Interview with Lisa Breslof, November 15, 2022
Project: Peace Corps: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project
Interview SummaryLisa Breslof served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Chile from 1977 – 1979 specializing in Aquaculture (a form of marine farming of the ocean). She attended Stockton State College in New Jersey earning a Bachelor of Science in Marine Science in 1976. Nearing graduation, at a job fair at college, Lisa, interested in finding a position in marine science, spoke with a Peace Corps recruiter who informed her about an opportunity, using her Marine Biology background, in coastal Chile. With fine parental backing (dad enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the Peace Corps, and mom supportive), she went through the induction process and attended final staging in Miami for a week. Lisa was hoping for a Spanish-speaking environment and continual training in both aquaculture and Spanish. She was informed that she would need a scuba license for the position she was applying for, and she trained for one at college following graduation, and passed the exam in Miami. She flew into Santiago, the capital of Chile, with her group of about 15 PCVs meeting the Peace Corps in-country director and the Chilean Associate Director at the Santiago training center. Ten weeks of cultural and language training, and settling in with a Chilean host family ensued and were a part of the acclimation process including various side trips to important sites in the Capital city. Orientation to the job was provided by the assigned agency that included a one-week field-trip. After completing training, Lisa was sent north to the coastal community of Coquimbo, a seaport in a semi-desert location near the larger town of La Serena to work in the Tongoy beach fishing village. She was to work in a cooperative environment with the National Professional Institute for Training, Coquimbo Regional office (INACAP-Coquimbo), a government agency along with other PCVs training laborers to increase their job opportunities. At first, there was little for her to do as she observed others at their work and contributed as she could. She was able to switch to another project-oriented group, called the The Algamar Fisherman Cooperative in the Changa beach fishing village after a few months and focused on dealing with the improvement of existing artisan fisheries and aquaculture methods in the cultivation of marine algae in the local fishing village. This included the preparation, planting and harvesting of this marine resource, teaching a course on the natural history and uses of marine algae to local divers, and teaching a crafts course on the use of local marine resources in artisan craft production. Later, dried marine algae were shipped off to Japan for processing into commercial products. In her training and work, Lisa lived in a variety of places (a home, a hotel, and a hacienda) near or in her town. She traveled by bus to her new cooperative where she worked near or in water and did some diving, and advising on fisheries methods for her Chilean counterparts and the cooperative leadership. After about two years of work, Lisa began teaching a class for the wives of the divers in Tongoy beach and taught them how to press and dry marine algae into unique greeting cards which were sold locally. She also gave a presentation at the symposium on “Chilean Algae” which was held in Santiago and sponsored by the Catholic University in Santiago and the Chile Foundation. Her paper was entitled, “Women as a Hidden Resource in the Economic and Social Development in the Fishing Community”. Lisa was impressed by the people she worked with and participated with community people to integrate into the community as they called her a “gringa,” affectionately. She loved the local dialect which sounded much like singing. She was able to have a month’s vacation each year of her service; her first break was taken traveling to the southern part of Chile and visiting the coastal southern zone of Puerto Montt and the second was in the northern part of the country in the northern zone of the Atacama Desert on the way to Peru where she visited Cuzco and Machu Pichu. Lisa traveled alone and felt no fear regarding her surroundings. She was also fortunate enough to have her mother come and visit her. Lisa said that the political climate was not a major concern and did not interfere with her Peace Corps service as the country had just evolved from the Allende regime, although most areas had a curfew enacted during the initial part of her service. Pinochet was the country’s leader while she was there. As a Jewish volunteer in a mostly Christian country, she knew some Jewish people and visited with families during the Jewish holidays as there were no synagogues near her area, only the main synagogue in Santiago. No prejudice or antisemitism was noticeable to her throughout her service. She did note that Chilean women were still subservient to men in nearly all walks of life. Upon Peace Corps termination, Lisa returned to the United States and began to look for work hoping to use her volunteer experience. It took six months but eventually, she took a job with the National Park Service, a seasonal position as a marine science instructor at Gateway National Recreation Area in Brooklyn, New York, where she taught for two summers. She then became an Urban Park Ranger for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation for two years and after that began a more than thirty-five-year career as a science instructor and later a collections manager in the Department of Education at New York’s American Museum of Natural History. Lisa presently resides in Ft. Lee, New Jersey.
Interview KeywordPeace Corps (US) Country of Service: Chile Dates of Service: 1977-1979 Peace Corps Volunteer Job: Aquaculture (Marine Biology) Peace Corps (US): 1970-1980 Language: Spanish Language Training: Miami, Santiago, Coquimbo, La Serena Cultural Training: Miami, Santiago, Coquimbo, La Serena
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Interviews may only be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.
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Breslof, Lisa Interview by Donald C. Yates. 15 Nov. 2022. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
Breslof, L. (2022, November 15). Interview by D. C. Yates. Peace Corps: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.
Breslof, Lisa, interview by Donald C. Yates. November 15, 2022, Peace Corps: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
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