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Between Inca Walls, A Peace Corps Memoir

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A vivid and compelling read. The author's time as a young woman volunteering in Peru is brought to life in immersive detail.

Synopsis

An adventurous and romantically inclined twenty-one-year-old seeks fulfillment volunteering in Mexico and Peru. She joins the Peace Corps and works in the Andes, where she falls in love with her village, her indigenous pupils--and a university student. After violating the sexual prohibitions of her Catholic upbringing, she finds herself pregnant and must choose whether to marry the father of her unborn child.

Between Inca Walls is a rare book that transcends genres.  It is both a historical memoir of the author’s time in Kennedy’s Peace Corps and a South American travelogue, whilst also heavily touching upon the internal religious conflicts of a strict Catholic upbringing and the complications of a relationship across cultures.


La Torre joins the Peace Corps at a time when it is still defining itself and the aid it can bring to the developing countries it aims to help.  The living situations of its volunteers are incredibly basic and those who signed up to escape the war in Vietnam soon realise that this is by no means an easy way to sit out conscription.  By contrast, La Torre lived her childhood in a remote mountain town in the US and beautifully extensive flashbacks show the reader how each hardship that has gone before has prepared her to flourish in her voluntary work.


The author looks back upon her time with remarkable truth, detail and clarity, illustrating the book with her own photographs of the landscape and people of Peru.  Every principle of life, even the most fundamental skill such as baking a cookie, is challenged, as the simple recipe needs to be adjusted to account for the high altitude.  These detailed examples, which populate every page, slowly build and reinforce the author’s suggestion that the world is best understood by journeying out into it. 


As compelling as any well-plotted novel, the pace towards the end as her time in Peru draws near, is so swift that the book becomes unputdownable.  The decisions that need to be made put her on a crossroad that will change the course of her life.


I thoroughly recommend this book and am looking forward to reading La Torre’s sequel to Between Inca Walls, due for publication in late 2021.


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I’m a professional librarian, writer, artist and photographer www.tinypotager.com

Synopsis

An adventurous and romantically inclined twenty-one-year-old seeks fulfillment volunteering in Mexico and Peru. She joins the Peace Corps and works in the Andes, where she falls in love with her village, her indigenous pupils--and a university student. After violating the sexual prohibitions of her Catholic upbringing, she finds herself pregnant and must choose whether to marry the father of her unborn child.

Searching for the Source

Each spring a torrent of muddy water raced through the ditch

and over the four-plank bridge in front of my Ismay, Montana,

schoolhouse. The strong current forced most of the seventy

first-through-twelfth-graders and the four teachers to detour to

the far corner of the playground. There, all but the boy daredevils

entered the two-story brick building from the gravel road where

the water rushed through a culvert. Most of the year the four-foot

deep ditch stood bone dry, like everything else in my corner of

southeastern Montana.

One sunny April Saturday in 1949, when I was six, I put

on my white rubber overboots and teddy-bear coat with the

red trim that Mom had made me. I crossed the road next to

our first house a block uphill from the school and squeezed

through the barbed-wire fence at the base of the nearby hill.

My mission—to find the origin of the angry waters that spilled

over the school bridge.

I clambered up the hill through ankle-high grass and

stepped around mud puddles. Small piles of snow crunched under

my feet. I jumped over small streams that rushed around limestone

boulders and emptied into deep gullies. Water snaked from

every direction as if an imaginary faucet were open behind each

sagebrush. When I reached the top of the hill, I looked around in

amazement. No rushing waters.

Quiet rivulets gurgled under my boots. Tiny streams ran

together into little rivers and hurried down the hill. The muddy

waters rushing over the plank bridge that drove us to take an alternate

route into the school began as calm, clear waters from melting

snow. I took off my coat and leaned against a sandstone boulder to

take in the astonishing sight. A surge of satisfaction welled in my

chest. I had made a discovery. I would make many more as I moved

from Ismay’s small hills to the mountains of Mexico, Puerto Rico,

and Peru.

My Catholic religion and small-town upbringing dictated

for me a traditional future of marriage and motherhood. Ismay

girls planned for the horse and the man they wanted, in that order.

My parents, teachers, movies, and books presented me alternative

streams of possibility that led to a more independent future.

When I graduated from college in 1964, the world was in

turmoil. We were still in a cold war with the U.S.S.R. Young men

my age left to fight in the growing Vietnam conflict. Others protested

the war, and still others turned to drugs and dropped out of

traditional society. Reading Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique

in college reinforced my belief that despite the world’s turmoil, I

could obtain what I wanted. I yearned for a life of excitement and

adventure. I got it.

From innocence to sexual awakening to passion. The emotional

eddies that flowed through the hills and gullies of my

Montana childhood began as silent streams of religious reverence

and family protection. My social development crept along at a

slow creek’s pace when I was a teen in California, then erupted

like a storm-stirred ocean as I entered my twenties and lived in

Latin American cultures that awakened my body and soothed

my restless soul.

I found different languages, customs, and levels of emotional

openness in the Hispanic culture. I discovered how I could

contribute to the world and live a stimulating life. Idealistic and

eager to fulfill a noble purpose, I joined President Kennedy’s

recently founded Peace Corps. I believed my community development

work in Peru could make a difference for poor people

there. Little did I suspect the moral and spiritual challenges that

would confront me during my two-year experience.

I questioned beliefs from my early life and doubted whether

I had the strength to navigate the turbulent currents I encountered.

But close friendships, letters from home, and a caring environment

helped me gain self-confidence and knowledge.

In the majestic Andes, rivers rushed through deep valleys

toward the mighty Amazon. I hurried above, tossed back and

forth on precarious mountain switchbacks, struggling with the

new emotions surging within me. A desire I didn’t comprehend

compelled me to risk body and soul for country, adventure, and

love. From rivulets to streams to a torrent, the forces of nature

shaped my life—and at age twenty-two, a tsunami of passion

swept me away.

About the author

Evelyn grew up in Montana surrounded by sheep and cattle ranches. After moving to California at sixteen, she became enamored of Latino cultures, worked in Mexico and Peru, and married a Peruvian. She earned a doctorate in Multicultural Education. She has traveled to nearly 100 countries. view profile

Published on August 11, 2020

Published by She Writes Press

80000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Biographies & Memoirs

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