When the Legation Rocked: Celebrating Peace Corps


TALIM Peace Corps Director Richard Holbrooke

Peace Corps Country Director Richard Holbrooke (arrow), dining at the Tangier American Legation Peace Corps training center in 1971

We are very excited to celebrate 50 years of the Peace Corps Morocco program.   Initial planning and training of the first group occurred in 1962, in advance of the arrival of the first Volunteers in 1963.   Nearly 5,000 people have served as Peace Corps Volunteers here and dedicated, experienced current and former staff have guided and supported them.    Over the 50 years, staff and Volunteers have experienced changes in program sectors, changes in training, challenging work situations, evacuations of Volunteers from the country, deaths and births and marriages, and many other events. 

Peggy McClure, Peace Corps Country Director, Morocco

This week Peace Corps Morocco is celebrating its Fiftieth anniversary, with the help of Friends of Morocco, whose membership includes a number of RPCVs – Returned Peace Corps Volunteers.  As the Legation served as the Peace Corps Morocco training center in the 1970s, we are pleased to participate, and we welcome current and former volunteers and staff to revisit their old digs.

There are still traces of the Peace Corps at the Legation.  Remember our rediscovery of the Cistern Chapel, when Peace Corps trainees decided to convert an empty underground water cistern into a discotheque?  Their caveman art is still visible, as clear as the day they dipped hands (and feet, etc.) into paint, Lascaux-style:

TALIM Cistern Chapel 3
Our publication of the Cistern Chapel photos sparked a number of memories.  But it wasn't just fun and games: Peace Corps Volunteers and staff helped keeped the Legation alive, as then US Ambassador to Morocco Stuart Rockwell noted:

The building has been United States property longer than any other building overseas.  Unused for a decade, except for occasional Foreign Service Institute language training, the Legation was falling into disuse and disrepair.  Its future looked bleak.  Today, the Legation is once again in full use – this time as a Peace Corps training center.  A superbly planned and intensive effort has made the building useable again.  The work was done in only sixty days.  A piece of our overseas past has been preserved and is at the same time serving for the future.



Peace Corps volunteers at Legation circa 1971, photo courtesy Peace Corps couple Mark Smith & Susan Reep

Some of that Peace Corps work is still visible under multiple coats of paint.  And the big Norfolk pine trees were chopped down long ago.  The Peace Corps "restoration" as Holbrooke called it was yet another stage in the long story of the Legation building.  We doubt that we'll ever be able to allow access to the Cistern Chapel, but we do want some of those 5,000 Volunteers who have served in Morocco this past half century to see what they used to call home.

Gerald Loftus

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