Postcard, September 16, 1975

Description: Ruins of the old city in Antigua, Guatemala

Hi Folks,

I finally got up to Guatemala this weekend and went to visit the old capital city of Guatemala and thus of all Central America under Spanish rule. Now they call it simply “Antigua”. The streets are all cobblestone & even many of the recently built buildings in the town are of colonial design, so it is really worth seeing. Most of the ruins aren’t as “ruined” as the ones you see here! Can’t believe Guatemala, it’s so cool I’ve worn a jacket all day today, what a change!!


Images, September, 1975

Taking the cruise across Lake Amatitlán near Guatemala City {, Guatemala}.

A man had his goats tied along the sidewalk, and would sell fresh milk. You told him how much you wanted, & he milked a goat. This is Antigua {, Guatemala} before the earthquake in February 1976.

A patriotic parade in Antigua, colonial capital of Guatemala.

Ruins in Antigua. The city has been destroyed by earthquakes several times.

Garden & fountain in a private home built in the colonial era, & still owned by the original family. It is the most authentic museum of colonial times in the city {of Antigua}.

Letter, August 31, 1975

Hi Jan,

Harry Brokish, a guy I knew from Madison, and who helped get me into my present Peace Corps job, left for the States the 29th. Don’t know when or if I’ll see him again. My year in Peace Corps seems to have been an endless stream of departures and arrivals. In that respect, it’s a lot like college was.

You scooped everybody with the announcement about the baby { My sister Mary and her husband David had a baby boy who they named Bryan. }. Everyone else in the family has been delinquent in responding to my letters lately (or maybe my letters aren’t getting there, always a lingering doubt!). That news made a big hit with people here, they’re really into having babies as the population growth rate indicates. Considering that they’re already the most densely populated country on the American continent, & that the average age of the population is about 17 years, I can’t help but think all hell is going to break loose here when those kids start growing up. One of the Peace Corps secretaries (a Salvadoran) surprised me though. When I told her that my sister had had her first child, she immediately asked how old she was & I thought, “Here it comes, 28 and only having her first?” But she said she thought that was the right time to have children, & that she was only going to have one or maybe two herself, and that was that!

I’m glad to hear that Joyce is taking the “plunge”, and trying to get into a field more in line with her major interests. Hope things go well for her; greenhouse work can be really interesting if you put a little effort & imagination into it. The supervisor I worked under in the Horticulture greenhouses {at the University of Wisconsin} in Madison was very inventive & into his work.

Don’t let your reactionary superintendent get you down too bad. Living under this government is a little like what one might have imagined in the States if Joe McCarthy {Wisconsin Senator in the 1950s} or General Douglas McArthur had been elected president. Any opposition to the government is labeled Communist & the newspapers are so afraid of the military, who run the government, that they only print what they’re sure is safe. July 30th the university students {at the University of El Salvador} & some supporters held a “manifestation” {demonstration} in which they marched down one of the main avenues in San Salvador (It goes by the U.S. Embassy and Peace Corps office among other things.). When they got to a certain crossroads the National Police blocked their path, & when they turned onto another street the police opened fire on them. Estimates of the number killed range from 7 to 40, except in the newspapers where it is reported that 2 were killed. The newspapers also carried a lot of B.S. about how the students had opened fire first, & how they had caches of arms placed all over the city. No one I’ve talked to buys either of those “ideas”. One of the confirmed dead used to work at the school & farm near Metalío where I work. He was a university student, but devoted his spare time to organizing pre-coops {groups preparing to apply to the government to be recognized as cooperatives} & community self-help groups through CREDHO, the organization formed by the Episcopal Church for this purpose. He was well-liked by all the local people I work with. Kind of bums you out because he doesn’t sound like a violent radical, just a very concerned & involved person.

So anyway, the shooting of the students lowered {Salvadoran} President Molina’s popularity to low tide & he’s reacted by calling it all a Communist plot to steal the elections from his PCN {National Conciliation Party} party in 1977! You might call that a slight overreaction considering that the only other legal party, the Christian Democrats, have only 3 representatives in the national Congress. Veteran PCVs {Peace Corps Volunteers} & staff expect “something to happen” in the next few months. That could mean a coup d'état by other army people, increased action by radical & revolutionary groups, or who knows what. The government is in a real repressive mood for the time being.

Remember that girl who goes to the University I mentioned some letters back (#261, B)? We’ve had some real lively phone conversations about the political situation here, & what should be done about it. She vacillates between putting the blame on the military & the big hacienda {farm} owners & industrialists, and blaming U.S. corporations & foreigners in general who exploit the Salvadoran people. I argue with her, mainly over the all-inclusiveness of her condemnations, but it sure is refreshing to talk with a concerned & thinking person – especially here where so many women are only concerned with finding their breadwinner, and getting started on those 6 or 8 kids! Even so, she’s from a very tradition-minded family. I got her to go to the show {a movie} with me on Sunday afternoon, and not only did she bring her sister as chaperone (standard procedure), but she had told her parents they were going to church. I found that out when I insisted on escorting her home, & she was forced to explain why that was a no-no! Knowing that 20 year old women really are chaperoned on dates makes it easier to understand why going whoring is so common among Salvadoran men over 15 years old. It would be a real bummer to be forced to play that game for a lifetime, but I’m having fun right now (with the dating part, I’m just not the type to get too heavily into whoring), sort of like being in 7th or 8th grade again, but having the advantage of being able to see how ridiculous it all is, & laugh at yourself!

Well, so much for the local report. Hope you have a good semester. Bouncing back and forth between the liberal university & a conservative highschool on a daily basis, should give you some good perspectives on the relative realism of the two worlds, & their relevance to what you’re seeking in life. A lot of games are played in both places [OPINION], so a person has to find a place where he or she can seek goals that are real & important, and go.

Leaving you with that piece of very questionable wisdom, I remain,


Card(2), August 25, 1975

{ Translation of message inside card. }

Enjoy, my brother
the happiness
that your birthday offers you
because you deserve
joy on your day.

Happy Birthday!

Hi Bruce,

I guess you must be getting about ready to head out to River Falls. Good luck in your first semester at the U. { Bruce was starting college at the University of Wisconsin – River Falls. } Did you guys take any cows or other stuff to the fair? I’d really like to hear about how you did if you took anything. Well, happy birthday, and remember not to get too drunk the first night, (it’s better to build gradually for a real whoopin’ & hollerin’ drunk!!).

Take care,



Card, August 25, 1975

{ Translation of message inside card. }

Wishing that the salute
For this, dear brother
Might be a ray of human love
That lights up your heart
And that this venturesome day
That marks another year
In your life is remembered
As full of peace & joy.

Hi ya Tom,

As you can see from the translation I made, birthday cards are pretty formal here, but all I really wanted to say was Happy Birthday and stop growing so fast (nobody will be left to be my “little brother” in another year or so). I sure get a lot of mileage out of your name down here. In a town called Sonsonate they have a secondary school called the Thomas Jefferson Institute, so a lot of people know Thomas Jefferson was a president, etc. When they find out my last name many people ask if I am related to him, so I say sure he’s my brother! That usually slows them down a minute so I can think of something to say. Some Spanish speakers really rattle along {talk fast}, not even pausing between words. Because of the rhythmic nature of the language you can do that and be understood, but the faster ones still leave me a few words behind sometimes. It helps to be able to throw in a remark which makes them stop & think, ‘cause it gives me a breather!

