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Conectando realidades: los voluntarios del Cuerpo de Paz en Suramérica y la Guerra Global contra la pobreza en la década de 1960

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This article examines the work of Peace Corps volunteers in South America during the 1960s. It argues that through their training in impoverished communities in the United States and their intervention in similar contexts in South America, these
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  129 H󰁩󰁳󰁴. C󰁲󰁩󰁴. N󰁯. 53, B󰁯󰁧󰁯󰁴󰃡, 󰁭󰁡󰁹󰁯 - 󰁡󰁧󰁯󰁳󰁴󰁯 2014, 260 󰁰󰁰. ISSN 0121-1617 󰁰󰁰 129-154 Fernando Purcell Artículo recibido: 06 de marzo de 2013Aprobado: 10 de julio de 2013Modificado: 13 de agosto de 2013 Profesor asociado del Instituto de Historia de la Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. Realizó sus estudios de pregrado en esta universidad y de doctorado en la University of California (Estados Unidos) en 2004, donde investigó la historia trasnacional y global. Entre sus más recientes publicaciones se encuentran, en coedición con Alfredo Riquelme,  Ampliando miradas. Chile y su historia en un tiempo  global   (Santiago: 󰁲󰁩󰁬 Editores/󰁩󰁨󰁩-󰁵󰁣, 2009), y  ¡De película! Hollywood y su impacto en Chile, 1910-1950   (Santiago: Taurus, 2012). fpurcell@uc.cl Connecting Realities: Peace Corps Volunteers in South America and the Global War on Poverty during the 1960s Ï Ï Esta investigación fue posible gracias a la financiación recibida como parte del proyecto F󰁯󰁮󰁤󰁥󰁣y󰁴 No. 1110050.   DOI :  dx.doi.org/10.7440/histcrit53.2014.06  130 Connecting Realities: Peace Corps Volunteers in South America and the Global War on Poverty during the 1960 s H󰁩󰁳󰁴󰁯󰁲󰁩󰁡 C󰁲󰁩󰁴󰁩󰁣󰁡 N󰁯. 53, B󰁯󰁧󰁯󰁴󰃡, 󰁭󰁡󰁹󰁯 - 󰁡󰁧󰁯󰁳󰁴󰁯 2014, 260 󰁰󰁰. ISSN 0121-1617 󰁰󰁰 129-154 Conectando realidades: los voluntarios del Cuerpo de Paz en Suramérica y la Guerra Global contra la pobreza en la década de 1960 Resumen: Este artículo aborda el trabajo de los voluntarios del Cuerpo de Paz de Estados Unidos en Sudamérica durante la década de 1960. El argumento que se trata en esta investigación es que a través de su entrena-miento en comunidades pobres de Estados Unidos y su intervención en contextos similares sudamericanos, se transformaron en conectores de distintas visiones de acción comunitaria. Esto permite insertar al Cuerpo de Paz dentro del escenario de lo que fue una verdadera guerra global contra la pobreza. Este argumento se sustenta en cartas y testimonios así como en prensa y documentación oficial rescatada de archivos y bibliotecas de Estados Unidos y Sudamérica. Palabras clave:   Sudamérica, Cuerpos de Paz, Guerra Fría, Estados Unidos, desarrollo comunitario, pobreza. Connecting Realities: Peace Corps Volunteers in South America and the Global War on Poverty during the 1960s Abstract: This article examines the work of Peace Corps volunteers in South America during the 1960s. It argues that through their training in impoverished communities in the United States and their intervention in similar contexts in South America, these volunteers connected diverse visions of community action aimed at eradi-cating poverty. This allows an inclusion of a historical comprehension of the Peace Corps within the scenario of a Global War on Poverty. The argument derives from the analysis of letters and testimonies, press items, and official documents found in archives and libraries both in the United States and South America. Keywords:   South America, Peace Corps, Cold War, United States, community development, poverty. Conectando realidades: os voluntários do Corpo de Paz na América do Sul e a Guerra Global contra a pobreza na década de 1960 Resumo: Este artigo aborda o trabalho dos voluntários do Corpo de Paz dos Estados Unidos na América do Sul durante a década de 1960. Argumenta-se que, por meio de seu treinamento em comunidades pobres dos Estados Uni-dos e sua intervenção em contextos similares sul-americanos, transformaram-se em conectores de diferentes visões de ação comunitária. Isso permite inserir o Corpo de Paz no cenário do que foi uma verdadeira guerra global contra a pobreza. Esse argumento se sustenta em cartas e testemunhos, bem como em imprensa e documentação oficial resgatada de arquivos e bibliotecas dos Estados Unidos e da América do Sul. Palavras-chave:    América do Sul, Corpos de Paz, Guerra Fria, Estados Unidos, desenvolvimento comunitário, pobreza.  131 Fernando Purcell H󰁩󰁳󰁴. C󰁲󰁩󰁴. N󰁯. 