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It's a long way from Wellesley, Massachusetts, to Guayaquil, Ecuador, and Rachel Cowan's odyssey of disillusionment follows roughly the same trail blazed by her husband Paul in The Making of an Un-American (1970). As Peace Corps volunteers in the mid-'60's, the Cowans came to reject both the goals and methods of their American-sponsored community development program which operated on the assumption that Ecuadorians were inferior and incapable of playing any role in their own national growth. Mrs. Cowan contrasts her dismaying failures in Ecuador with the high morale and determination she found on a later visit to Cuba. But her overall conclusion is that the Yanqui belongs at home; she can't approve of the limited personal freedom in Cuba any more than she could lift Ecuador from poverty by the sheer force of her good will. This is both less rhetorical and less analytic than husband Paul's account and it is most affecting for its personal contacts with poor Latin American women--double prisoners of hunger and the machismo ethic. Both Mrs. Cowan's factual attack on United States policies toward Latin America and her experiences living among the almost unbelievable squalor and hopelessness of Guayaquil's barrios suburbanos deserve a hearing, but her guilt over a privileged background and her sense of being an impotent outsider (even her rather touching boast that she and Paul now live on Manhattan's Upper West Side ""because so many different kinds of people live in it"") are rather sad and frustrating. Now several years after the fact, one can't help wondering why the author is so concerned with justifying her own existence. Still this awkward confrontation with the realities of underdevelopment makes us realize the extent to which every American is blinded by rose-colored glasses.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1975
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Viking