Are you going out for football or cross country or anything this fall? Boy you’ll be busy now that Bruce is going away, lots of luck! If Bruce forgets, let me know how things came out at the fair, with the cattle & all.

I’m sending along a card with new emergency numbers for Mom & Dad to call in Washington if they think I’ve left the face of the earth or caught a boat for Australia or something! Just recently a volunteer got badly burned in the face working with chemicals & another nearly cut his hand off (both were flown to Washington for treatment), so emergencies can happen. Also, the political situation here is very tense right now since government police killed somewhere between 9 & 40 students in a student demonstration. A security guard has been murdered in San Salvador and the government has had a shoot-out with suspected guerillas in which 2 people were killed and (according to government claims) a bunch of terrorist weapons were confiscated. The military government is worried about a coup or other action aimed at ousting President Colonel Molina whose popularity has nose-dived after the incident with the students. So far all is calm, but it could be the calm before ______.

Anyway, hope you’re doin’ well. I’m keepin’ busy & not complainin’.

‘til later,


Images, August, 1975

A view of the beach at low tide, looking toward Acajutla {from in front of the beach house at Metalío}.

The beach house where Jay Hasheider & I lived part of our time in Metalío.

Sunset on the Pacific {at Metalío, El Salvador}

A haystack we made at El Maizal, featuring Jay Mathes, 3 CREFAC {a San Salvador community organization begun by a Peace Corps Volunteer} kids and 2 mozos {farm workers}.

Don Adán plowing with a wooden plow & oxen. We planted forage sorghum on this land. In the background 2 men are digging the trench silo in which the forage sorghum would eventually be stored.

Threshing rice using an oil barrel. Cheap labor makes it feasible, that and the lack of small, portable threshers at a reasonable price.

A worker & I digging a trench silo at El Maizal.

View of fields & buildings at El Maizal (school & demonstration farm for peasant farmers founded by the Episcopal Church). Behind the fence row is some upland rice. The second field has doubled-over corn with ajonjoli (sesame) planted between the rows.

Letter, August 9, 1975

Dear Jan,

I called home last night for Mom’s birthday, and from the sound of her & Dad the Georgia doctors really scared the shit out of them with their reports on Marcia’s condition. I guess the Nashville doctors and Marcia’s friends were a lot more reassuring since they didn’t seem to be overly concerned when I talked to them (Mom & Dad). I sent Marcia a get well card & am sending her a gift with a guy I met here who goes to college near Nashville. Keep me posted on her condition. I’m still not clear on how serious her injuries really are, and if some may be permanent.

It was great to talk to Mom & Dad & Donna & Bruce & Carla. I dialed them direct & it was just like calling from down town (except the bill!). Carla’s voice has changed some I think; at least I had trouble recognizing it, & they tell me Tom is getting taller and thinner by the day. Bruce sounds like his same old self though. Sounds like Donna may be getting things together with vocational school and all; I hope so.

We had a fantastic meal last night at a friend’s home, in honor of a guy who is leaving today. We had big T-bone steaks like you only have at home, even in the States, with baked potato, French onion soup, salad and garlic bread, plus strawberry cheesecake for dessert. The food was so rich compared to what I usually eat, that I had the runs this morning. I don’t get that much meat in a month in the campo {rural areas}.

I’ve been making hay, & digging a hole for a silo, & planting forage sorghum all this week, in spite of the fact that half of it was Salvadoran vacation time. I am down to 170 lbs., & in the best shape I’ve been since I entered Peace Corps. The work doesn’t always go well, but being busy keeps me from getting restless, and thinking about going home. Swimming in the ocean after a day’s work is really great too. I found out last week that the place I swam the first few days (right in front of the beach house) is a big “hole”, and thus the most dangerous place on the whole beach. Now I go to one side where there is a sandbar, and the beach slopes off very gently out to where the waves break. It is much nicer riding the waves, & the undertow is nowhere near as strong. Today someone told me there were lots of sharks near the beaches of Metalio (my town), so I guess if it isn’t one thing it’s another.

Hope you enjoy those blueberries & blackberries. I try not to think too much about foods I can’t get here since it makes me homesick! Last night another Volunteer from Wisconsin mentioned fudge, and my stomach twinged. I had forgotten even to miss fudge until he brought it up. Oh well, it’s a big, bad world out there!

Hang tough!


Letter, July 21, 1975

Hi Jan,

I am going to stay & work on the cattle feeding trial, as of right now. I make that qualified statement because there have been some unbelievable hassles in connection with getting this project started, since I last wrote. The Peace Corps Agriculture Coordinator and the guy who devised the project & got it pretty well set up (a Volunteer) have had a personality clash about how the Volunteer went about setting it up (both agree on the value of the trial). The whole heated business struck me as very ironic, because no one even showed enough concern about the job they brought me down here for to see that they had something concrete for me to do when I got here! And now they are arguing about procedure when they have a project everyone agrees is valuable, and where there is all kinds of work just waiting to be done. Tomorrow we will have another meeting between the Episcopal Church, the government agency concerned with cattle and Peace Corps, which hopefully will get things off the ground. I have requested use of a vehicle to move my shit out to the experimental farm. Some farm, we have to build corrals, put up fences, make feed troughs, and make some silage, before they get their cows later this year! I will be staying at a beach house with two other Americans for the time being (Oh the hardships of Peace Corps!). I haven’t seen the house, but have heard it’s really nice. Now you’ll have to be sure to come down to visit since there’s lots of room for a tent on the beach, & they say that they sell good lobster at Acajutla, which is near where I’ll be! Did I ever tell you? A former Volunteer in my program who was terminated for “alleged” marijuana use hitchhiked back down here from northern Minnesota in less than 2 weeks (and his Spanish is very poor). I think you could make it just hitching and taking buses, but you should have at least one guy along. (Latin men get really strange ideas about women, especially “gringas” {female North Americans} traveling alone.) It would also help to have someone who spoke a little Spanish, obviously!

I still haven’t finished the report on the survey I did in San Isidro, things have been too hectic. Tonight for sure I have to finish, or very early tomorrow. “Mañana” {tomorrow} is getting to be one of the most overused words in my vocabulary!

Have you seen the pictures I sent home? I am just as ugly as ever, but at least down here I am tall! That isn’t much of an advantage though because all the buses here are Salvadoran size, which means you can’t stand up straight inside them, and in the seats your knees are wedged against the seat in front of you.

I really miss the chance to play a friendly game of softball or touch football. I just never get a chance to here. You never see guys and girls playing together here either. The guys play soccer and the girls sometimes play a little softball, but more often don’t play at all.

All in all, things are looking up though. Looks like I’ll be busier than hell for a while so I won’t have time to complain.

See ya,


P.S. – It just hit me that I didn’t say a word about Miss Universe. They blew off a bomb in front of the tourist bureau in protest against it. I thought it came off well, but they’ll never get back the money spent on it, so maybe the bombers had a point.


Images, July, 1975

Tacuba, El Salvador; Patti Peña & I in an old church ruin believed to have been destroyed by earthquake about 300 years ago.

