Peace Corps Hosts Salvadoran Novelist Mario Bencastro for Book Reading October 6

Washington, D.C., October 6, 1999—Salvadoran novelist Mario Bencastro read from his latest novel, Odyssey to the North, at Peace Corps headquarters at 1 p.m. today. His presentation was part of the Peace Corps\' events commemorating National Hispanic Heritage Month. "This month, as part of our recognition of the contributions of Hispanic and Latino culture to American society, we are thrilled that Mr. Bencastro has agreed to read from his book with Peace Corps staff and friends," said Peace Corps Acting Director Charles Baquet III. "His literary voice speaks to those struggling for a better life for themselves and their families, who will do anything they can to make a difference for the better." Bencastro was born in El Salvador in 1946. His most recent novel, Odyssey to the North, focuses on the migration of Salvadorans to North America. His other novels include A Shot in the Cathedral, The Flight of the Lark, and The Tree of Life: Stories of Civil War. His play Crossroad, was performed by the Hispanic Cultural Society Theater Group at Thomas Jefferson Theater in Arlington, Va. in 1988, and by Georgetown University in 1989. Bencastro\'s novels have been finalists for several awards, including Mexico\'s Novedades y Diana International Literary Prize and Spain\'s Literary Prize Felipe Trigo. Over the last 15 years, more than 1,500 Hispanic Americans have joined the Peace Corps. Thirty-five percent of Hispanic-American volunteers are working in education, 22 percent are in health, 15 percent are in business, and 10 percent are working in environmental awareness.
More than 200 Hispanic Americans are serving as Peace Corps volunteers, part of the 7,000 volunteers serving in 77 countries around the world. Since the Peace Corps was founded by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, more than 155,000 Americans have joined, working in 134 nations in agriculture, business development, education, the environment, and health and nutrition.

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