Hungarians have a long memory, as the Hungarian ambassador showed this week when he presented a proclamation to a woman making her first trip to Budapest, where her now-deceased husband confronted discrimination 77 years ago in a racial ruckus that made international news.
Ambassador Ferenc Somogyi welcomed the visit by Marlies Cathcart, who arrived in the Hungarian capital on Monday. She is staying at the Gellert Hotel, where the management in 1931 ordered Dr. Ramon Cathcart, a black Cuban, out of the hotel pool because American and British guests complained about him swimming with whites.
Dr. Cathcart, who was on a European tour, complained to the Budapest newspapers, which splashed the racial incident across the front pages the next day. The mayor was outraged and invited Dr. Cathcart to City Hall, where he made the Cuban an honorary citizen of Budapest.
Hungarian doctors supported their colleague, and the embarrassed hotel management backed down and allowed Dr. Cathcart to swim in the pool. A local theater troupe even staged a skit about the affair, and the audience applauded him when he attended the performance.
The New York Times reported, “Budapest upholds Cuban,” and a Paris-based columnist for the New York Amsterdam News interviewed Dr. Cathcart when he visited the French capital.
“The idea of a black man being in the same pool with their wives and daughters was too much for them,” Dr. Cathcart said of the objections from the white guests.
On her visit, Mrs. Cathcart, a white New York resident, posed for a photograph next to the hotel pool. The management now is providing her a luxury suite for her stay.
In his proclamation, Mr. Somogyi said, “I would hereby like to commemorate the unfortunate racist incident involving Dr. Ramon Cathcart in Budapest in July 1931 and the appropriate response to it by the City of Budapest.
“We would like to welcome Dr. Cathcart’s widow in Hungary and wish her a pleasant and memorable stay.”
He added that today’s Hungary is a different country from the prewar nation her husband visited.
“You have arrived in a new, democratic and free Hungary that is true to the spirit of your late husband and his Hungarian defenders 77 years ago,” he said.
HERE’S THE BEEF
South Koreans are as angry as, well, mad cows over a beef pact with the United States, while the U.S. ambassador in Seoul appealed for calm but appeared to make matters worse.
Ambassador Alexander Vershbow has been trying to persuade the government of President Lee Myung-bak to honor a new beef deal with the United States. The deal reached in April was supposed to lift a four-year ban on U.S. beef imposed over fears of cattle infected with mad cow disease.