Ismael Peña, his wife and daughter on one side of the ancient church in Tacuba, El Salvador.

Baptizing a young Catholic in Tacuba, El Salvador.

Ismael Peña, daughter, wife and their new God son at shrine near the church.

The proud parents of the child we went to Tacuba to help baptize in front of a shrine beside the church in Tacuba, El Salvador.

Don Chepe & the family he heads inside the church ruin in front of his house.

{ The mountain village of Tacuba was one of the centers of a revolt against the government of El Salvador in the 1930's. According to local people, every man and boy 12 years old and older living in the village at the time was slaughtered by government troops. }

Letter, July 15, 1975

Dear Dad, Mom & all,

You can’t realize how heartening it is just to hear that you are having a reasonably normal growing season in Wisconsin. The growing season is so messed up here this year that at times it leaves me wondering if all those theories about the world’s climate becoming unstable in the near future aren’t true. We don’t really have a normal rainy season this year, it will rain 3-4 days in a row & then we will have a week or two with no rain, which with the heat here dries everything right up. Some of the corn I’ve seen in the drier areas is absolutely pathetic & farmers are talking of plowing it up & planting a crop of sorghum in August for the expected rains of September & early October.

Glad to hear you got all that painting done. It’s been a while since everything got a good coat of paint & it was badly needed. You’ll have to send me a picture of the house in bright sunlight to show off the paint job.

I could sure go for some home-made strawberry or raspberry jam! They grow strawberries in the higher altitudes here, so there is some (although Salvadorans don’t use jam since they eat little bread except sweet breads), but the quality just isn’t there.

I’m glad to hear that black walnut tree made it. One came on slower than the other last year too. Next spring before they start growing you ought to trim them back some to give the roots a chance to “get ahead of the tops” and really get established.

Thanks for depositing the money and sending Marcia’s address. I’ll get around to writing within a month or so!

Am sending some pictures from my site and a trip I took with a friend to baptize a child up in a mountain village named Tacuba. I think you’ll be impressed with the ruins of the old Spanish church, I sure was. The walls are 2 meters thick.

No certain word yet about whether I’ll get onto this feed response project or even if it will go. It is bogged down in administrative infighting. The Peace Corps agriculture coordinator feels that the volunteer who set it up went over his head to do so & so he refuses to give it more than minimal support (while recognizing the value of the project) and only assigning one instead of 2 volunteers. It almost seems like they want to set it up so it’s sure to fail, & then say I told you so to the volunteer who did all the planning & leg work. It sure has gone a long way to shoot down my last vestiges of idealism about Peace Corps. It is steeped in bureaucracy up to its ears & the administrators feel they have to “stick together” against volunteers who try to get around some of the red tape. I think the project will eventually go anyway though. It’s too good an opportunity to let go over some hurt feelings.

Well, I hope that inch & a half of rain puts some ears on the corn!

Dean J.

Letter, June 29, 1975

Dear Mom, Dad & all,

I’m really getting ambitious, huh, writing before I received your reply to my last letter! Actually, the major reason for this letter fell out when you opened it up. The check is not from the John Jones which you know up in Friendship, but from another John Jones who is the Peace Corps Director here in El Salvador! (His address is listed as Peru because he came here from there only a few months ago when Peace Corps was kicked out of Peru.) The story behind the check is very simple: I had ¢1,000 ($400) in a savings account in a bank here because I had managed to save a little money from my living allowance since I’ve been here. Presently there are rumors going around that they may devalue the Colon (El Salvador’s currency) relative to the dollar. So naturally I wanted to convert any spare money I had into dollars. Now the Salvadoran banks are reluctant to change money, only change it in small amounts, and charge a service charge. Mr. Jones gets his salary put in his bank account in the U.S. in dollars, so it was easy for him to trade me $400 in a Washington bank for ¢1,000 in cash. That way he too avoids the service charge & the hassle of spending 2 hours at the bank. If you can get it in by July 10th I should get interest for the next quarter.

Boy it took a lot of space to explain that! Jan wrote me recently & said your cows did real well when you classified. { Classification is a program of the national Holstein Association which gives a score, on a 100 point scale, to cows according to their appearance relative to an ideal established for the Holstein breed. Dad was participating in this program as part of a sire (bull) proving program through his artificial insemination cooperative. } If you haven’t done so already, let me know how Belle, Lisa & some of my other favorites did!

Mary wrote & said that they had been getting lots of rain lately. I hope you’ve been getting some too. The last I heard (from Jan) was that things were awfully dry early in June.

We had a conference of all Peace Corps people in El Salvador this past week. It was held at a beautiful crater lake called Lake Coatepeque (I sent a couple pictures of it home before when I spent a night there). It was very cool up there & the water was really nice. We also had U.S. style food including such things as ginger cookies, chocolate cake & banana bread. I talked to the girl who made the banana bread & she said you have to use old, nearly rotten bananas – I remember that’s what Mom always says. It was good banana bread too! The conference was a good chance to find out what other PCVs are doing & what problems they have. Also we got to know the new country director (John Jones) a little better. He seems like a very open & frank person with a real commitment to his job. That is encouraging after some of the stories I’ve heard about the old director.

There’s a chance I’ll be changing jobs within Peace Corps El Salvador. I may have the opportunity to work with a feed response trial Peace Corps is trying to coordinate with land and cattle of the Episcopal Church & financial & technical help from the Salvadoran government. I told my program director that if I don’t switch jobs I’ll quit my present job & go home in August, so I think he’ll take my request for a change seriously!

Wishing you all a happy 4th of July,



Letter, June 26, 1975

Hello Jan,

Hope you & Joyce are getting settled into your new house & neighborhood now. Do you play ball in Madison& if so, how do their teams compare with those you played on back home? You could probably come down here & be a women’s softball coach if such a perverse desire ever struck you. We already have PCVs {Peace Corps Volunteers} coaching swimming, diving & water polo, and Costa Rica’s national team baseball coach, a couple years ago, was a former PCV. I guess man can not live by tortillas alone, but it sure is a contrast between campo {rural} PCVs teaching people how to raise more & better food, & some of the music & sports people.

It sounds like that band Berry Riese is with is really getting their music together, maybe I’ll get a chance to hear them when I get back, or maybe they’ll cut a super-hit & it will reach the stations here. I still am practicing guitar, but the wooden fingers which never typed faster than 15 words a minute will never make me a great musician, I enjoy playing some fairly simple melodies & singing along though. Stuff like “Oh Susana”, “Tom Dooley” & “It Takes a Worried Man”, I can more or less play, & I try to keep learning more chords, & learn to change chords faster. I don’t know how long my interest will hold up. It comes & goes with how I feel.

I just returned from a 3 day conference of all Peace Corps people in El Salvador. It took place at a resort on a crater lake (Lago de Coatepeque) up in the mountains. It was cool & the scenery was beautiful up there. We had real gringo {North American} meals cooked by our own people. We even had banana bread like Mom makes, & gingerbread cookies. It was a good chance to find out what other volunteers are doing, & what kinds of problems they have. It did wonders for me to hear others voice the same frustrations I have been feeling. However, it has made me more instead of less dissatisfied with my job. It seems those volunteers who are really getting something done, & thus are happier, have much more autonomy & flexibility in their work than I do. I think I am just being stifled where I am, helping the Irrigation Agency {DGRD, Dirección General de Riego y Drenaje} keep on muddling along as they are accustomed to doing rather than giving them any new direction.

