Patricia Edmisten (Peru 1962-64)
On November 22, as Susan, Ingrid, and I are leaving the movie theater Dux, where we had just seen an old Italian romance, we run into a throng of people. They are trying to read an announcement on a blackboard set up on the sidewalk. We can see over their heads: Kennedy mató por un balazo. We try to break free of the crowd, but the people surround us with tears in their eyes. They know Kennedy had sent us to Peru. To them we are “Kennedy’s Children.”
We join other red-eyed volunteers who have already gathered at the Mogambo. The owner puts plates of fries on the table and serves us soft drinks. He refuses our money, pointing to the picture of Kennedy on the wall.
The next morning there is a black wreath and a picture of President Kennedy on the door of the medical post. The mestizo women in the barriada wear black; the Indian women, in their separate worlds, dress as usual, but they know a good man has died, and that he was the leader of our country. Everyone speaks in hushed tones, and a funereal air descends upon all of us. Some of the women ask if they can name the clinic after the fallen president. In less than an hour, in bright red paint above the door are the words, Posta Médica John F. Kennedy.
It takes weeks for the shock of President Kennedy’s death to subside, and the women still wear black. Although the university students who frequently sit with us at the Mogamo regret the assassination, many still hold a skeptical view of Uncle Sam’s past benevolence to poor countries. They think us naïve not to recognize the U.S. government’s role in supporting oppressive governments.
Patricia Taylor Edmisten (Peru, 1962-64) lives in Pensacola, Florida