My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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WASHINGTON, Thursday—So many things happened on my trip to the Caribbean and in South America that I did not have time or space to report on them as fully as I wanted to.

I would like to go back now to some impressions of Jamaica. The great problem there is malnutrition, especially with the children, and yet, in spite of this, the women and small children walk along the road carrying baskets or large bundles on their heads, which gives them a very graceful walk and erect posture.

Much is being done by the government to teach new agricultural patterns and to get people back on the land. A campaign is on throughout the land to decrease illiteracy and volunteer committees have been formed in every parish to teach people individually to read and write. Of course this is an adult education program of some magnitude. Part of the island raises good cattle for beef. Goats and little donkeys are on the roads. The donkeys carry big baskets and often a man or woman and child as well.

Both the Governor and Lady Huggins have experience in living in the tropics and a great interest in the welfare of the people, and I was warned that Lady Huggins had a reputation for energy somewhat like the one which I have acquired. I think we are both maligned!

However, all we have is an interest in human beings which keeps us going because it is always possible when you are interested to push yourself a little further!

In Puerto Rico, I was most particularly interested in a trip with Governor and Mrs. Tugwell to Arecibo, where we saw a new experiment in the use of the land. Much of the sugar cane land has been bought from the companies there and though a large part of it is still operated as one big property, now, after all the expenses have been paid, the profit is divided among all those who work it in common. Individuals have small pieces of land belonging to them where they can build their own houses and have a garden and a small crop of their own. This is still in the experimental stage but promises to be successful.

I was also interested in a trip to Mayaguez, which I had visited before. It used to be the heart of the needlework industry. Now they stitch gloves and make ladies' underwear, but handkerchiefs, which used to be the main product, have gone out, largely because Puerto Rico now has a minimum wage law in operation which prevents the low prices formerly paid for piece work. While this does not mean that people get high wages, they are far more adequate than they used to be.

Mrs. Tugwell also took us to visit three of the milk stations for children between two and seven. This took us through some of the poorest parts of the city, and I cannot say that it was a much more cheerful sight than when I was here before. Though the children are getting only one good meal a day, they looked in far better condition than the ones I saw ten years ago.

E. R.


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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, March 31, 1944

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.