Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Robert A. Stevenson
Anyway, as you asked me, I was very well impressed with the Latin American crowd and I enjoyed my tours in Latin America. I didn't particularly want to go to Germany, where I went next.
Q: Your next assignment was to Dusseldorf in 1952 to 1957.
STEVENSON: Yes. I will never forget that I hadn't been in Dusseldorf very long when Cecil Lyon came through there on a visit.
He was minister then in Bonn, and he came to Dusseldorf. I said, “Oh, yes, Mr. Lyon. You are a well known name to me and I know you have had a lot of experience in Latin America, and I've had two posts there.”
And I'll never forget, he said, “Oh, yes! And how does it feel to be out of the minor league?” (Laughter)
Q: I've had the feeling within the Foreign Service, from the time I was in there in the post-war years—I came in in '55—that Latin America was somewhat of a minor league. The real heart was Europe. But then for really exciting times, you had the Middle East or the Far East, and then when Africa opened, this was kind of exciting for a while. I'd like to get your impression of how you felt at the time about that.
STEVENSON: I wasn't really too aware of that. I was taken aback when Lyon made that crack. I hadn't felt that we were in a backwater or on the back burner. I found it very interesting. Of course, Spanish is my language, one that I had studied, so that made it interesting, too. I had read quite a lot about Latin America. But I think it's probably right that the big action was in other theaters at that time, and I don't think Latin America really got on the front burner until Kennedy and the Alliance for Progress. The Good Neighbor Policy was talked about.
Q: Roosevelt's Good Neighbor Policy.
STEVENSON: Yes. Sumner Welles was a well-known figure in the Latin American scene. But it had gone into a declining phase, I would say. In the 1930s, I think Latin America was much more important on the U.S. agenda, the trade agreements and so forth, and negotiations about Cuba in the '30s, with Sumner Welles taking the leading role.
Q: What were you doing in Dusseldorf?