I almost hate to tell you about it, for fear it could fall through, but I may get another chance to change jobs. A volunteer who has been working in crop & livestock research here wants to set up a feed response trial comparing the common Salvadoran feeding system with feeding a balanced ration based on silage. He appears to stand an excellent chance of getting the land & cattle he needs through the Episcopal Church here, & he wants 2 volunteers to run the thing. Because I knew him at school in Madison {at the University of Wisconsin} I have an inside track for the job. I also have a background working with cattle, & was trained in pastures & forages. The second guy would be one of two guys I trained with who also have farm backgrounds. I’m going out Saturday to take a look at the experimental farm, & so will know more then. I hope this comes through because it is a worthwhile experiment, & we would have enough autonomy to keep it going 5-6 years, & get some meaningful long-term results. But there’s no use getting excited yet.

I should tell you (It had momentarily slipped my mind.) that I got the application blank from U.W. {University of Wisconsin – Madison} and filled it out. Sorry for putting you to the trouble of sending another (If you haven’t sent it, don’t.). As it turned out, they sent it by airmail, so it was just bureaucratic red tape that had held it up. Now if this job comes through I may be staying on the full term, so at this moment I don’t know whether I’m coming or going.

I will try to send a photo some time. I took some of a Salvadoran friend’s little girl, & he was going to make copies for me of the ones with me in them, but he hasn’t yet. However, last weekend I went with him to a town in the mountains near Guatemala {Tacuba}, & we took more pictures, some with me in. I am going to develop them myself here so will send a copy of one with my mug if they turn out. That little town in the mountains was really great. They have a ruined old church from Spanish times (well over 200 years old), and they can grow almost anything there because it is a cool temperate climate, but never gets cold. This old couple we stayed with had a garden that looked like a greenhouse, all kinds of flowers & fruit trees and everything. It also, however, was a center of the revolutionary uprising in El Salvador during 1932. According to my friend (a staunch conservative) communist inspired local men killed an army General, beheaded his body & hung his head on a post. The national dictator (He was initially an elected president, but stayed after his term expired.) sent in troops and they massacred about 32,000 local men. That must have meant nearly all the young men in the whole area, since the town is not all that large, even today.

Well, so much for old war stories. I hope nothing even vaguely similar gets stirred up by the elections coming up in 1977.

So long,


Images, June, 1975

Lake Coatepeque is a beautiful crater lake in the mountains near Santa Ana. Peace Corps El Salvador held conferences on this lake the 2 years I was there.

{ Another view of Lake Coatepeque taken in June, 1975. }

Lake Coatepeque conference center where Peace Corps conference was held.

{ View of a meeting of Peace Corps Volunteers inside the conference center. }

{ Traditional Salvadoran dancers at the 1975 Peace Corps Volunteer Conference. }

{ More traditional Salvadoran dancing. }

{ More traditional Salvadoran dancing. }


Letter, June 15, 1975

Dear Jan,

Just had an after thought so am writing a second letter on top of the last. I sent to the U.W. {University of Wisconsin – Madison} for an application for admission about a month & a half ago, & it hasn’t arrived yet. They must have sent it by land mail. Talked to a guy who sent in a financial aid application to Stevens Point {University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point} in March & just got word back that he needs to get a self-support statement filled out. If it takes me that long to get an admission application I can forget about getting in {meaning admitted} in the fall. I was thinking you could pick up one, & send it to me. I need one for undergrad. or special student reentry into the U. I have made up my mind to give college one more round, & see where it takes me.

I figure if my job situation continues to stagnate (I see no light at the end of the tunnel.) then I’m wasting my time & ability here. Some people can just ride along like that. Guess it’s a matter of what they would be doing in the states – riding along in a 9 to 5 job they care even less about. I can’t. I have to believe I am either doing something useful or bettering myself intellectually, preferably both.

At the least, I want to have the option of being able to get out of here, & into something else immediately if I decide to take off in July or August.

Sorry to keep hitting you for favors, but what are sisters for, right?

Take care of yourself,


Letter, June 14, 1975

Dear Mom, Dad & all,

Thanks much for the pictures. That one looking out over the back 40 from the machine shed is really something, and the one of the farm in winter will certainly freak out some of my Salvadoran friends. I hope you’ve finally gotten some rain up there, Jan said in her last letter you were awful dry. That’s all you need on top of the alfalfa winterkill & the atrazine carryover!

Dad, I showed that test sheet you sent me to the extensionist {meaning an agriculture expert hired by the government to work with local farmers} I live with. He was real impressed with the production of the cows & the ages of some of them. Cows don’t live as long here because of the terrific stress they undergo each year during the dry season with no green feed & often insufficient water as well. The only thing I dislike about telling people about your farming operation is that by the standards of the peasant farmers here, our farm is really big & they start thinking of me as the son of a big rich “ganadero” (cattle farmer). One guy has already hinted that he’d like to come to the States & work on my big “hacienda” {large ranch or farm}. It’s hard to convince them that one family can work that much land all alone. They are used to working with oxen & wooden plows, short-handled hoes and machetes rather than modern machinery. I never know how much of what I tell them they really believe. Let me know how the classification came out, especially Lisa, Margie & Belle. { Classification is a program of the national Holstein Association which gives a score, on a 100 point scale, to cows according to their appearance relative to an ideal established for the Holstein breed. Dad was participating in this program as part of a sire (bull) proving program through his artificial insemination cooperative. } Belle should have been in good shape for the classifier having just about time to milk the fat off her back. Hope you get a chance to buy a couple heifers at the Willard Nehls sale, maybe with the economic situation like it is they’ll go pretty reasonable. It would be good to get a couple to help fill the gap when you were getting all bulls.

Mom, in case you’ve forgotten the name, the official name for my plant is a streptocarpus, if that means anything to anyone. I wanted to ask you what ever happened to those other little plants I left at home (in the dining room window). I got a letter from Gert, the cook at DTS {Delta Theta Sigma agricultural fraternity at the University of Wisconsin-Madison}, and she said the plant of that same kind (Christmas candle) which I gave her had grown well, produced flowers & some “miniature oranges” and was blossoming again. Did you have any luck with the ones I left with you? That streptocarpus really thrived when I kept it on my sereo speaker too, so it must really be a music lover!

I realized a childhood dream last weekend. I got my first pair of genuine cowboy boots & walking around in them I felt like Roy Rogers & Gene Autry all rolled into one! I also discovered why cowboys ride horses all the time; it’s darn near impossible to walk at a good pace in cowboy boots! I had the boots hand-made by a shoemaker here and they cost me the equivalent of $24 American. A Salvadoran friend told me you can get them cheaper yet, but for me it was a steal.

I’ve been feeling awful run down lately, don’t know if it’s just the heat (& humidity, whew!) or something more. I’m not alone though most of the volunteers who live at lower altitudes & eat “campo {rural} food” are complaining too. This is a rough climate to keep up ambition & initiative in, always hot, humid in the rainy season & dusty in the dry season. My survey is progressing though, I’ve done 105 interviews with small landowners in the area of the irrigation project & have about 60 more to go. At least I have an immediate goal to work for!

