My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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SANTIAGO, Chile , Thursday—I forgot to tell you about one little picturesque incident that preceded the Inauguration Day parade here the other day. Immediately after the President was seated and before the military review began, there appeared on the scene a sizable group of huasos on horseback, cloaked in brightly colored short ponchos that were beautifully decorated. These people are not landowners, nor are they laborers; they are managers of farms who live on the land and oversee it for the owner. Sometimes the owner also will have a house on the property but he always will have a house in this city. But the managers live on the land all year round and direct the farming procedures.

This group rode up close to the President's stand, and the two in the lead moved in next to the railing. One of them handed the President a horn filled with wine and was inscribed on the gold rim as follows;

"To President Carlos Ibanez del Campo, with good wishes for his term in office."

This is a traditional ceremony, which seems to bring the country and the agriculture people close to the President.

On Tuesday morning I started out early with Senora Gonzalez Videla, wife of the recent President, to look first at the bad housing conditions, which the government has been trying to remedy. The former First Lady has been most instrumental in stressing the urgency of this problem so that laws could be passed to finance new housing and to destroy the huts in which so many people lived.

Some of these places still stand, and the conditions are almost unbelievable, such as: mud floors, tar-paper roofs, brown paper to keep out the cold wind in the winter, a room to sleep in, and a little lean-to in which a one-burner kerosene stove furnishes the only means of boiling water or cooking a meal. There is no such thing as a sanitary toilet, and there is no running water within easy distance.

Under such conditions people find it hard to be clean. Subsequently typhoid and tuberculosis are frequent diseases and the death rate here in the early days of a child's life had run as high as 270 per thousand not so very long ago. This is easy to understand, under the conditions that we saw.

Ambassador Claude Bowers was anxiously awaiting our return, and we proceeded at once to a country club where a lunch was to be given. We were really quite early, however, and stood around for at least three-quarters of an hour trying to find our seats and chatting with many people before the meal was served.

It was 4:15 before we left the luncheon and on the way back to the Embassy I stopped at the Red Cross, which here is run under the auspices of the American colony. This unit seems to be doing remarkable work in giving a course to young women that actually graduates them in three years as nurses, available and on call for emergencies or for any government need.

From there we visited a fine maternity and child-care clinic, which is operated under the auspices of the Presbyterian church, and also a day nursery—the only one for children under six years old in the whole of Santiago—which is run by the Methodist church. Like every other big city that I know of, the city itself is not able to meet all the needs of the people, so these other charitable organizations have to do their share.

I'm sorry I have not been able to see one of the public schools, for I am told that they are free and compulsory. In cooperation with UNESCO, an effort is being made to give the opportunity for fundamental education to older people who have never learned to read or write.



Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Santiago (Chile) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, November 7, 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.