The Barrios of Manta.

Author:Schoonover, Brenda Brown
Position:Book review

The Barrios of Manta by Rhoda and Earle Brooks, Amazon Digital Services, 2013, ASIN: B008KPZQRO, 324 pp., $4.99 (Kindle); originally published by New American Library, 1965, ISBN-13: 978-9997555700.

In September 2011, the United States Peace Corps celebrated its 50th anniversary. The main events were held in Washington, D.C. with an array of activities organized by the National Peace Corps Association plus individual group gatherings according to volunteers' host countries. There were also celebrations throughout the U.S. and in nations where volunteers had served or were currently serving.

One of the fruits of the 50th anniversary has been an outpouring of Peace Corps memoirs and commentaries. In September 2011, the U.S. Library of Congress honored the Peace Corps' landmark anniversary by creating an annotated bibliography of 247 selected books limited to authors who were Returned Volunteers and overseas staff.

Among the Special Collection is The Barrios of Manta. A Personal Account of the Peace Corps in Ecuador written by Rhoda and Earle Brooks. First published in 1965, it was the first book by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. It sold over 60,000 copies. In Barrios, Rhoda and Earle Brooks vividly share their experiences in Ecuador from 1962 to1964. The couple joined the Peace Corps for the challenge and adventure, the chance to learn Spanish; however, mainly to give something of themselves to others.

In recognition of the 50th anniversary, Rhoda Brooks has published a new edition of The Barrios of Manta in e-book form with a revised foreword and afterword.

Many of the earlier volunteers were just out of college and single. Rhoda and Earle were slightly older: Rhoda 26, Earle 28. They left substantial jobs, Earle, a sales engineer and Rhoda a teacher. Plus they had an established household to deal with before embarking on their new adventure. The couple underwent Peace Corps training, including an outward-bound course in Puerto Rico, described as "extremely rigorous". Only 61 of the original 100 candidates in their group made it through the whole assessment process.

Earle and Rhoda's memoir is a thoughtful and insightful account of their existence in a poor Ecuadorian fishing village on the Pacific Coast. There, they developed meaningful relationships with members of the community. Both managed to avoid being judgmental and showed amazing resilience and talent for accomplishing a great deal in community development and education...

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