My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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WASHINGTON, Tuesday—Still reviewing my trip, I want to tell you of my visit to Guatemala. The day we left Galapagos, we started in the early morning and landed at a U. S. base on the coast of Guatemala. At the post exchange there, the men had put up a sign over the door which read: "The Home of Forgotten Men and 10,000 Vermin." The usual snakes and insects abound, but our base is free of malaria.

A half hour's flight from the shore base brought us to Guatemala City, five thousand feet above sea level. We could see high mountains all around us and, below us, flat plateaus, with farms on top and deep chasms dropping off.

On the less steep hillsides, the Indians, who are the farmers of the mountain districts, build their huts and seem to find places to grow what they need. These Indians are short, dark and stocky and, in Guatemala City, they told me they were "good Indians." Each little village has some custom of its own and some particular costume. In the highlands, they wear kilts like the Scotch.

Guatemala City is very clean and attractive, with a delightful climate. Most of the people are skilled in hand work. Guatemala abounds in woods of all kinds and the carving one sees everywhere is very beautifully done. The Guatemalans also do good silver and iron work, and very interesting weaving, but the war makes it hard for them to get the cotton, silk and wool which they use. The women require no patterns, but weave almost from instinct, the art having come down from mother to daughter.

The flying over the mountain peaks is none too safe and there have been casualties among our fliers. The President of Guatemala himself visited the first young fliers' graves and has put up a monument in our United States cemetery, where Guatemalan and American flags fly together. A white picket fence surrounds the plot, and shade trees have been planted. It is a quiet and beautiful place on a hillside.

President and Mrs. Ubico showed me through the National Palace, which houses all the departments of government. Many of the beautiful things in the Palace, and in the city as well, have been brought from the old capital, Antigua, which has been destroyed by an earthquake. The people also make very beautiful tiles and, as you look down at the various patios, the tiles blend with the many flowers and the little fountains, making very attractive interiors.

General Brett took me to "Los Cipreses," which is a club run by Guatemalan ladies for our servicemen . They will not permit the boys to pay for anything because they want it to be like a real home. Once a month, they give a dance, bringing all the food from their own houses. I was glad that I happened to be there on the night of one of those parties. The boys and girls were enjoying it, and a good marimba band was playing.

Madame Perez, who runs the club, made me taste her pies, which were "like mother makes." She kept reiterating, "I love your boys." It is quite evident that the boys return her affection and are grateful to this white-haired lady who puts in not only time but her own money to make this club a real home for them.

There are lounge rooms around a big central court. There is a library with papers, magazines and a good radio. When we reached the kitchen, the boy who was showing me around said: "There are always bottles of soft drinks in the ice box, and you can always find something to cook for yourself or to eat, just as you would at home." The boys in Guatemala City may wish they were nearer the fighting zones but, on the whole, their surroundings are among the pleasantest I saw on my trip.

E. R.


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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, April 5, 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.