Sitting Room

Friday, May 01, 2009

Poor Niagara! Has Eleanor Roosevelt ever been to Iguassu Falls?

Photo from the US Embassy Brazil's FLICKR Gallery showing Eleanor Roosevelt, with Natal's Bishop Marcolino Dantas and General Gomes (in uniform) possibly translating.

Upon seeing Iguassu Falls, Eleanor Roosevelt is reported to have said: Poor Niagara! You will find that in Spanish, Portuguese, French and possibly other languages. Everyone, when trying to learn about Iguassu Falls, will hear this Poor Niagara – Iguassu Story. What is happening hear now is that I have launched a campaign, through several of my blogs trying to find out whether this is true or false and what is the context in which the first lady said that.

US First lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited Brazil in March 14-17 in 1944. She flew from the US over the Caribbean, made stops at some islands and for sure visited Trinidad and Tobago. From TT the First lady flew to Brazil entering the country through Belem – at the mouth of the Amazon River. Eleanor Roosevelt’s Belem visit has been well documented in Brazil. Ukraine-born Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector that was visiting Belem on leave from her Rio de Janeiro newspaper job reported the first lady’s visit to the A NOITE newspaper. From Belem a USAF / Navy Base during WWII, she visited two other US Bases in Brazil: Natal and Recife. Reading Eleanor Roosevelt’s My Day columns on the web, thanks to GWU’s brilliant MY DAY PROJECT work, I have seen and read the first lady’s comments on this special trip and I have had the impression that it was basically intended to support the war effort, boost troops’ morale and to report back home what she felt about the whole process.

My question here is if Eleanor Roosevelt did not visit Iguassu Falls in this 1944 visit, does anybody know whether she ever made a second trip to Brazil? Has there been a second visit? When? And, supposing there has never been a second visit, when, then, did she utter the famous statement comparing the two world-known waterfalls? Did it happen over an official meeting when someone showed a photograph of Iguassu Falls and she said that? Is it a rumor? It would be really good to be able to learn the truth about this.

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