Brazilian President-Elect Prestes Visits the Hoover White House

The goodwill tour of Latin America by the Hoovers had ripples that extended long after they returned to the United States.  Reciprocal visits by Latin American heads of state included: Pascual Ortiz Rubio, President of Mexico in December 1929, Dr. Enrique Olaya, President-elect of Columbia in early June 1930, and Dr. Julio Prestes, President-elect of Brazil in mid-June 1930.  Each dignitary was feted with a formal dinner at the White House.  The ceremonies for Dr. Prestes were extensive and elaborate, aiming to match the courtesies extended to the Hoovers when visiting Brazil.

Prestes doubtless found the ceremonies a boon to balance the early travails of his trip.  Prestes’ wife Alice Viana Prestes was taken ill on shipboard and was obliged to return home before leaving Brazilian waters.  She later sailed for Paris with the expectation of meeting with her husband later.  On the day of their scheduled arrival in New York City, Prestes and his party were fog-bound off the Ambrose Channel for five hours.  After the delay, Prestes was greeted with all the pomp with which New York receives all distinguished guests.  This included a naval cruiser escort, twenty-one gun salutes, the playing the Brazilian national anthem and Star Spangled Banner.  Due to the lengthy delay, the ticker-tape parade down Broadway had much smaller crowds than anticipated.

Prestes met briefly with Mayor Jimmy Walker at City Hall before going with Hoover’s secretary George Akerson to the Pennsylvania Station to board the train for Washington.  President Hoover welcomed Prestes on behalf of the American people with special pleasure at being able to repay the courtesies extended during his visit to Brazil eighteen months earlier.  Prestes replied in kind.  Although neither man spoke the other’s language, the sentiments and shared pleasant memories were clear.  Hoover hosted a formal dinner at the White House on June 12th for Prestes and fifty guests.  With the absence of Mrs. Prestes and Mrs. Hoover [due to a strained back], the event was attended by men only.

Two days later, Dr. Prestes hosted Herbert Hoover and three hundred guests in the Hall of Flags at the Pan-American Union Building in DC.  Hoover said: ‘It is a special privilege for me to be able to convey to you and the Brazilian nation a message of cordiality and esteem….  I cannot let this opportunity pass without referring to my delightful visit to your country.’  Prestes replied: ‘The cordiality between our countries and between our citizens does not stand in need of solemn assurances….  The bonds of a friendship such as this will endure forever.’  These words impressed the editors of Sao Paolo’s Correo Paulisano who commented that the welcome made a deep and admirable impression in Brazil

Unfortunately, President-elect Prestes was not able to capitalize on this goodwill, nor was he able to deepen the bonds of friendship between the countries.  After leaving Washington, Prestes sailed to Paris to join his wife and daughters.  While there, the Brazilian Revolution of 1930 ended Prestes’ tenure before it began.  The coup installed Getulio Vargas as provisional president.  Prestes never took office.

For more information on the temporary exhibit visit the Hoover Museum website,

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