Exchange student visits Dunkirk 47 years later

OBSERVER Photo Diane R. Chodan: Eduardo Castro, who was an American Field Service exchange student for the 1970-71 school year at Dunkirk High School, is visiting his host family in Dunkirk. Pictured left to right are: Kathy (Kuzara) Saden, his American sister; Eduardo, Emily Kuzara, Eduardo’s American mother; Susy Guijarro, Eduardo’s wife; Michael Kuzara, Eduardo’s “little” brother; and Cindy Kuzara, Michael’s wife.

Eduardo Castro came to Dunkirk from Ecuador in August 1970, a month before he was to start school at DHS. He received a scholarship from American Field Service, or AFS, and stayed with the Kuzara family who lived on Otter Street.

“The biggest problem was communicating” he said as his American mother, Emily Kuzara, nodded. “I only knew a couple words of English.”

Nevertheless, Eduardo was a good student. “He got better grades than I did,” said his American sister, Kathy (Kuzara) Saden, who was in the same grade as Eduardo.

Eduardo didn’t take easy courses. He mentioned three classes at Dunkirk High that helped prepare him for his future career as an architect: physics, calculus and mechanical drawing. His physics teacher was longtime Dunkirk High science teacher Guido Guyasamin, who was also from Ecuador.

“He helped me with language,” said Eduardo. “I received an award for physics at Dunkirk High School.”

OBSERVER Photo by Diane R. Chodan: A gathering in the Bell Towers Apartments took place for Eduardo Castro and his wife Susy Guijarro. The glass came from Ecuador.

Michael Kuzara was about 11 when Eduardo came to stay with his family. They became quite close. “I took him to the beach and the Wright Park pool in the summer,” Michael remembered.

At the time, Dunkirk High had some Hispanic students. Sergio DeJesus, who is Puerto Rican, was an especially good friend. The two could easily understand each other in Spanish. In addition, AFS had get-togethers with other exchange students who were from South America about once a month. For Eduardo it was a relief to be able to speak Spanish with them.

Although he did not play American football, Eduardo hung around with the members of the football team. In Ecuador, “football” is what we know as soccer and at the time, there weren’t high school soccer teams locally.

“In Ecuador, it is often said the most important person is the president and the second most important person is the coach of the World Cup team,” Eduardo explained.

In addition to his studies in Dunkirk, Eduardo took home an idea. He noticed that the houses in Dunkirk had front and backyards and the buildings are not connected like in Ecuador. When he returned to Ecuador and was interviewed by media, he said he wanted to build “a city like Dunkirk.”

While he has done many other projects, he did eventually build housing where people can live decently. The profits are small, but is the promoter of the housing. The small houses are finished on the outside. Inside there is a bathroom that is finished, the kitchen has a counter, but the floors are earth and walls may not be finished.

Family is important to Eduardo. He and his wife Susy Guijarro have been married about 40 years. Susy is a medical doctor. Although retired, she organized and works with a pregnancy prevention program that encompasses all of Ecuador. She has had several research articles published in magazines that stringently review the research before publication.

Susy had to attend school longer than Eduardo, who smiled as he recalled he took care of the children while she studied. Susy began writing to Eduardo when he was in Dunkirk. “She was waiting for me when I got home,” he said.

The couple has four children. Sandy has a degree in administration. Pablo is an architect, who served an internship with Carlos Zapata, a noted architect who was born in Venezuela, lived in Ecuador and works out of New York City. Fernando’s degree is in finance and he works for General Motors in Ecuador. Their youngest son, Luis Antonio, attended New York University and is a musician.

The couple’s children, as well as nieces and nephews, have studied abroad as exchange students. Although both were born in Tulcan, Ecuador, Eduardo and Susy now live in the country’s capital, Quito.

Eduardo’s American family is still important to him. He has visited Dunkirk at least six times. He first returned in 1984 with his parents and has attended some of his class reunions. Mike and Cindy’s daughter went to Ecuador and Mike and Cindy plan to visit after they retire.

The affection between Eduardo and his American mom is particularly evident. Mrs. Kuzara, now 88 years young, enjoys cooking for Eduardo and Susy when they visit. She includes their four children among her grandchildren, bringing the total to 12. Their grandchildren figure into the 15 great-grandchildren she claims.

Eduardo and Mrs. Kuzara easily joke back and forth. Asked if Eduardo is still family she said, “He won’t let me forget him.”

“Eduardo,” she said, “I said something nice about you. You have to say something nice about me.”

Eduardo’s smile says it all.