June 23-26 we’re having a big get-together & series of meetings for all volunteers in the country. It is going to be held at Lago Coatepeque, a crater lake up in the mountains, so should be a nice vacation & a relief from the heat of the lower altitudes! It will be like a summer camp having about 100 Gringos {nickname for people from the U.S.} all together in cabins. That’s what we call “roughing it” in the Peace Corps.

Have you heard that the Miss Universe Pageant is going to be held right here in El Salvador this year? Yes sir, they’re going to bring all those skinny, long-legged women from all over the world right down here, with all the attendant publicity & press people. The Salvadoran tourist bureau, which is sponsoring the contest, will be trying to show only the very best side of the country of course since their big goal is to increase tourism & rake in foreign cash! Even so you may get a chance to see some of the same sights I’ve seen through the T.V. coverage in the States. The Miss Universe candidates are scheduled to visit the town where one of my friends is stationed so maybe he’ll get a chance to meet some of them. I’ll have to go to the tourist agency & see what tickets cost for the night of the coronation (July 19). Afraid it’ll be out of my price range & they’ll expect black tie & tails, but it’d be fun to know what they sell for anyway.

Speaking of Marcia (since you did in your letter), I’ve been meaning to ask you for her address for at least 3 months. Just goes to show you how well acculturated I’m becoming down here. If you send her address in your next letter maybe I’ll at least be able to send her a birthday card!

Wishing you health,


Letter, June 11, 1975

Dear Jan,

Thanks for sending me the loan deferment forms with the bill. I sent them notice of my change in address when I entered Peace Corps, and again a few weeks before the bill was due to make sure, but sometimes the message just doesn’t penetrate to the proper level of the bureaucracy. I changed the address on the bill too so maybe they’ll get the next bill addressed right. I have to get a form signed by the Peace Corps director every time they send a bill, to certify I’m still here.

Sorry to hear about all the problems Dad’s having with the crops. All he needs is a poor crop year on top of this recession! The crops here are growing like mad. The rains started coming about the middle of May, and the corn that was planted early is already knee high! Most of the corn is shorter of course, but it really is amazing how fast things get started once the rains come. They will be harvesting the corn by early August when your corn back home is just setting ears. They have tremendous insect problems though. All the farmers are either cultivating or applying insecticides to their corn and rice right now.

My study is coming along, slow but sure. I have interviewed 97 of the small land owners in the area here, and have about 70 more to go. My motorcycle is in for repairs again, & it is very hot when it isn’t raining so I’m not working at a very fast pace. I would like to get most of the leg work of the study done this month so I can get it analyzed & write up my ideas on the relocation plan next month. Depending on how my ideas are received, & what more they have lined up for me to do, I may terminate in late July or early August. It would be different if I could see what I was of benefit to the peasant farmers, but what my bosses really want is for me to help them “manage” the small farmers so the project comes off more or less smoothly, & they can keep their well-paying jobs.

Have you heard yet that the 1975 Miss Universe Pageant is going to be right here in El Salvador? The big show with the crowning of Miss U. is to be held July 19 with other public-attended affairs leading up to it. I wonder how much of El Salvador will actually be seen by the outside world through their T.V. sets. I imagine they will confine it to a tour of some of the tourist attractions with June Lockhart or someone! Even those will need a facelift if some of the “other” El Salvador is not to peek through the curtains. They ought to show the tin, straw, mud & cardboard shacks where the servants live, often within a block of middle class U.S. looking neighborhoods. It will be hard to miss showing some of the shanty town which surrounds San Salvador since you pass part of it on the road in from the airport (Maybe they’ll use a helicopter!). The candidates are scheduled to visit Gotera (which is getting a new road for the occasion) where a friend of mine is stationed, so maybe he’ll get a chance to see how they manage the situation. The Miss U.S.A. is from California, as is my friend, so maybe they’re old childhood buddies, & it’ll make good human interest stuff (just kidding). Anyway, watch the contest July 19th, & maybe you’ll see a little of the country I been hanging out in for 8 months.

Take care,

Dean Jefferson

Letter, May 31, 1975

Hello Jan,

Since you asked me about “adventures” I will have to tell you about the Fiestas Patronales {Patron Saint Festivities} which took place in my town, San Isidro, on the 15th through 18th of May. The Fiestas Patronales or Festival of the Patron Saint are THE BIG TIME in every little campo {rural} town in El Salvador (and much of Latin America). It is sort of like the county fair, Fourth of July, the junior prom and Easter Sunday all thrown in together! About a week before the Fiesta was supposed to start a big truck came into town & they set up a portable whore house right across the road from where I live. The next morning at breakfast the lady with whom I eat & the social worker told me what kind of establishment it was, and asked me if I was going to patronize it! That took me aback just a little.

They also brought in some carnival rides. Most were hand operated, but they had one whirling job which was motor powered. They had games of chance and lots of thatched-roofed, quickly put up food stands with sweets & pastels {pastries} & pupusas {a kind of filled tortilla, where the filling is cheese, meat or refried beans}. The center of the thing was the corner of 4 streets nearest my room so the loud “alegre” {happy} music made it hard to sleep at night.

After the whore house got established, people started celebrating even though the Fiesta wasn’t due to start for a week. The drunks would be shooting off their pistols in the middle of the night & that with the music made sleeping a challenge.

I steered clear of the festivities as much as possible until the weekend (17th & 18th), then I went to the big soccer game. The home team won of course; I don’t think any away team would have the guts to win knowing that in the crowd were several drunk local campesinos {peasants} carrying pistols (which they sometimes discharged when the home team scored)!

The granddaughter of the lady with whom I eat came out from San Salvador to go to the big dance Saturday night the 17th. She was an AFS {American Field Service exchange} student in Ohio and speaks pretty fair English. She is also 19 years old & very good looking. I had met her once before, but this time we had a good chat about the political situation in El Salvador. Her perspective is so much broader than that of any Salvadoran girl I’ve met that it was really good to talk to her. She told me more about the last presidential election here in which the most popular candidate was robbed of the presidency by the all powerful army. She is somewhat of a feminist for a Salvadoran (Most women here never seem to question male authority or superiority.). She is going to the national university & is going to be an Agricultural Engineer. As you would expect, that field is even more male dominated here than in the U.S. She hopes to do graduate work in the U.S. & I hope she makes it because she impresses me as very intelligent, but her concept of the world outside El Salvador is still pretty simplistic & conservative. For example she was taken aback to learn I had smoked marijuana, & the first time I met her the second thing she said to me was, “I know you’re rich.” I went to the Fiesta & danced a lot with her, & so now the local folks think I have a “novia” {girlfriend}. I do have kind of a crush on her (as you may have guessed), just because she has so much potential, & I would really hate to see her get put down by the neo-fascist political norm here or the male chauvinist social norm.

Well I kind of got stuck on one track this letter. Was glad to hear about the trees you planted; didn’t know olives grew so far north. Got a real good letter from Bruce about what he’s been doing & his plans. I told him to get a technical specialty for job security to fall back on. Agriculture firms like the technical training & agriculture background, and look on the economics & business courses as useful, but secondary. Never can stop giving advice.

