America’s First Peace Corps Volunteers Arrive in Colombia, South America
by Ronald A. Schwarz
On September 8, 1961 the first group of Peace Corps Volunteers arrived in Bogotá, Colombia. Before leaving the USA, the 62 young men met with President Kennedy at the White House and were hosted at a reception at the Embassy of Colombia.
The volunteers landed in Bogotá in the early morning under the cover of darkness. About a hundred people were on the tarmac to greet them. They included Colombian officials, U.S. diplomats and CARE administrators. The largest contingent was from the Colombian military; soldiers dressed in combat uniforms and armed with automatic weapons. The Colombians welcomed the young Americans with warmth and enthusiasm due largely to the Kennedy charisma . . . and his Catholicism. In the following months, they and other Peace Corps Volunteers in Latin America were commonly referred to as "Los Hijos de Kennedy" - "Kennedy's Children." Today, they are known as “Kennedy’s Orphans.”