Sharing Snyders’ Peace Corps experiences

By Conversation Club

The Conversation Club met on March 12 at Cape May Campus Center with 23 members present.

President Suzanne Madison encouraged members to read the book “Tribe” by Sebastian Junger. Joy Brubaker will lead a discussion of this book at the April 9 meeting. Changes in meeting locations and programs were announced.

Following the business meeting, Christine Snyder presented a slide show of her recent trip to El Salvador. The afternoon ended with hostess Jennilou Grotevant serving a variety of delicious pound cakes with toppings.

The program “El Salvador Revisited” was presented by Christine Snyder, who had recently returned from a Road Scholar Tour called “The Wilds of El Salvador: Central America’s Undiscovered Beauty.”

Christine and her veterinarian husband had served as Peace Corps volunteers in El Salvador during the optimistic times of 1965-66 in the rural northern province of Chalatenango.

In spite of the poverty, El Salvador is a beautiful country of beautiful people, and they are working hard to restore the tourism industry. The tour Christine and Gene took emphasized natural history, and was structured in four parts.

During the first segment the small group of travelers stayed in a modern hotel in San Salvador, visiting the churches of the city center and taking field trips to two archeological sites and up the volcano to view the huge crater called the Boquerón and to enjoy the views.

The second segment was centered at Jiquilisco Bay, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean near the coastal sugar cane fields of Usulutan, with mangrove islands, island fishing villages, and wildlife. They participated with a group of researchers catching and studying the sea turtles.

The third segment was centered in the town of Suchitoto, a traditional cultural center with a lovely white church. Field trips included a visit to an organic farm where the cultivation of indigo has been revived, and they made tie died scarves using the natural dye grown and processed there.

Another visit was to a community that had been totally devastated by the army in the civil war, but that now has rebuilt and is preserving a re-grown forest area as a reserve, with paths and waterfalls.

The fourth segment was centered in Ataco, in the far west of the country in a traditional coffee growing area with a strong indigenous (Pipil) culture. Close by is the Volcanoes National Park, with three volcanic peaks close together, with hiking trails.

At a nearby farm they learned to make pupusas, the national food, and interacted with school children.

On a visit to the indigenous village of Nahuizalco they visited the local market and the Nahua Pipil Museum, which has displays of ancient cultural artifacts and a commemoration of the 1932 massacre of peasants that took place there.

The farewell dinner was enhanced by local folk dancers performing the Toro Lucero dance in the streets, and a marimba band played traditional music in a beautiful restaurant. Christine quoted Gene as saying that they had fallen in love with El Salvador all over again.

A highlight of the visit for the Snyders was meeting up with well-known economist William Pleites, currently the Executive Director of the Millennium Fund which oversees the development projects being done all over El Salvador.

The last time they had seen him he was a barefoot eight-year-old neighbor boy in the town where they served as Peace Corps Volunteers.

He had a career with the United Nations and in economic development. Christine commented that it felt like a miracle to meet him after more than 50 years, and to learn what he has accomplished.

William said to them, “You planted the seed.”

By Conversation Club