Negotiating Paradise: U.S. Tourism and Empire in Twentieth-Century Latin America

By Dennis Merrill | Go to book overview

TWO
Contaǵnment and
Good Neǵǵhbors:
Tourism and Empire in
1930s Mexico

The banquet room of the swank Hotel Regis did not seem a likely place for talk of war in early 1934. For the gathering of California businessmen and their spouses, the trip to sunny Mexico City provided relief from the dreary February cold that had gripped the homeland. The Mexicans present, mainly city officials, had greeted the visitors warmly, eager, no doubt, to lure more Yankees southward for their dollars. Thus, the luncheon speaker, State Senator Ralph H. Clock of Los Angeles, took his audience by surprise when he turned to the subject of military history and in blunt language recounted the valor of U.S. servicemen who had stormed the heights of Chapultepec Hill during the Mexican-American War of the 1840s. ‘‘We whipped’’ the Mexicans, the visiting politician exclaimed, ‘‘and made them like it!’’1

The next day’s La Prensa, a leading daily newspaper, characterized the address as lacking ‘‘the most elementary courtesy.’’ Most of the Mexicans present, including Mexico City’s chief of police, had walked out of the room in protest, as did a few embarrassed North Americans. The U.S. ambassador, Josephus Daniels, wasted no time investigating. Talking to a reporter from his hometown Los Angeles Times, Clock denied having made such statements, but Daniels’s contacts testified otherwise. The ambassador gained assurances from most Mexican newspapers that they viewed the slight as an isolated incident and would not report it. As an additional safeguard against unwanted publicity, the U.S. embassy obtained a statement on behalf of eighty of the visiting Californians that expressed their collective regret and apology for the senator’s ‘‘ill-spoken words.’’2

‘‘Why will some Americans leave their manners, if they have any, at home

-65-

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