Campbell Hodges reports on visit of Columbia President-Elect and First Lady

Enrique Olaya Herrera, president of Columbia, 1930-1934

The Hoovers were not the only First Couple to go on a goodwill trip.  Enrique and Maria Olaya Herrera, President-Elect and First Lady of Columbia, visited the Hoover White House in early June 1930.  After serving eight years as Columbian Minister to the United States, Olaya was elected President in February 1930, but he did not take office until August 7th.   Borrowing a page from the Hoover playbook, the Olayas took advantage of this long interregnum to travel.  They arrived in New York City in late April, toured the United States for several weeks, before arriving in Washington on June 2nd.

After duly exchanging visits that afternoon, the Hoovers hosted the Olayas at a formal dinner in the White House.  In addition to the heads of state, the dinner was attended by members of Hoover’s cabinet, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes and his wife, select members of the State Department, members of Dr. Olaya’s staff, ministers to Columbia and the Columbia Charge d’Affaires Juan Coronado.  The dinner was covered by the New York Times, one of fifteen such articles on Olaya.   While in the Capital, Olaya was the ranking guest until his departure for Chicago.

After visiting Chicago and points west, the Olayas returned to Washington before returning home to Columbia.  Campbell Hodges, military aide for Hoover, was given the task of driving Mrs. Olaya and her daughter to the train station.  He wrote a detailed memo describing his time with them.  The gift of flowers from Lou Hoover was received well.  The guests ‘seemed very appreciative indeed of the courtesies shown them, and sent their deepest thanks to President and Mrs. Hoover.’

Hodges went on to explain that Juan Coronado accompanied them on the car trip, then shared lunch.  Coronado had been a guest at every administration since Wilson. He said: “Never has he known a time when there was such a cordial and pleasant atmosphere in the White House.  The President and Mrs.  Hoover always have a smile and pleasant word for everyone…. In the three previous administrations it has happened that one of the occupants of the White House has been affable and pleasant, but never both, until now.”

Hodges closed: “Our Latin American neighbors are very sensitive to courteous treatment, and situations such as those at the White House has been showing our distinguished visitors from down there will have a valuable and far-reaching effect. I am sure that things like this… are most beneficial toward the establishment on a firm basis of a better understanding between ‘Pedro Lopez’ and ‘John Smith’.”

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