Take care,



Images, May, 1975

Some of the hilly land near San Isidro, El Salvador where I work. The photo was taken from the highlands near El Transito.

{ Another photo taken out the bus window near El Transito. The valley between the hill in the foreground and the one in the background is the site of the Atiocoyo Irrigation Project. }

Looking out over the flat land of Hacienda San Juan – San Isidro where irrigation works will be constructed & operating within 5 years.

{ Cover of the flyer for the San Isidro Patron Saint Festival in 1975. }

Fiesta Patronal {Patron Saint Festival} in San Isidro, with rides, games of chance, goodies to eat & even a whore house.

The whore house in the Fiestas Patronales of San Isidro as seen from my room.

A horseman tries to spear a piece of cloth fastened on a rope using a pencil. it is a traditional contest to impress the ladies at patron saint festivals.

Letter, May 10, 1975

Dear Jan,

Well I am still in the same old job & still feeling frustrated & restless. However, I am beginning an attitude survey of the plus-or-minus 180 families who could potentially be involved in the relocation part of the project. It is very necessary work & so I will try and stick it out in this job at least until I get that done. I wish I felt more dedicated to my work, but it’s hard to when I am idle so much of the time & when the Salvadorans I work with are mostly concerned with their salaries, living conditions & getting ahead in the world, rather than with helping the poor farmers. I guess that’s the usual case with government employees in the States though too. It really points up the folly of government trying to replace private initiative & do everything itself. I think the government here is afraid of private initiative because it might turn into antigovernment action, so they stifle it & then wonder why development doesn’t progress!

So much for my frustrations! Glad to hear you’ve got a job lined up at the day care center & all; I hope you’re enjoying your work there. I hope I’m still here in January so I can show you around a little if you come (though I won’t stay just for that!), it will all depend on my level of frustration.

I’m happy to hear about your planting the sycamore trees. The farm needs someone to take an interest in its natural beauty, etc. I feel a strong attachment to the farm, also. Sometimes, I think that once I have satisfied my intellectual appetite, or so frustrated myself trying to, that I’d just like to settle down on a farm & just try to raise good cows & crops. It would be a very emotionally satisfying life for me. I couldn’t do it yet though, my intellectual curiosity keeps me restless – searching for the “real answers” about our existence, etc. I either have to find out enough of them (however I may subjectively define them) or else convince myself it’s beyond my intellectual capacity to do so, before I can sort of mellow out & take life as it comes.

I guess Belle will have to hang on another year so she can have her heifer & die in peace (I’m sure she gives a damn!). Whew! I think I’ve about burned my brain out for now (the old one cell as Dad used to say).

As always,



Letter, April 16, 1975

Dear Dad, Mom & all,

Dad’s writing is definitely improving, there wasn’t a single word I had to guess at this time (only kidding)! I was happy to hear about your four heifers {female new-born calves} finally breaking the rotten string of luck you’ve been having with calves ever since I left. That calf of Lisa’s out of 239 {Lisa was one of Dad’s best cows at the time, and 239 refers to a bull’s identification number at the artificial insemination co-op Dad was using.} should tell you if he’s any good or not! I guess all your luck isn’t good though, it has to hurt losing Eva after she finally had a good year milking last year.

Thanks for the test sheet {meaning a Dairy Herd Improvement or DHI document showing the milk production of Dad’s cows}! I am pretty impressed with the performances of some of the cows. I’m afraid all those two-year-olds just starting out will start pulling it down soon though. Belle {my former 4-H project calf, now a mature cow} had quite a year for herself with 14,861 lbs. milk and 632 lbs. {butter} fat in less than 300 days. That might be the best year of her life! The sheet says she’s due April 1 so be sure to let me know what kind of a calf she has. Hope it’s a heifer, since the old girl might not last long enough to have another one!

You all complain about the late spring, but I think it may be a blessing in disguise since it’s giving Dad time to rest up from his operation. Nothing could make him take it easy if the land was ready to work. We are having a “late spring” of sorts too since it is still dry as a bone & farmers can’t plant until the rains start coming with some regularity.

I may be changing jobs. The head of Peace Corps agriculture programs in El Salvador & I are meeting with my bosses tomorrow to decide whether it’s worthwhile keeping me in my present job or not. I want to change. I have been here 6 months and not done much of anything on this job. I’m afraid though that if I switch jobs I’ll have 1-2 months of idleness before I get going on a new job. The government people love to have big meetings & discuss things thoroughly, but when it comes to defining a job & getting down to work they don’t follow through. I think I’d be better off in a job less dependent on government support, since then I could work on my own initiative & if I was idle it would be my own fault.

I had forgotten all about that plant until Mom mentioned it, I’ve even forgotten its name (streptocarpus?). I’m glad to hear it’s still around & healthy.

Jan says Donna bought a guitar. That makes two of us. I can already more or less play Skip to my Lou & The Old Chisolm Trail, though I only can switch between 2 chords with any vague resemblance of speed. My guitar has wire strings & they’re murder on the fingers at first. Hope you were smart enough to get nylon ones Donna!

Well, in closing, I hope the legislature doesn’t cut the U.W.’s budget too much, because if it does Bruce might have to go to Stevens Point & I hear the beer is terrible up there (Point Special)! Anyway, I’m happy you are all so busy up there. My idleness is bound to make either a philosopher or a bum out of me & I haven’t done anything worthy of a philosopher yet!


Images, April, 1975

Don Toribio Varela and {his wife} Doña Julia. I ate my meals in their home while I lived in San Isidro.

Cortes Amarillo tree in bloom in the yard of the I.C.R. { Instituto de Colonizacion Rural } center in San Isidro, El Salvador.

The local head of the Institute for Rural Colonization {Instituto de Colonizacion Rural (sort of a land reform agency)} is singing accompanied by Chacón on guitar. José Gonzalo López, an extension agent & my roommate, is seated at right.

Letter, April 15, 1975

Dear Jan,

I was glad to hear you enjoyed the Smokies trip so much. I am envious. It all sounds so beautiful, especially the clear fresh streams, as it is still dry as a bone here. I can just see Tom exploring all the new sights & sounds. He is so spontaneous & curious, I think he’s got an excellent mind & hope he develops it well. It’s really good for him to get out of the local atmosphere & experience new environments (both natural & human) at his age.

I have been in the city (San Salvador) for several days now. I’m hoping to change my job as I’m very dissatisfied with my present one. They haven’t given me anything, really, to do until recently & I feel the work they have in mind for me now is “flunky work”, trying to find the best way to get around the people & get them to accept the way they (the heads) have decided to carry out the project (in Atiocoyo), rather than adapting their plans to the needs of the people. There is no input from the “grass roots” level here. All the orders come down from above, & everyone just bustles around trying to make poorly conceived plans work. It is a form of neo-fascism, I have to say, if I want to be honest about it, & if I don’t want to be an instrument , I have to find work on a level closer to the rural people, the campesinos (peasants), who are the system’s economic base, & it’s worst victims. Wow! They’d call me a communist for saying that here, but it’s true!

