SEPTEMBER 11, 1959
HYDE PARK—To go on a little further about Puerto Rico, I would like to tell you what the head of the University of Puerto Rico, Chancellor Jaime Benitez, told me.
In the first place, he feels that Rex Tugwell, who was our governor there when I was last there in 1944, together with the present governor, Luis Munoz Marin, pointed the way for all the improvements that have come about for the people. Mr. Tugwell's organization, imagination and friendship have left an indelible mark on Puerto Rico, and the people are most grateful to him. All of us recognize, of course, that the present governor, Munoz Marin, has done a very remarkable piece of work for his people.
There are a few people around who still want independence. There are a few more perhaps who want statehood, but I think the majority have come to agree with Munoz Marin that the commonwealth status is the one that gives the greatest number of advantages at the present time and under the present economic conditions to the people of the island. Under the plans now in force for expansion an effort is being made to put small factories in scattered communities through the island. This spreads work, and the small factories are usually built with remarkably good taste and do not spoil the landscape.
My friend, Mr. Adrian Dornbush, has his own small factory which he calls Sabutan. He designs and makes all kinds of things, such as baskets, lampshades, and table mats from the leaves of the plant known as sabutan. He has worked out the treatment of the plant and does the designing himself and hopes eventually to have a number of small units which will help the farm labor people whose work is seasonal.
One of the most interesting things in Puerto Rico is the rain forest. In an area of about three acres you can find 1,500 different kinds of trees and plants. Melons, pineapples, oranges and grapefruit all grow here as well as yams and sweet potatoes.
There is an effort being made to develop market gardens by teaching the children in certain schools the fundamentals of planting and taking care of a profitable garden. The market is at hand—in a number of communities, and certain things could be shipped to us up here. Of course, rum, made from the sugar crops, is one of the most profitable industries on the island.
The climate is warm and pleasant all the year round, but I think it has an effect on the people, for they move deliberately. They are industrious people, and for the most part even the little mountain houses, where every bit of water has to be brought by hand, are kept spick-and-span.
And it's not unusual to see the most beautiful laundry work. In most peasant homes one can see dresses hanging by the door that look as though they were done in a modern laundry. You know that these garments were probably washed in a mountain stream or else in tubs that were laboriously filled by hand. How the irons are heated is something I have not yet discovered, but the result is a thing of beauty, and a child will go to school looking immaculate.