My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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SANTIAGO, Chile , Wednesday—The ceremonies for which we had all come to Santiago—the inauguration of the new President—were all very interesting to me, especially in comparison to the way in which we inaugurate our President in the United States.

This was a significant election here—hard fought but in which not one of the candidates received a majority of votes. So, according to the Chilean constitution, the choice between the two top men had to be made by the Congress and Senor Carlos Ibanez del Campo was named.

We left the Embassy at 10 o'clock in the morning, accompanied by our Chilean aide, Senor Enrique Bustos Arrendondo, and a young lady who was designated to be my aide, Senorita Leonora Kracht Ojeda. The streets were lined with people, and at moments the congestion of traffic reminded me of New York City at its worst, particularly in the narrow streets.

The inauguration ceremonies took place in the room where joint sessions of the two legislative chambers are held. Every inch of space was filled, with the galleries packed to the very top.

First the outgoing President and his Cabinet arrived, then the incoming President and his Cabinet came in. Both received great applause. The outgoing President removed his badge of office, which was a large sash bearing insignia and worn over one shoulder. This he handed to the new President. He was very cordial and they shook hands, and then he and his Cabinet left the room amid loud applause.

Since the visiting delegations were seated according to the time they were appointed, and since we did not name our delegation till rather late, I was not in a position to see exactly whether the oath of office is administered in the way we do it. But the new President did sign papers appointing his Cabinet, and when that was finished he and his Cabinet left to the thunder of great applause.

Then we all made our way through the crowds to where we hoped to find our carriages to drive us to the palace to pay our respects to the new President. All the gentlemen attending the ceremonies had to be either in dress uniform with all their decorations or in evening clothes and high hats, and I suspected that some of our delegation, who are not hardened diplomats, felt a little uncomfortable in their "white ties and tails" in the brilliant sunshine. It was a very colorful scene, however, for many diplomats not only have very striking decorations but wear beautiful gold-embroidered coats and plumed hats.

Outside of the Minister of Education of the incoming Cabinet and the Minister of Justice of the outgoing Cabinet and myself, there were not many ladies in the entire gatherings. I think we were the only women actually, on the floor of the chamber, and we all wore street clothes.

Needless to say, it was practically impossible to find our car, so we left messages to have it follow us to the palace and we took a car that nobody else seemed to want. Some of the members of our delegation even walked. Eventually, we all met at the palace in time to go in a group to congratulate President and Madame Ibanez and the entire Cabinet.

Then we returned to the Embassy for a quiet lunch, which was a very welcome interlude. By 3:15 in the afternoon we were again driving rather slowly through the crowded streets out to the stands in Cousino Park to watch the military review. The mountains are a wonderful background for such a showing, and it was a most colorful occasion. I imagine the most picturesque troops were the white-clad mountaineers with their skis towering over them and their guns slung across their backs.

Then, of course, the cavalry made a tremendous hit, as it always does, with its lancers bearing gaily flying pennants and its horse artillery. The horses are really beautiful and seem to be as well trained as the men themselves. I had never seen the goose step before and when I saw it here—just in passing before the parade stand—I thought it must be terribly difficult to sustain for a very long march. Open barouches drawn by four horses with postillions at the back and victorias drawn by pairs of horses brought the principal guests.

It was nearly eight o'clock before we returned to the Embassy. At nine o'clock a dinner was given at the palace for all the heads of delegations, and later, at 11 o'clock, a reception was held for the remaining members of the delegation and all the branches of government.

The tables and rooms were beautifully decorated, and the President, as the head of the nation, made a short speech calling for unity and a forward-looking policy in his government. He was answered by His Excellency the Vice President of Ecuador, Senor Alfredo Chiriboga, who echoed much the same sentiments for the whole hemisphere.

Soon after the reception was well under way Ambassador and Mrs. Claude Bowers and I started to go home, but it took us some time to get through the crowds and back to the door. Everyone, however, was cheerful and took their slow progress in and out with amusement rather then annoyance and it did give one an opportunity to see and greet a great many people.

We reached home around one o'clock in the morning, and thus ended the main day for which we came to this delightful country.



Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Santiago (Chile) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, November 6, 1952

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.