So much for my troubles. I talked with Harry Brokish, a friend from my U.W. {University of Wisconsin} days yesterday. He and his wife took a trip through South America overland, spent 3-4 weeks. They really saw a lot! He says the food in Argentina is great & cheap, and that despite all you hear about the unrest there, that the people are friendly, & the agriculture is surprisingly modern, almost like the midwestern U.S. He says Peru is in really bad shape though. There are tanks in the streets, the people are poor, discouraged & unfriendly, & that the government keeps Americans under almost continual surveillance. They hit about every country but Brazil, taking local transportation mostly, & saw some things you just wouldn’t see on a Pan-Am tour!

About coming down here in January or February, that’s a good time to come since it is the dry season (almost 0 chance of a rain storm), and there are no Salvadoran holidays in those months so the beaches won’t be mobbed.

It is of course the American tourist season, but they don’t exactly come in droves! If you decide to come, maybe I’ll take some vacation & we can take a bus down to Costa Rica (it is beautiful there), or go up into Guatemala where there are some fantastic Mayan ruins. If you can stand the unbelievably crowded buses, we can see quite a bit of stuff, or if you just want to take it easy, we can go to the beach.

The question of people’s reaction to North Americans is really too complicated to answer in a few sentences. It ranges from servile admiration (as if we were a superior race and their patrons) to a willingness to blame us for all their nation’s own problems as well as the world’s. One guy demanded of me: “Why didn’t you help us in the war with Honduras?” It seems that Guatemala & Nicaragua sided with Honduras in this 1972 conflict, & he thought we should have sided with El Salvador (Since they were obviously in the right!). Generally people are friendly though, even if they don’t especially like the U.S. government or big U.S. companies. They have, many of them, learned a little English in school, & they never tire of trying it out on you. It is sometimes irritating, since what they say is hard to understand, & you can bet they won’t understand you if you reply in English, but it is prestigious to speak English here, so I guess you have to live with it.

Take care,


Letter, April 2, 1975

Dear Mom, Dad & all,

How is Dad feeling of late? I imagine he’s starting to worry about getting the land worked & the oats planted. If you get desperate maybe I can plead family emergency & get them to give me a couple weeks off to come home & help! I’m only half kidding as I still am not doing much here. They promised me we would start my social study this week, so maybe they’ll come through this time!

Over Easter I climbed the San Vicente Volcano with 3 other PCVs {Peace Corps Volunteers} and some Salvadorans. It was a long climb, but it is beautiful (& cool!) up in the mountains. We found lots of fruit trees on the way up, & I found some raspberries on the way down. We spent one night up near the top, had a fire, & roasted hot dogs. It was great. Afterward we went to one of the popular beaches. What a mistake! It was mobbed with people & we ended up (3 of us) sleeping on the ground in a palm leaf shack! You live & learn I guess.

I am sending a roll of film with some pictures of my site & the volcano. The first picture, of a tree they call “cortez amarillo” {yellow oak}, I took in front of where I live. I have a friend who wants a copy of it, so I would appreciate it if you would make two copies of the first picture on the roll, & send me one to give him. The next three pictures are of the river Rio Lempa near my town, & the rest are of my climb of the volcano. Sorry, but I didn’t keep track of what I took exactly. There is one of the group I went up with. Hope that turns out at least. I don’t know if those from the top of the volcano looking out will turn out or not, it wasn’t real clear that day.

It seems like I’ve asked Jan or else you folks before, but I never did hear what Bruce is planning on doing next year. Time is moving along & I’m just curious. (Why don’t you write me a letter Bruce?) After all, if a brother can’t pry into your personal affairs, who can?

As ever,



Letter, Marchl 31, 1975

Dear Jan,

Muchisimas gracious {many, many thanks} for the folk guitar books. I have been plucking away blindly & learning chords from one of my neighbors who plays pretty well up to this point. Now I should be able to go at it more systematically!

Over Easter I climbed the San Vicente volcano with 3 other PCVs {Peace Corps Volunteers} and about a dozen Salvadorans. The Salvadorans really wore us out on the way up as they were younger, in much better shape, & not carrying heavy backpacks. We started at 3:30 AM and got to the top at noon. It was a great time though. The night before we started up we slept in a little colony (on boards laid across benches in the schoolhouse) & a little local combo played some music. They had two guitars, two violins, a bass fiddle & a “bomba” drum. The one guitar player was excellent. He seemed to pick up new melodies just by hearing them once. One of the PCVs {Peace Corps Volunteers} played a harmonica to his guitar accompaniment also. On the way up the volcano we found lots of fruit trees & I found some raspberries (almost unheard of here) on the way down. It was great to spend a night in a temperate-like climate up at the volcano’s top & roast hot dogs over a fire!

Afterwards we went to a beach called El Espino, what a mistake! During Easter vacation the beaches are utterly swarmed with people, everything is expensive, etc. We slept in a shack made of palm leaves just big enough for three of us to lay down in (on the ground) & it cost us ¢10. Then it rained a little bit near morning. I got back to San Salvador today & came down with a case of diarrhea, what a bummer!

As for coming down here some time in the summer goes, you have to remember that that is the rainy season here, so that you would more likely get soaked to the skin camping in a small tent! Also, there are people everywhere so it isn’t the easiest to just throw up a tent somewhere secluded. I can find boarding house type rooms for $1 to $5 a night in the capital, & about the same other places like the beach at La Libertad or Santa Ana (which is near the Indian ruins, & has an Italian style church). The best time to come is in a period from mid-July to mid-August called the “Canicula” when the rains let up for about a month in the middle of the rainy season.

However, the first week of August is a national holiday here so it is a bad time to travel around. If you do decide to come, maybe I’ll take a week or two of vacation & we can go up to Guatemala, or down to Costa Rica, as well as see some of El Salvador. Let me know what you might want to see (in general) so I can find out about bus schedules & all that. Buses are crowded & cramped, but renting a car is expensive & you can get around pretty good on the buses if you plan well & don’t let the pushing & shoving get you down!

Hope your work at the day care center continues to go well. I guess I’ve officially missed a whole Wisconsin winter now, a historic event! Hope you had a good trip to the Smokies.


Letter, March 17, 1975

Dear Dad, Mom & all,

I neglected to tell you about two letters ago, that the other volunteer from Wisconsin, Jim Olson, had his parents down here in about mid-February and I told them if they ever got down around Friendship (they are from Neenah) they should stop in. So if some Olsons you don’t know ever drop in & say they met your son in El Salvador, it’s true! They are very nice people & have a small farm with Holstein cattle just like us. They had quite a time down here, visiting the beach and volcanos, and going to Jim’s work site, but I think the crowding on the buses & the heat wore them out pretty fast. If any of you get the urge to come down let me know! The poverty here might really depress you though, as you wouldn’t have time to get used to it (I don’t expect I’ll ever fully get used to it.)

I’m glad to hear you (Dad) are getting along well in spite of your operation. I’m sorry to hear about your continued bad luck with calves, but it seems like it’s got to change pretty soon. You should be getting a lot of milk though with all those heifers fresh. Cattle sure seem to be selling cheap, considering the inflation rate and all. I don’t see how beef men can stay in business with high {priced} corn & cheap cattle. It’s lucky that milk {price} is more stable. Looks like you might just as well hang onto your marginal milk producers (those you have room for) since you can’t get much for them across the scales {meaning by selling them for beef}.

I guess there is no good reason to file a tax return if U.W. didn’t withhold anything. The only advantage might be the chance to average incomes across low years like this in the future (I understand Wis. lets you do that). I’ve sent you my information, so do whatever seems best.

