Renewing Our Bonds: A History of Peace Corps/Honduras Reunions
Honduras Peace Corps Volunteers have been staging reunions, both organized and informal, since the first group returned in late 1964. An inclusive history of all these reunions is elusive, so I will attempt to write only about the reunions from 2002 to 2011, which directly lead to the reunion currently taking shape for October, 2013.
Dave Lombardo, who was a forestry Volunteer with COHDEFOR in Olancho from 1975 – 1977 organized the first of these events in Las Vegas, Nevada in November, 2002. Dave had worked hard over the years compiling and maintaining the contact information of many Volunteers who were in Honduras in the mid 70’s. The Honduras program was at it's largest in those years, yet we were still a close-knit, supportive community. Roughly 40 older RPCV’s and spouses gathered over the Veteran’s Day weekend. For many, it was the first time we’d seen old friends in almost 30 years. We all realized that our Peace Corps friendships were important, and we agreed to keep these events going.
Brant Miller, another Olancho forester from the same era, organized the next reunion in Nashville, Tennessee over Memorial Day weekend of 2006. About 50 people attended, and just as with the Las Vegas event, the weekend was given over to music, cerveza, and catching up with our friends. A highlight of that weekend was a group breakfast at a Honduran restaurant where we ate traditional fare of fried eggs, corn tortillas, black beans with cream, and that weird, salty cheese.
Maggie McQuaid organized the third reunion in Tucson, Arizona over the 2008 Veteran’s Day weekend. By this time, an expanded, updated data base of old Volunteers and Staff existed, and people were notified and invited well in advance by means of our Amigos de Honduras newsletter. This time, more than 100 people attended. For many, the highlight was an evening banquet at which three former United States Ambassadors, a former Country Director, two former country staff members, and former Peace Corps Director Jack Vaughn were recognized with the first awarding of La Orden de Salva Vida. With the attendance of these dignitaries, as well as Volunteers from a range of eras, it felt like these reunions were gaining momentum and importance.
We met next in Washington DC in September, 2011 as part of a larger event that marked the 50th anniversary celebration of the founding of the Peace Corps. The reunion was organized by Steve Phelan and Terri Salus, and it included a dinner and music at a Mexican restaurant in Chevy Chase and an indoor picnic in Bethesda. We were honored to be joined by the Honduras Ambassador and his wife, and by former education sector head Ana Rosa de Andino. A highlight for everyone was the Ambassador’s generous contribution of several cases of Salva Vida beer. It was at this event that the extent of Steve Phelan’s data bank became apparent, and it was wonderful to spend time with Volunteers who had served in the first groups into Honduras, and some who had just returned.
There have been other reunions, of course, including two in Mexico organized by the very first group of Volunteers, celebrating their 20th and 30th anniversaries. These histories are yet to be accounted, and I hope those Volunteers will report soon.
This all leads up to the next reunion, planned for the Columbus Day weekend of 2013 at the historic YMCA Conference Center near Rocky Mountain National Park. The central organizers of this reunion are Jonathan Lind, Tegucigalpa 1977-1979, Leslie Hughes-Lind, Marcala, La Paz 1978-1980, Sue (Spalding) Golding, Puerto Cortes and Nueva Ocotepeque 1975 - 1978 and Jim Barborak, Tegucigalpa 1977-1979. Maggie McQuaid, Pespire 1976-1978 is heading up the Entertainment Committee and Justin Grant, Victoria 2009-2011 and Julian Ciampa, Santa Maria del Real and Choluteca 2010-2012 are leading the Logistics Committee. Added to this effort is the detective work of Fred Corvi, Choluteca 1978-1980 and the database support effort from Steve Phelan, Tegucigalpa 1973-1974. There is tremendous interest in this event, and it already appears that attendance will break all previous records. Friendships will be found and recharged, stories told, and once again, we will have a chance to reaffirm the importance of our shared Peace Corps experiences in Honduras.
Pespire, Choluteca 1976-78