. FOC sponsored a Colombia Gathering on Friday afternoon, June 5, and a lively dinner on Friday evening. In addition, and for their first reunion ever, fifteen RPCVs who trained in Colombia VIII joined forces for meals and informal events to mark the milestone 50 years since they left Colombia.
On Friday afternoon more than 40 Colombia RPCVs gathered on the UC Berkeley campus in standing-room-only space, introducing themselves one-by-one and participating in lively discussions with two outstanding speakers, Michael Edward Stanfield and Samuel Sharon Farr.
Michael E. Stanfield, Professor of History and Latin American Studies, University of San Francisco shared his research on why and how beauty has become a central positive identity marker for Colombians. He posits that Colombians focus on beauty and beauty pageants in order to divert attention from the complicated realities of daily life; that is, the insecurity, poverty and violence that pervade the lives of most non-elite Colombians. Through well-chosen photos spanning nearly two centuries, Stanfield illustrated how the Colombian concept of beauty changed from indigenous traits to European and western characteristics as Colombia shifted over time into the global economy. He admitted his own surprise in how much he discovered about Colombia and even U.S. policies through his study of Colombian fashion trends over time, aesthetic values and beauty. Stanfield’s latest book is Of Beasts and Beauty: Gender, Race, and Identity in Colombia (University of Texas Press 2013).
Our own U.S. Congressman Sam Farr addressed the group next, building on his keynote address earlier in the day at the opening session for Peace Corps Connect. Farr served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Colombia 1964 – 1966, assigned to the barrio of Castilla in Medellin in an Urban Community Development program. Early in his service, Farr learned first hand the sustainability of citizen-focused, self-directed projects when he supported the barrio in the construction of a long-desired soccer field. That experience with Acción Comunál laid the groundwork for his life of service. He share stories about his recent return to Colombia and the barrio as well as Colombia-related legislation in Congress that he has help to craft. He saluted the return of Peace Corps Volunteers to Colombia and the role Friends of Colombia had in facilitating their return.
Colombia RPCVs, family and friends gathered Friday evening for more stories, reminiscing and laughter. Sixty-three people enjoyed an informal reception at the HS Lordship Restaurant overlooking the Bay and just as they sat to eat they were unexpectedly joined by Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet (RPCV Samoa) and staffer Chris Austin (RPCV). Their presence broadened the scope of topics at some tables to include current and future Peace Corps activities. On Saturday, Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet addressed a plenary session of Peace Corps Connect.
Friends of Colombia activities in Berkeley were supported by the FOC Board and coordinated by Pat Wand and Dick Miller who oversaw local arrangements. Pat Kelly, FOC Newsletter Editor, joined in hosting attendees.
Mark your calendars now. Peace Corps’ 55th anniversary is 2016 and we’ll be celebrating it at Peace Corps Connect in Washington DC, September 23 – 25, 2016. See you there!
Having a Reunion? Tell Us More. Please send any logistical information, photos, and stories from the event to: firstname.lastname@example.org