MARCH 18, 1939
SAN ANTONIO, Friday—We boarded the train in Harlingen last night and arrived in San Antonio at 8:00 o'clock this morning. The last time I saw this city was during a trip with the President, when he visted the Alamo and drove through some of the streets. It was easier to see the city today, when Mr. and Mrs. Maury Maverick and Mrs. Harry Drought brought us to see certain industries and places of historical interest. The needlework industry here is in some ways comparable to the needlework industry in Puerto Rico. I wanted to see some of the work and conditions under which it was produced.
The organizer for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union took me to a shop where the owner is in full accord with the Wages and Hours Law and feels that over a period of time they will be able to adjust by making more machine-made garments and new designs. The difficulty, of course, is in the home work situation and in the completely handmade garments. I visted one shop where they make infants' wear almost entirely by hand and they are, of course, finding the adjustment more difficult.
The root of the whole problem is, I think, the fact that we as a country are not educated to the value of handwork. Those of us who have an appreciation of it, have been brought up in the tradition that it must come from France. Just as beautiful handwork is being done by our own workers, both here and in Puerto Rico, but it cannot be done at the same price as machine work. I looked at many of their designs in children's and infants' wear and I think they are showing that this difficult situation will be worked out satisfactorily.
Of course, when home work is done, it is far safer in an organized industry and, unlike Puerto Rico, here the industry is organized. Where the union supervises conditions in the homes as well as the manufacturer, it is safe from the point of view of health.
Sad as it may seem, San Antonio has the highest tuberculosis rate in the country and it is not far behind in social disease. There is a housing program of some size which will make a great difference in the living conditions of the Latin American citizens when it is actually finished, but it has not as yet begun. I am told that there is some opposition, but after driving through the district and going into some of the houses, I can only feel that out of purely selfish interest all opposition will disappear, for a district which breeds disease and shelters crime is harmful to the whole community.
The moving spirit in this housing project is Father Tranchese, who shows his deep interest in the real social questions of his people by his determination to see a change in the surroundings in which they live.
I had a talk with one employer and one organizer in the pecan industry.
The most interesting historical building I saw was the old Spanish Governor's Palace, which is a beautiful piece of restoration. We stopped for a minute at the YMCA International House, which is doing a fine piece of work. Altogether, I feel that I have seen a good deal this morning.