Easter vacation is coming up & I may be going to climb San Vicente, a large volcano in central El Salvador, where they say you can see almost the whole country on a clear day. I wish I had a sleeping bag, as we’ll have to stay overnight, but I guess a blanket will do (the chance of rain is pretty slim). Maybe I’ll manage to get some pictures. By the way, I got that film you sent me, thanks. I have 4 rolls to use up now!

I’m going to start my survey Monday if no more delays manage to happen before then. It’s going to be mighty hot walking all over the countryside, but it’ll be good for me as I’ve been getting awful lazy lately!

As always,


Images, March, 1975

The party that climbed San Vicente volcano. Included are PCVs {Peace Corps Volunteers} Russel Soules, Dave Quarles and Stan Krenz, along with Dave's friends from Hacienda Teguaquin.

{ This photo was taken by Dave Quarles, so I'm included. }

Farmland, from top of volcano. The Pan Am highway winds through the ridge in the middle of the photo.

Sunset from on top of the volcano.

Dave Quarles on top of a T.V. aerial on top of the volcano. He was stationed in the San Vicente area as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

The other peak of twin topped "Chinchintepec". Chinchintepec means "two breasted hill" in the indian {native Central American} Najuatl language.

Entrance to Balneario Amapulapa near San Vicente. Easter week, 1975.

Big pool in El Balneario Amapulapa, San Vicente, El Salvador.


Letter, March 5, 1975

Dear Jan,

Got your letter 2 days after I sent my last one. I hadn’t gotten a letter from you or the family since early January & so was feeling kind of uptight. You hit me with so much information & questions in your letter that I’m going to go through and sort of react to them all in order (if possible).

Was glad to hear from Mom the 18th that Dad was feeling better after his operation. They must have it pretty rough at home with Dad laid up, and Mom, Donna & Bruce “wounded”. Hopefully it allsounds worse than it is though. Glad to hear you’re looking out for the calves; sometimes I’m sure it seems that no one else is!! Thanks for the Christmas pictures, seeing Dad sitting contentedly in his chair, I can almost hear him saying, “God has been awful good to us this Christmas”, like he always does. I had to look at that picture of Tom three times to make up my mind that it had to be him. His hair is turning darker, and he looks taller, & his face seems to be changing unless it’s just the look on his face!

Glad to hear you enjoyed your trip to Florida; it sounds like it was fascinating. If you go to the Smokies I’ll be downright envious! I did get the birthday card & thought I said so somewhere, but must not have. I never quite know when & if my letters get through, & that with the time lag sometimes makes me doubt a little whether I’m actually communicating with anyone, or if our letters just pass in the dark!

Don’t need books as they have pretty good book stores here, & the Peace Corps has a lot of paperbacks. Have finished “East of Eden” & Solzhenitsyn’s “August 1914”, and am going to get his newer work from a friend to read.

I don’t do any cooking (in fact I’ve never used the fry-pan I bought), since there isn’t good electric current here. In my first town there was none except at night. I think you’d be disappointed in the cooking here. I get a lot of purple-colored beans they grow here, white cheese, rice, thickened cream and of course tortillas made from the white corn they grow here. They make some good soups using yucca, potatoes, avocados & other native vegetables (soups are always for lunch). The woman in my “comedor” (eating place) makes a fantastic warm pineapple sauce once in a while, and there are good sweet breads, though regular bread is seldom used out in the country. None of these things are hard to prepare (though time consuming); getting ingredients would be your big problem!

I wish I could have gotten some of that Johnny cake! I really love corn bread. I don’t know why they don’t make something like that here to break the monotony of the tortillas. Maybe making it over a wood fire would be too tough.

I’m really pleased to hear Donna is doing well in school, and developing a life outside the family. It’s what she’s always needed to do, get away from the rest of us & just deal with the world as an autonomous person, instead of worrying about being as good as her sisters, or trying to satisfy Mom & Dad (God knows they never tell you if you do satisfy them).

Well, I didn’t leave much space for my exciting adventures. But I really haven’t done anything exciting lately, except perhaps for the fact that daily life has more of a flavor of adventure to it here. For example, one of my roommates (an extension agent) goes hunting at night with a 22 and a light that he can wear on his forehead. And he has a pistol which he carries in his belt at times (that is extremely common in this country). Riding a motorcycle here is a little like motor-cross. Where the road isn’t sandy or thick with dust, there are rocks all over it (& ox carts). I have crossed a little creek a couple times with the motorcycle, but am cautious about trying the Rio Suquiapa. A young lady here in San Isidro seems to be taking an interest in me already, so I’ll have to be careful (nice girls have only marriage on their minds)!



P.S. – Have bought a guitar for $16, and would still like a learner’s book if you can find one. Hope that letter with the $4 got through!

Letter, March 2, 1975

Dear Mom, Dad & all,

Got your letter two days after sending mine asking you to send my W-2 forms. Since you have the records of what dad paid me & that will be the only difficult part of the return to fill out, I am going to send you the information I have and let your tax man do the return. Since I have copies of the Wis. Form & the federal 1040 and 1040-A forms, I will send you a signed copy of each which may save time if the tax man doesn’t object to the idea of my having signed an uncompleted form. The “Federal Income Tax Guide for Peace Corps Volunteers” (which I am enclosing), explains what part of my Peace Corps income is taxable. I am enclosing the W-2 form for my “Readjustment allowance” and the statements given me for other income. The statement from the training administrator confuses the issue somewhat because he states my total income instead of the taxable part. I have computed the taxable part as the “Guide” says one should. I recommend that you send the PC tax guide with my federal form, but not the training administrator’s statement, but the tax man will know best I expect.

I figure I made no more than $400 from UW last spring and bank interest, and with $400 from dad that makes $800 plus the $576 from P.C. means my total income is less than $1,376 so if I take the $1300 low income allowance and the standard deduction there is no way I will have to pay tax.

For Wis. Taxes my P.C. income doesn’t count so I only have a maximum of $800 and I can take 800/1376 = 2/3 to 3/4 of the low income allowance there so my taxable income will be next to nothing, & I still get to subtract $20 of tax for the personal deduction. Hope this isn’t all confusing you, but what it all amounts to is that I only have to file to get a refund from my U.W. withholdings and to get my low income on record if I want to average it some other year.

Just struck me that I can’t sign the return beforehand because I’d have to put the date and when the tax man signed it his date would be much later & we’d be all screwed up. In that case it makes no sense to send you the forms since you also have copies. So I’ll just send along the PCV guide, W-2, & statements of other income & have you send me the forms back to sign.

Am keeping pretty busy these days with trying to set up a survey of the small land owners in one section of the irrigation project. I also have purchased a guitar & am trying to make some semblance of music on it! Haven’t taken any pictures just lately, but plan to go to a beach on the far side of the country over Easter (we get from 4 days to a week, not sure which yet) & so should get some worthwhile pictures then. I was real sorry to hear of dad’s trouble, but am happy he finally got the operation & hope he is coming along well. It must be rough with Dad laid up & Donna, Bruce & Mom all listed as walking wounded!

Sure hope you can figure out the tax O.K., guess it’s the biggest worry on my mind right now (except Dad’s health).