Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Gerald Murray, May 10, 2021

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries


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00:00:03 - Background and training

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Partial Transcript: Today is May 10, 2021, my name is Jay Sztuk, I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Fiji, 1974, and today I am going to be interviewing Gerald Murray--uh--who is a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic from 1964 through '66 . . .

Segment Synopsis: Murray was studying to be a priest at a Roman Catholic seminary and left during his junior year. He was working at a department store after he dropped out and ended up being recruited by Peace Corps. He was sent to Dominican Republic for community development to determine what the residents felt was needed. Murray's training was at a Spanish language center in rural Puerto Rico. They lived in a barrack type setting and had classes every day in Spanish. Subjects included the history of the Dominican Republic, community development, and physical education.

Keywords: Barrack; Classes; Conversational Spanish; Department store; Needs; Recruited

Subjects: Catholic Church; Catholicism; Christianity; Cliffs; Community development; Dams; Dominican Republic.; Dominicans; Ex-seminarians; Exercise; Farms; Group relations training; History; Language learning and language teaching; Latin language; Learning and scholarship; Mountains; Occupational training; Outdoorsmen; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Dominican Republic; Physical education and training; Physical fitness; Puerto Rico; Religion; Rock climbing; Rural; San Juan (P.R.); Seminarians; Spanish language; Swimming; Theological seminaries; Training; Volunteers; Wilderness areas; Wilderness experience; Wilderness survival

00:19:24 - Beginning of service in the Dominican Republic

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Partial Transcript: So after training then--um--did you guys go directly from Puerto Rico to the Dominican Republic or did you go home first like . . .

Segment Synopsis: Murray recalls that his group went directly to the Dominican Republic after training. Murray describes going to his site as very traumatic. No one knew he was coming and the priest he was supposed to work for was gone. He discusses the political climate at the time, including the coup d'état of the president and how Americans were viewed. He did not have support from the Office for Community Development. Murray attempted to discern community needs. One need he discovered was potholes on the streets, but he had no support for this project. He went to a protest in Santo Domingo and found out that Peace Corps was known as the Spy Corps. He ended up getting arrested and was in the newspapers. People started being weary of him because they thought he was on the wrong side. He discusses his experience with getting hepatitis, which caused him to get reassigned to the outskirts of Santo Domingo.

Keywords: "Spy corps"; Conflict; Dominican Civil War; Donald J. Reid Cabral; Elías Wessin y Wessin; Hotel; Juan Bosch; President; Site; Trauma; Unexpected; Unrest; Vallejuelo (Dominican Republic)

Subjects: Americans; Anxiety; Arrest; Bosch, Juan, 1909-2001.; Colonies; Colonists; Colonization; Community development; Coups d'état; Coups d'état--Dominican Republic; Culture shock; Depression, Mental; Diet therapy; Diseases; Dominican Republic; Dominican Republic--History--Coup d'état, 1963; Dominicans; Espionage; Fear; Health; Hepatitis; Mass; Newspapers; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Dominican Republic; Political science; Politics and culture; Politics, Practical; Potholes; Priests; Protests (Negotiable instruments); Reid Cabral, Donald J.; Rural; Rural development; San Juan (Dominican Republic : Province); Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic); Spain; Spanish language; Spies; Suicide; Traumatic neuroses; Traumatic shock; Traumatism; Trust; Wessin y Wessin, Elias, 1924-2009; Worry

00:39:04 - Peace Corps service after the revolution

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Partial Transcript: And the revolution broke out in 1965.

Segment Synopsis: Murray considers the impact of the revolution in 1965 on his Peace Corps experience. Murray recalls that was evacuated to the capital. The intervention was called the Organization of American States. Zones were set up and they brought food and supplies into the war zone. In the final few months he was sent to the second largest city of Santiago de los Caballeros to teach English at a new Catholic university. He found a place to live and a woman who would cook his meals and do his laundry. He discussed politics with his students and when the police visited one of his students, they thought Murray betrayed them. He says his one achievement was becoming completely bilingual in English and Spanish He discusses his social interactions and the relationships he formed, explaining that his Catholicism helped him form bonds.

Keywords: Achievements; Bilingual; Dominican Civil War; ESL; English as a second language; Evacuation; Fluency; Hired help; Living arrangements; Supplies; Teaching English as a second language; War zone

Subjects: Catholic Church; Chores; Christianity; Community development; Cooking; Dominican Republic; Education; English; English language; English language--Study and teaching--Foreign speakers; Food; Friendship; Government, Resistance to; Interpersonal relations; Intervention; Language learning and language teaching; Laundry; Lifestyles; Local transit.; Manners and customs; Organization of American States; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Dominican Republic; Police; Political science; Politics and culture; Politics, Practical; Religion; Revolutions; Rural; Santiago de los Caballeros (Dominican Republic); Students; Trust; Tutors and tutoring

GPS: Santiago (Dominican Republic)
Map Coordinates: 19.457222, -70.688889
00:53:07 - Life after Peace Corps/impact of Peace Corps

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Partial Transcript: But at any rate I left, okay, but then I applied for a job in the training camp in Puerto Rico.

Segment Synopsis: After Murray left his service, he got a job teaching Spanish and discussing the Dominican Republic and Latin America at the training camp in Puerto Rico. He then went back to Boston, returned to his job at the department store, and applied for college. He discusses his experience with the application and interview process at Harvard. Murray was accepted into Harvard and conducted research in the Dominican Republic and decided to go into anthropology. Murray earned a year-long fellowship in Germany and subsequently got accepted to Columbia University. Murray has also completed development projects in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, including reforestation efforts. Murray also discusses some his academic research. Murray then describes his early years with his wife. Murray shares his general thoughts about Peace Corps, including that the organization has influenced individual lives but not entire countries.

Keywords: Application; Community service; Department store; Impact; Interview; Public service; Training camp; USAID; Wife

Subjects: Afforestation; Anthropology; Applied anthropology; Beauty shops; Books; Boston (Mass.); Columbia University; Community development; Countries; Creole dialects; Developing countries; Dominican Republic; Education; Education, Higher; Fellowship; Germany; Haiti; Harvard University; Interpersonal relations; Latin America; Learning; Learning and scholarship; Non-governmental organizations; Peace Corps (U.S.); Peace Corps (U.S.)--Dominican Republic.; Psychology; Puerto Rico; Reforestation; Research; Rural; Scholarships; Schools; Service learning; Sociology; Teaching; Travel; Tree planting; Undergraduate; United States. Agency for International Development; Universities and colleges; Vocation; Volunteers; Work; Writing