Skip to content

A gringo they like

23 July 2010

Another weekend trivia question.  While you find places in Latin America named for the first of the American caudillos, George Washington, aside from a smattering of Abraham Lincolns and Benjamin Franklins (and a Rio Roosevelt in Brazil, explored by Theodore Roosevelt in 1913), you don’t find a lot of gringo names on Latin American maps.  Except for this guy, who has  sizable chunks of real estate named for him… despite never having traveled in Latin America and his connection to the event that brought him to prominence in Latin American history having occupied maybe 15 minutes of his seventy year life.

I thought this would be a difficult one, but Gary Denness — an Englishman and turtle fancier living in Mexico City who puts out the fine photo blog, The Mexile, nailed it with no problem.  I forget what I was even looking for when I ran across the story of Rutherford B. Hayes and Paraguay, but Paraguayan history is a gold-mine of weirdness, and I only had to scratch the surface to hit pay dirt.

Hayes — an Ohio politician, Civil War general of minor note and Governor of Ohio, was the Republican candidate for President of the United States in 1876, supported by President Grant as a successor who would continue Grant’s “liberal” policies.  Like George W. Bush in 2000, Haye’s election was questionable… his opponent, Samuel Tilden of New York, had more popular votes, but (again, like Bush) the electoral votes from Florida — which were in doubt — determined the winner.  There had been a questionable election in the United States before, which, Consitutionally, it is up to Congress to resolve.  In the Hayes-Tilden election, a Congressional committee worked out some kind of closed door deal, awarding Hayes the victory, in return for ending “Reconstruction” — the federal occupation of the former Confederacy that had protected the civil rights of former slaves (and for a short time, meant former slaves were office holders throughout the South).  Like Felipe Calderón here, sworn in at Los Pinos to prevent demonstrations, Hayes was sworn in at the White House in the middle of the night.

Then… faded into obscurity.  His only really lasting contribution to the United States (besides setting back civil rights in the South for a century) was pushing for competitive examinations for federal civil service positions.  And supposedly authoring the unforgettable phrase “Endeavor to persevere” (supposedly in reply to a petition by one of the western tribes seeking redress for grievances against the United States).  Although he’d expressed some interest in building a canal through Panama, he really didn’t have any interest in Latin America.  However, with the  War of the Triple Alliance –not managing to accomplish anything except killing a lot of Argentines, Brazilians and Paraguayans (Paraguay lost two- thirds of its entire population, and nearly all its adult men… and would make polygamy mandatory for a time)   — a bust, Hayes had the chance to imprint his memory on the hemisphere.

Himself -- memorialized in Villa Hayes

Exhausted, the three countries agreed to arbitration over ownership of the Chaco — Hayes being the arbitrator.  Which he really didn’t do, turning the matter over to the State Department, then forgetting about it.  I guess it was a fair trade… Paraguay lost about 60 percent of its people, so gained about 60 percent more territory (in which to not have very many people).  The State Department people did the heavy lifting, but Hayes signed the findings (which he probably didn’t bother to read) — on 12 November 1878, awarding  what had been Argentina’s Provincia de Chaco Boreal) to Paraguay.  Which is why, in the Paraguayan Departmento de Presidente Hayes  and in the state capital, Villa Hayes,  12 November is a state holiday.

Incidentally, given the strange parallels between Hayes’ 1876 election and George W. Bush’s 2000 election, it’s  probably not completely coincidental that the Bush family bought up huge chunks of the Chaco several years ago.

… off topic, only slightly:  although I can’t find anything named for Rutherford B. Hayes in Mexico, “Amplificacíon Presidentes” — an extention of Colonia Presidentes in Delegacíon Alvaro Obregón (95-D-5 in the Guia Roji) —  has streets named for Kennedy, Truman, Eisenhower, Roosevelt, Lincoln (who also has a street named for him in Polanco), Grant and Herbert Hoover.  Try saying “calle Herbert Hoover” in Spanish!

At least nobody laughs in Paraguay when you say “Rutherford Birchard Hayes”.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. 24 July 2010 12:28 am

    OK, I give up… who is the guy?

  2. 24 July 2010 8:56 am

    I’ll have a stab. Rutherford Hayes, former president of the US, and he arbitrated in the Triple Alliance war.

  3. 24 July 2010 9:19 am

    Hayes would have been my guess too, but if it’s him, it’s a pretty young picture of him.

  4. 24 July 2010 9:52 am

    It was taken on his wedding day. This image is a crop of the photo – his wife has been cut out.

    I’ll cough – I just used Tin Eye to locate the original image and worked from there.

    • 24 July 2010 12:33 pm

      WOW! Gary… I’m impressed! Not only that an English guy figured out who it was (and Americans have a hard time even saying “Rutherford B. Hayes” without a giggle) but you were able to figure out the photo. THAT must have taken you longer than Hayes took to decide Paraguay should have the Chaco.

  5. 24 July 2010 8:01 pm

    It took me a grand total of about five seconds to locate the original photo. I cheated. Haven’t you heard of TinEye? It’s an add on you can get for Firefox or Chrome (I use the latter these days).

    Have you not used TinEye before? Could be a useful tool in your never ending research. Here’s the result I got for the image you posted…


  1. Encore! « The Mex Files

Leave a reply, but please stick to the topic

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: