Operation Amigo

Author, Lila Zuck

The Naples High School Band and about 250 Neapolitans waited anxiously on the observation deck at Miami International Airport on Thursday, February 14, 1963.

The parade route. Looking west along Fifth Avenue South, 1963.

As a plane from El Salvador, Central America landed, carrying 30 teen-age students, 20 boys and 10 girls, and chaperones.

The band played the national anthem of El Salvador, welcoming the students to America and to Florida.

The students were from the San Salvador Normal School. As they were being driven to the Collier County Government Center in East Naples, reports of their progress across the Tamiami Trail were broadcast over the radio to Neapolitans anxiously awaiting their arrival.

At the Government Center, the students boarded convertibles and headed downtown, where they were the guests of honor in a parade along Fifth Avenue lined with over 2,000 persons gathered to welcome them to Naples for two weeks.

Operation Amigo, an annual invitation to bring foreign students to Naples High School, had officially begun.

City and County officials and representatives from the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce welcomed the students during a ceremony held in the Naples High School auditorium, after which 30 Naples families were assigned their new son or daughter for two weeks.

Sam England, a former school teacher, gave the students a county-wide welcome in The Collier County News, writing “We love Naples and we hope you will too by the time you have to leave us. You will visit our county court rooms. You will learn about our State government in Tallahassee. You will be students in our schools. You will attend our churches. You will be our adopted sons and daughters in Naples homes for two weeks.

“We want you to see our faults, our way of life which needs to be changed – but most of all we want you to see the things we do like, how we live, and the reasons we love Naples, our great State of Florida and our great United States. We want you to be one of us while you are here. We want you to feel at home. Let us be your amigos.”