Peru and the Peace Corps, 1962--1968

Date of Completion

January 1991


History, Latin American|History, United States|Political Science, International Law and Relations




Peru hosted one of the largest Peace Corps contingents in the world. In many respects, most notably in its rural and urban community development programs, Peace Corps/Peru served as a model for Peace Corps activities throughout Latin America. This thesis argues, contrary to prevailing interpretations, that Peace Corps programs were intimately linked with and broadly conditioned by United States foreign policy and development assistance objectives in Peru. They were also shaped by many aspects of Peruvian social and political reality for which the Peace Corps proved largely unprepared and often incapable of understanding. Consequently, despite published claims of success in promoting social change and development in Peru by the Peace Corps and by researchers affiliated with Cornell University's Peru Project experiment in applied anthropology, this thesis finds that most Peace Corps volunteers and Peace Corps programs failed to contribute to the organization's statutory goals of providing middle level manpower assistance to Peru, and increasing mutual understanding between the people of Peru and the U.S. The evidence suggests that these conclusions also hold for other Latin American countries.^ Through its focus on the nexus between Peace Corps' ostensibly non-political development assistance programs, U.S. foreign policy, and Peruvian development strategies, this thesis contributes to the social and political history of the little understood first administration of Fernando Belaunde Terry (1963-1968), especially through its examination of Belaunde's agenda for social and economic development and his troubled relations with the U.S. It also advances a thoroughgoing re-interpretation of the political role of the Peace Corps. Additionally, it provides evidence for a revision of significant aspects of U.S. policy toward Peru, particularly in relation to the slowdown in U.S. assistance to that country in the Alliance for Progress years.^ The study is based on extensive research in primary sources, including hundreds of recently declassified documents at the presidential libraries of Lyndon B. Johnson and John F. Kennedy. Other sources include a wealth of unpublished Peace Corps documents, published reports and documents in Peru, and many oral history interviews, including seventeen conducted by the author in Peru. ^