53, B󰁯󰁧󰁯󰁴󰃡, 󰁭󰁡󰁹󰁯 - 󰁡󰁧󰁯󰁳󰁴󰁯 2014, 260 󰁰󰁰. ISSN 0121-1617 󰁰󰁰 129-154 Connecting Realities: Peace Corps Volunteers in South America and the Global War on Poverty during the 1960s Introduction T      he Peace Corps is a volunteer project established in 1961 by John F. Kennedy that has sent young Americans abroad for two-year stints to col-laborate in community development in urban and rural areas in the Third World. Some twenty thousand volunteers arrived in South America in the 1960s, one of the regions of the world that received the largest number of volunteers during that decade. This happened within the framework of U.S. interventions in Latin America after the Cuban Revolution, which had different expressions such as the Alliance for Progress, military in-terventions, cultural projects and diplomatic efforts, among other things. 1  Their presence in remote areas was part of what Alan McPherson has described as a process of increasing North-South intimacies, 2  which grew in size during the Cold War, a conflict in which not  just violence, but the logic of modernization through social and economic development was also crucial in Latin America. Indeed, the challenge of development provided a key battle-field in which the United States and the Soviet Union both strove to impose their respective  visions of how to modernize the world. Demonstrating the efficacy of their contending ideologies became a matter of crucial importance. 3 From the U.S. perspective, the Truman Doctrine, formulated in 1947 by President Harry Truman, had launched a new era in the comprehension and handling of world affairs, es-pecially regarding the countries of the Third World. U.S. support in areas of technology, industry, agriculture, education, nutrition, birth control and agricultural management were 1 Hal Brands, Latin America’s Cold War   (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010), 187.2 Alan McPherson, Intimate Ties, Bitter Struggles. The United States and Latin America Since 1945   (Washington: Potomac Books, 2006), 2.3 David Ekbladh, The Great American Mission: Modernization and the Construction of an American World Order   (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010), 2.  132 Connecting Realities: Peace Corps Volunteers in South America and the Global War on Poverty during the 1960 s H󰁩󰁳󰁴󰁯󰁲󰁩󰁡 C󰁲󰁩󰁴󰁩󰁣󰁡 N󰁯. 53, B󰁯󰁧󰁯󰁴󰃡, 󰁭󰁡󰁹󰁯 - 󰁡󰁧󰁯󰁳󰁴󰁯 2014, 260 󰁰󰁰. ISSN 0121-1617 󰁰󰁰 129-154 decisive aspects of U.S. foreign policy. 4  The Peace Corps was one of the tools the United States drew on to achieve its modernizing objective, and in Latin America it was conceived as a lo-cal complement of the structural changes promoted through the Alliance for Progress. Since Peace Corps actions had direct impact on small communities, the study of the program offers a window through which to examine local manifestations of the Cold War. 5  Nevertheless, the historical relevance of the Peace Corps goes beyond its connections to U.S. foreign policy. Its work was also linked to local institutions, both public and private, in host countries. Through community development projects, volunteers contributed to a process in which distinct and often contending visions of Cold War efforts were embedded in a truly global war on poverty. 6 Much has been written about the presence of the Peace Corps in the world. Kennedy’s initiative has captivated historians who emphasize the fascinating experiences of volunteers in their host societies, their motivations, and a wide range of details related to how the organiza-tion functioned institutionally. 7  Nonetheless, little has been written about the Peace Corps in Latin America and still less about the volunteers’ training in the United States, which included community work in areas of extreme poverty. 8  Nor has sufficient attention been paid to Peace 4 See Matthew Connelly, Fatal Misconception. The Struggle to Control World Population  (Cambridge: Belknap Press/Harvard University Press, 2008); Arturo Escobar, Encountering Development. The Making and Unmaking of the Third World   (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995); Amy L. S. Staples, The Birth of Development. How the World Bank, Food and Agriculture Organization, and World Health Organization Changed the World, 1945-1965   (Kent: Kent University Press, 2006). On the use of international aid as a central element of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America, see Jeffrey F. Taffet, Foreign Aid as a Foreign Policy. The Alliance for Progress in Latin America   (New York: Routledge, 2007).5 Regarding the relationship between large development projects and the Peace Corps, see Michael Latham,  Modernization as Ideology. American Social Science and “Nation Building” in the Kennedy Era   (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000), 109-150.6 Robert F. Clark, Victory Deferred. The War of Global Poverty (1945-2003)  (Lanham: University Press of America, 2005).7 Some of the most influential books are: Elizabeth Cobbs-Hoffman,  All You Need is Love: The Peace