Published Date

March 1, 1945

Resource Type

GI Roundtable Series, Primary Source

From GI Roundtable 14: Is the Good Neighbor Policy a Success? (1945) 

Of course there are other viewpoints on the Good Neighbor policy. Not all the countries of Latin America have cooperated eagerly with the United States and for a number of reasons. Just about the time we are beginning to feel pretty pleased with ourselves and our neighbors, we might meet a Latin American who could give quite a jolt to our complacency. Perhaps he might say something like this:

“All this is a very pretty picture, my friend, but you are giving just your side of it. The money your country has spent in Latin America has raised prices and led to dangerous inflation in some countries. The precious little rubber you got out of the Amazon had to be paid for through the nose. You have been much too obvious in your courting of Latin America and some of your neighbors have come to feel that the Good Neighbor policy means handouts from Uncle Sam.

“Plenty of us aren’t sold on your Good Neighbor policy in the first place. You seem to forget that there are some pretty progressive countries in Latin America who feel just as deserving as you do of special respect and prestige.

“There’s Argentina, for instance, with more miles of railway, more factories, more exports, the biggest city, and the tallest skyscrapers in South America. The widest street in the world is in Buenos Aires. The food thrown away every day in Buenos Aires would probably feed a city half its size in Europe. You can hardly find a starving man or child—and very few undernourished—anywhere in Argentina.

“Argentina exports more beef and corn than any country in the world and supplies the celebrated ‘roast beef of Old England.’ Argentines will tell you that their bulls are the most powerful, their opera house is the largest in the Western World and outshines your own Metropolitan Opera House, their women are the best dressed, and their two great daily newspapers, La Nación and La Prensa, publish more foreign news than even your New York Times.

“Don’t forget that Mexican artists have had a great influence on your own American art and done much to revive interest in mural painting. When you wanted the best that could be found to decorate some of your American skyscrapers, you imported Mexican and Brazilian artists to do the work.

“During the last half century Latin America received over 3,300,000 Italians, 1,500,000 Spaniards, 1,100,000 Portuguese, 250,000 Germans, 200,000 Frenchmen, 110,000 Russians, 90,000 Austrians, 60,000 Japanese, 50,000 Englishmen, 30,000 Swiss, and 21,000 Belgians. Only a handful of Americans came and those few were mostly businessmen who came to make money out of us. They had very little to do with us socially or culturally and usually referred to us as ‘natives,’ as though we were Indians in a savage land.

“And speaking of melting pots, Brazil is giving the world an example of racial tolerance which is unrivaled in all the Americas. Brazil is successfully blending Portuguese, Negroes, Italians, and other peoples into one unified nation. What other American republic can boast as real a social democracy as now exists in Brazil?

“So you see why we don’t exactly fall all over ourselves getting behind your plan to run affairs in all the Americas. We have plenty of bones to pick with you too. For one thing, you don’t buy our agricultural products. Some of us feel that you are arming one Latin-American country against another.

“To us the Good Neighbor policy looks like an attempt by the United States to dominate the whole American continent. We don’t want an American system isolated and distinct from the rest of the world. Many of us share the culture of Europe and are proud of it. We don’t want all our relations—cultural, commercial, and political—to be limited to other American nations. And how do we know that the United States will not come out of the present war drunk with power and ready to embark again on an imperialistic policy in Latin America?

“We note that in one of your most popular weeklies the editor writes glowingly of the ‘American Century,’ of the ‘vision of America as a world power,’ and of your duty ‘to be the Good Samaritan of the entire world.’ This sounds to us like the beginning of another wave of United States imperialistic intervention that will make Theodore Roosevelt look like a piker.

“At least one thing is certain,” might conclude this imaginary critic. “Once the war is over and the sea lanes have been opened to world commerce, the United States will come up against real commercial competition again. During the last four years we have had to sell much of our goods to you and buy from you because there was nothing else we could do. Soon you will find the going plenty tough.”

Next section: The Gold-Rush Days Are Over