Interview with Fernando Liborio

Photograph of Fernando Liborio

Q: Can you talk about what it was like living and working in Chile at the time of the Crash of 1929?

Liborio: I started working in the year 1929. I was a 13 year old child. I got a permit that increased my age by five years so that I could work. I worked as a weigher in a copper mine. My first wage was 8 pesos a day. After one month, I bought an English cloth for 120 pesos. Times were wonderful because there was enough money for everything. You could purchase whatever you wanted. There was work everywhere.

When the crash happened in the United States, quite honestly nothing like it had ever been known before. It was as if you were walking down the street and suddenly something hit you. To us it all seemed very remote, miles away. New York was a long way off. But when your own boss tells you you haven't got a job anymore, then you really felt it.

Mr Halli Hochae, the owner of the mine called us and he said, "Children, the mine is going to stop because nobody is going to buy copper." But he said he would maintain the job places for one year. We were going to be able to save money and have the possibility to live for a while. I worked for 12 hours a day and my stepfather worked 12 hours a day also. What he earned was eaten, and what I earned was put in a box.

Mr. Halli Hochae told us that North America was not going to buy mineral, and Europe was not going to buy the ore. But he knew we had not saved any money. We had spent all our money because we thought this would never occur. And when it happened it caught us without any savings.

So, he kept us for one year, even if he didn't have anybody to buy the copper. He was an excellent patron.

Q: What happened at the end of that year?

Liborio: The mine stopped and we had to go. Life was very expensive. I went to work with an Uncle helping him with the farm. Then I went to the mine of Ramacida. I worked in that mine as a driller. I earned 5 pesos a day. We paid 4 pesos for the lodging and that was very very expensive. We had to work for the whole week. We did not have the English Saturday, and on Sundays we washed our clothes.

Q: How did you feel at the time?

Liborio: We were not mad at anyone. We were not mad at the owner. We were astonished. It was something new. There were no jobs. You knocked on one door and it was closed. You knocked on another and it was also closed. I decided to learn morse code, to become a telegraphist, but things did not work well. A friend of my Aunt's invited me to pan for gold. Our peso was not worth six pennies any more. It was worth nothing, zero. Zero pennies... and the only way to buy things was with gold.

Q: What were your impressions of President Roosevelt?

Liborio: United States chose a man that was very very intelligent, very capable. Franklin Delanore Roosevelt. And by the year 1933 and 1934, the world started moving, slowly.

President Roosevelt was good for the Americans and good for the whole world. He had a vision and he managed to convince the corporations that it was necessary to work without profits, to put the people and machinery to work. At that moment the United States became the locomotive of the world economy. Roosevelt was a man that was well regarded in Chile and in other countries because he was the father of the Pan American highway. The Pan American highway would not have been built if he was not in power.

Note: Red text is available in RealAudio.

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