Review — Marrying Santiago by Suzanne Adam (Colombia 1964–66)

marrying-santiago-140Marrying Santiago
by Suzanne Adam (Colombia 1964–66)
Peace Corps Writers
May 2015
$15.00 (paperback), $3.49 (Kindle)

Reviewed by Bob Arias (Colombia 1964–66)


A Journey within a Journey

I feel that Suzanne is very much the same beautiful individual that she was when she became a Peace Corps Volunteer along with me in 1964 in Colombia. And like her move in 1971 to Santiago, Chile to be with her soon-to-be husband, Santiago, Suzanne took California with her when she went into the Peace Corps. One tough lady, always proud of who she was, and ready to go over the next hill to see if things are different, or perhaps to find a new flower or one of natures creatures. I agree with her, she would have made a great California Forest Ranger with a Smokey the Bear hat!

Moving to Chile to follow Santiago was much more than changing homes for Suzanne. She had to change her mind-set, learn to prepare new foods, and meet lots of new relatives — and all the while she had to wrestle with the sadness of having left her Mom and Dad alone in California. But she did it . . . and Santiago won more than a wife, he found a partner, of now over forty years, who would always be that unique individual from California. You may take the girl out of California, but you will never take California out of Suzanne.

This is a very special book that you may want to keep near your favorite chair. Pick a page and see what Suzanne does next! Chile is her home!

A message to Suzanne — thank you for sharing the beautifully written story of your life’s journey with its pleasures and its challenges as you became an “introduced species” in a far away land so different — yet with some surprising similarities — from the beloved land of your birth.

P.S. I appreciate flowers and birds, but I can’t tell the difference between one plant and another. With your writing skill and you special fondness for plants and animals, perhaps your next book should be about  the things you see that make you day beautiful . . . share your excitement! You have talent that we envy. B.A.

Reviewer Bob Arias was an Associate Peace Corps Director in Colombia from 1968 to 1973, and Peace Corps Country Director in Uruguay and Argentina from 1993 to 1995. He returned to work at the Peace Corps from 2001 to 2003 and established the agency’s Safety and Security Office. Now retired from Los Angeles County where he worked as a Compliance Officer, Bob  has been serving as a Peace Corps Response Volunteer (formerly known as a Crisis Corps) since 2009, and has worked in Paraguay, Colombia, and now for a second time, in Panamá.

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  • I heard the author Suzanne Adam read from MARRYING SANTIAGO, and talk about the book’s development and her life with Santiago when in Berkeley at the Peace Corps gathering this last June 2015. There were 3 (or 4) other writers who told of their new books, and every one was so inspiring to hear. I wondered at the courage and effort to write such books. The event was introduced by Marian Hailey Beil. Their books were displayed at the table that John Coyne stood behind (and it was swell to finally meet him in person. It was inspiring to hear of the sometimes troubling path of writing and how the authors kept on going and finished their books. Over the years I can remember playing Chinese Checkers with my brothers and sisters and hunting for all the marbles. My memory now I’d compare to the memory of the lost marbles and thinking how history is for the remaining conquerors who spill the beans and that the absences represent more than just night coming on as some light seems to spill somehow in the recollections even though now not being that student prince nor lthe tenor by whom the dark is pierced. These Peace Corps authors do that, they pierce the dark as they stop and listen to their pasts (which can me others’ pasts as we stop and listen, wonder and find such loveliness pop). I wish I could remember all of that session that John Coyne and Marian Hailey Beil put together. I wonder if it was filmed.

  • This biography covers more than four decades of Suzanne’s marriage to Santiago, her husband and to Santiago, Chile, the capital of her adopted land. She is both courageous and sensitive in revealing the evolution of her feelings about marriage, family, and politics. As a Chilean resident, her perspective is far different from an international reporter, who stops in Chile a week before flying on to Buenos Aires. She and her family live Chilean history: they cannot escape it.
    Suzanne shares the tension of wanting to rear her two boys to appreciate the life she knew as a child in Marin County, California. They learn English and travel to the United States, but she sees them becoming more like Santiago and less like her. They are bilingual and bicultural, but heavily weighted toward their land of birth.
    She shares many joys of her adopted country as well. In this thin, long land, she introduces us to the semi-arid Central Valley and cool, forested region of El Sur. A fond observer of nature, she narrates her climbing the Andes and tenderly cultivating the flora in her own backyard.
    Other Americans have written about their transformative Chilean experiences. Claude Bowers, the US Ambassador in Chile from 1939-1953, narrated the Depression and war years in his autobiography , Chile through Embassy Windows. Suzanne offers a more intimate view of Chile, but does not overlook politics. She experienced the violence and traumatic events of Salvador Allende’s overthrow and military rule. She lived on the “ground floor” of vulnerability and uncertainty.
    This autobiography is the shared life of a woman who married Santiago, but never “divorced” her own country. Courageously she shares the beauty and nostalgia of belonging to two worlds.

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