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National Affairs: Hoover Progress

5 minute read

Down from the snowy Andes to Buenos Aires rumbled a five-car train full of fully-armed Argentine soldiers. Behind, in a longer train, came the President-Elect of the U.S. If he gave thought to the soldiers ahead or to the “radical” bomb-plotters who had necessitated their presence, he did not show it. He gazed with placid satisfaction out of his car window at the Argentine’s horizon-filling wheat ranches and pampas, at her myriad herds of kine and mutton.

President Hipolito Irigoyen of Argentine, a taciturn Socialist who makes no unnecessary public gestures, made a point of meeting the Hoovers at the terminal, thus sharing any danger the visitors might be in, thus trying to efface the national embarrassment felt by Argentina over the plan of some of her naughty children had had to blow Goodwill to smithereens.

In a house in a Buenos Aires side-street, two young men and two young women had been found with seven bombs, many firearms and a map of the railway by which the Hoover party approached. They were anarchists and proud of it. Police collared them and kept watch on all other known radicals in the city. Hundreds of guards were deployed throughout the station. Hundreds more policed 100,000 of the populace, massed in the station plaza.

After suitable greetings, President Irigoyen returned to the Red House (Argentina’s White House). The Hoovers dined with U. S. Ambassador Robert Woods Bliss at his embassy.

As soon as the newspapers came out, the populace learned that Mr. Hoover had called their country “the world’s bread basket.” The phrase sounded new and original in Buenos Aires and it “took” tremendously. There were headlines about it, as well as about the various newborn babies who were to be christened “Herbert” or “Hoover,” and leading editorials complaining politely about the exclusive U.S. tariff.

The day after his arrival Mr. Hoover saw the sights and spent several hours at the Red House in private conversation, said to have been frank and intimate, with President Irigoyen.

At the state banquet that evening, President Irigoyen, whose public silences have really been even more impressive than Calvin Coolidge’s, surprised everyone by standing up and making a speech. Mr. Hoover had prepared a speech and given it to Ambassador Fletcher to read for him. When President Irigoyen sat down, President-Elect Hoover returned the compliment by recovering his own manuscript and reading it himself. An interpreter was necessary to render from English to Spanish. Mrs. Hoover speaks Spanish with moderate fluency but Mr. Hoover has never progressed beyond the meal-ordering stage.

The Hoover sentiments seemed calculated to soothe the social temper of Argentina as he had found it. After touching upon the civic splendors he had been shown, he asked permission “to sound a convincing note of faith and hope in the future of humanity.” He described himself to his hearers: “It has been no part of mine to build castles of the future but rather to measure the experiments, the actions and the progress of men through the cold and uninspiring microscope of fact, statistics and performance.” Then he said he really believed that “the Western World stands upon the threshold of a new era of advancement. . . . And the outlook socially, as well as economically and politically, is hopeful. Education and learning, decrease in poverty and the ideal of equal opportunity are providing the impulses of ambition in our peoples.

“With the abandonment of aristocracy, and therefore with no frozen classes at the top with slavery and with diminishing poverty at the bottom, we are witnessing a volume of new recruits to national leadership in every avenue of life such as never known before.”

After dinner, President Irigoyen escorted the Hoovers to the U. S. embassy, tarried for further conversation.

Sefior Eligio Ayala, a onetime President of Paraguay, called and told Mr. Hoover about his country’s boundary dispute with Bolivia (see p. 12).

Mr. Hoover sent word to Secretary of State Kellogg, in Washington, that he wished to communicate with him directly over a special radiotelegraph hookup. Secretary Kellogg went to the State Department’s telegraph room. Mr. Hoover stood near a key in the Buenos Aires embassy and dictated what he wanted to say. Secretary Kellogg read the messages as his operator typed them out. He dictated replies. The substance of the conversation was that Mr. Hoover was enjoying himself among courteous friends; that President Coolidge, Secretary Kellogg and the U.S. people were glad to hear it and thanked the friends, sent them greetings.

On Saturday night a gala opera performance was arranged (out of season). The Argentine’s best dancers likewise performed. Mr. Hoover applauded vigorously, stayed late. Early Sunday morning President Irigoyen was at the red-carpeted pier to see his new friends off on the Argentine cruiser Buenos Aires. “Adios” he cried. “Buen Viaje!” A nine-hour run down the river Plata took them to Montevideo, Uruguay harbor-capital. There lay the U.S.S. Utah ready to carry Goodwill to Brazil, Venezuela, Cuba and home. But not before the Hoovers should have slept a night in Uruguay and dined with President Juan Campisteguy.

An advance emissary, to ask in the name of Uruguay that the Hoover’s prolong their stay, was John D. Hoover, the President-Elect’s first cousin, a native of Carlisle, Pa., who has ranched in Uruguay for 22 years.*

* For accounts of other Hoovers, see p. 9.

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