Corps and the Spirit of the 1960s (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998); Fritz Fischer,  Making Them Like Us. Peace Corps Volunteers in the 1960s   (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1998), and Gerard T. Rice, The Bold Experiment:  JFK  ’s Peace Corps   (South Bend: University of Notre Dame Press, 1985).8 Bibliography on the Peace Corps in South America is still scarce. See, Cecilia Azevedo, Em nome da América. Os Corpos da Paz no Brasil   (Sao Paulo: Alameda, 2008); Molly Geidel, “Sowing Death in Our Women´s Wombs: Modernization and Indigenous Nationalism in the 1960s Peace Corps and Jorge Sanjinés’ Yawar Mallku,”  American Quarterly  62: 3 (2010): 763-786; James F. Siekmeier, “Sacrificial Llama? The Expulsion of the Peace Corps from Bolivia in 1971,” Pacific Historical Review   69:1 (2000): 65-87; and Glenn F. Sheffield, “Peru and the Peace Corps, 1962-1968” (Doctoral Dissertation, University of Connecticut, 1991). Regarding the volunteers’ community work in the United States, see discussion within a broader examination of poverty in the United States during the twentieth century in Alyosha Goldstein, “On the Internal Border. Colonial Difference and the Locations of Underdevelopment,” in Poverty in Common. The Politics of Community Action During the American Century (Durham: Duke University Press, 2012), 77-110, Kindle Edition.  133 Fernando Purcell H󰁩󰁳󰁴. C󰁲󰁩󰁴. N󰁯. 53, B󰁯󰁧󰁯󰁴󰃡, 󰁭󰁡󰁹󰁯 - 󰁡󰁧󰁯󰁳󰁴󰁯 2014, 260 󰁰󰁰. ISSN 0121-1617 󰁰󰁰 129-154 Corps interaction with the ideas and community development projects generated within the host societies—a serious oversight considering that the vast majority of young people who traveled to South America collaborated with local public and private institutions, many of which had been operating long before the Peace Corps arrived. These institutions had their own notions of community development, which did not always coincide with those of the Peace Corps. Countries such as Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru had their own initiatives to fight poverty on a local level. When they welcomed the Peace Corps, it was not simply so that they could learn from the proposals brought by the young foreigners, but rather because they sought to strengthen their own institutions and projects, which were often tied to needs and initiatives related to social order.Studies of the Peace Corps tend to emphasize a unidirectional logic according to which development discourses srcinated in the First World during the Cold War and focused on the need to bridge the gap between modern and traditional societies through actions and projects that emanated from the center of the modern world. The attention paid therein to how volun-teers lived in the Third World and what they did, or attempted to do, overshadows discussion of how local efforts and realities decisively shaped what volunteers ultimately accomplished.This article problematizes the analysis of the Cold War by questioning the unidirectional-ity of community development and contrasting the linear core-periphery discourses with a historical reality in which the “periphery” had a great deal to say and propose in terms of the fight against poverty. It focuses on two fundamental elements that break with the unidi-rectional core-periphery historiographical narratives regarding the Peace Corps. First, many  volunteers had already confronted situations of poverty in the United States before heading abroad. Second, as soon as they arrived in South America, they realized they were not the only ones who had something to contribute. They had to contrast their own visions with those held by local people and institutions, many of which had been working in community development long before the Peace Corps was created in 1961. In order to highlight the multi-centrality of the global war on poverty, this article adopts a global view of the Peace Corps and its role in the eradication of poverty. Hence, it diverges from approaches to world history that structure narratives around localized axes related to dominant European or Western cultures. 9  The ar-gument here is that through their training in impoverished communities in the United States 9 On the limitations of world history, see Hugo Fazio Vengoa, “La historia global y la conveniencia para el estudio del pasado y del presente,” Historia Crítica   Edición Especial (2009): 317. On the plurality of Cold War scenarios, see Odd Arne Westad, “Exploring the Histories of the Cold War. A Pluralist Approach,” in Uncertain Empire. American History and the Idea of the Cold War  , eds. Joel Isaac and Duncan Bell (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 51-59.
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