“We Come as Good Neighbors”: Presidential Visit to Mexico, June 29–July 1, 1962

(This post was published on our previous blog on 8/18/2014.)

By Lillianne (Germain) Keaney, Former Graduate Student Intern, Simmons College GSLIS, Archives Management

As a White House Photographs cataloging intern at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, I am lucky to work with an amazing collection of photos on a daily basis. My main internship responsibilities are to research the people, places, and events depicted and to write descriptions of the photos. One of the great advantages of working with such a historic collection is the vast amount of material we have at our disposal for this research. The many resources available at the Library truly bring the photos to life. This is especially the case with my project this summer–I get to spend my days in Mexico with President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy on their state visit in 1962.

The amount of materials related to this one visit (which lasted just 48 hours!) spans multiple collections of textual materials, audio recordings, and moving images. Though my job is to catalog the photographs from this trip, at the half-way point of this project I am struck with the amount of time I have spent with other materials in our collections, pooling information from the President’s Office Files, National Security Files, and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis Personal Papers.

President and Mrs. Kennedy traveled to Mexico City in the summer of 1962, but the foundation for the trip started much earlier. As President Kennedy remarked at a ceremony upon his arrival in Mexico, the visit was a tradition that had been practiced by U.S. presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt. “We come as good neighbors and follow in the footsteps of one of my most distinguished predecessors, Franklin Roosevelt, who prophesied that the day would ultimately come when Presidents of Mexico and the United States would freely meet and freely communicate upon their common responsibilities and common opportunities.”

JFKWHP-KN-22522. President John F. Kennedy delivers remarks upon his arrival in Mexico City. President of Mexico, Adolfo López Mateos, stands on platform at right; U.S. State Department interpreter, Donald Barnes, stands below platform at left. Members of an honor guard stand in the background. Benito Juárez International Airport, Mexico City, Mexico, 29 June 1962. View this photo and more images from the folder here

Listen to audio of the address here.

View drafts and transcript of the speech here.

View motion picture footage from the arrival ceremony and the entire trip here.

And so President Kennedy traveled to Mexico after an invitation was extended from the President of Mexico, Adolfo López Mateos, in the fall of 1961.

JFKPOF-122-004-p0011. For an English translation, view the folder here.

The photographs from the visit show that the President and First Lady were received with enthusiasm by the Mexican people and by President López Mateos (as we can see from their embrace in this photograph!).

JFKWHP-ST-300-41-62. President of Mexico, Adolfo López Mateos, welcomes President John F. Kennedy to Los Pinos, the official residence of the President of Mexico. Standing in center (L-R): First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy; President López Mateos; President Kennedy; First Lady of Mexico, Eva Sámano de López Mateos; and Eva López Mateos. Also pictured: Chief of Protocol of Mexico, Federico A. Mariscal; Chief of the Presidential General Staff of Mexico, Major General José Gómez Huerta; U.S. Chief of Protocol, Angier Biddle Duke; U.S. State Department interpreter, Donald Barnes; General Cristóbal Guzmán Cárdenas; White House Secret Service agents, Gerald A. “Jerry” Behn, and Paul S. Rundle. Mexico City, Mexico, 29 June 1962. View this photo and more images from the folder here.

The warm welcome is especially evident in the images of the motorcade traveling from the airport to the residence of the President of Mexico (Los Pinos). Approximately a million and a half people lined the streets to watch the motorcade, and a blizzard of confetti greeted them as they made their way through the city.

JFKWHP-ST-C1-27-62. President John F. Kennedy stands in a convertible during the motorcade to Los Pinos, the official residence of the President of Mexico, following his and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy’s arrival in Mexico. President of Mexico, Adolfo López Mateos (right), stands in the car with President Kennedy. The Catedral de México (Metropolitan Cathedral) and the Galería Palacio Nacional (National Palace) are visible in the background. Confetti falls on the motorcade; spectators line the street. Mexico City, Mexico, 29 June 1962. View this photo and more images from the folder here.

As with many of the Kennedys’ trips, Mrs. Kennedy stood out as a star. She toured various attractions and facilities important to Mexico City in the 1960s, endearing herself to the people of Mexico.

JFKWHP-KN-C22562. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy stands in front of the Piedra del Sol (Aztec calendar, Sun Stone) during a visit to the Museo Nacional de Antropología (National Museum of Anthropology) of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (National Institute of Anthropology and History) in Mexico City, Mexico. Left to right: Eva López Mateos; First Lady of Mexico, Eva Sámano de López Mateos; Subdirector of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Dr. Ignacio Bernal; Mrs. Kennedy; Director of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Dr. Eusebio Dávalos Hurtado. 29 June 1962. View this photo and more images from the folder here.
JFKWHP-ST-C1-21-62. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy visits with children at the Instituto Nacional de Protección a la Infancia (National Institute for the Protection of Children) in Mexico City, Mexico, 30 June 1962. View this photo and more images from the folder here.

Mrs. Kennedy even delivered a speech in Spanish at a luncheon that she and President Kennedy gave in honor of President López Mateos and First Lady of Mexico, Eva Sámano de López Mateos.

JFKWHP-KN-C22666-G. President John F. Kennedy stands with First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy as she delivers remarks in Spanish at a luncheon held in honor of President of Mexico, Adolfo López Mateos, and First Lady of Mexico, Eva Sámano de López Mateos. At table (L-R): President of the Permanent Commission of the Mexican Congress, Rómulo Sánchez Mireles; President López Mateos; Mrs. Kennedy; President Kennedy; Mrs. López Mateos (mostly hidden behind flowers); President of the Supreme Court of Mexico, Alfonso Guzmán Neyra. Also pictured is U.S. State Department interpreter, Donald Barnes (in back, behind Mrs. Kennedy). Hotel Maria Isabel, Mexico City, Mexico, 30 June 1962. View image here.
JBKOPP-SF016-003-p0084-85. English and Spanish translations of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy’s remarks. View the entire folder here.

As these photographs and documents suggest, the trip to Mexico was a great success in strengthening the relationship of Mexico and the United States as “good neighbors.” Throughout the trip, both presidents expressed a desire for a strong friendship between the two nations. In a message sent to President López Mateos upon his departure from Mexico, President Kennedy concluded, “I came to meet a president and statesman, I have left him as a friend. ¡Viva México!”

JFKPOF-122-006-p0175. Draft of message President Kennedy sent to President López Mateos upon leaving Mexico. View the entire folder here.

President López Mateos sent this message to President Kennedy in response:

JFKPOF-122-001-p0047-49. For an English translation, view the entire folder here.

Visit our finding aid to explore more photographs from this trip!

One comment

  1. These are memories from a time I wish we could return to. The thought that we had a bright future with our neighbors to the South has dwindled to a mere murmur over the years. Fueled by a false dislike, fuel added during the last administration, has soured what should be seen as a sweet and graceful moment in my living memory.
    We can work miracles together when we use our talents to raise all people to a level of deserved dignity and respect.

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