Echo Chamber of the Spanish Diaspora in the US/ Caja de resonancia de la diáspora española en EEUU

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Photo of Elena Barquilla, in Trujillo, Extremadura, by Angel Briongos.

Today, 18 July 2014, we posted to our Facebook page the 52nd weekly installment of our series “Voices”, made up of brief video capsules (1-5 minutes) taken from the interviews we conduct as part of our field work all over the United States and Spain. 

We have created an album of the first year of this showcase of faces, voices, accents, jokes, memories and nostalgias.  In the coming months we will be working on transciptions, translations and indices of what is quickly becoming  a valuable archive of the experience of the Spanish diaspora in the US.

***

Hoy, 18 de julio de 2014, hemos colgado en nuestra página de Facebook la entrega semanal #52 de la serie “Voices”; pequeñas cápsulas de vídeo (de 1-5 minutos) extraídas de las entrevistas que vamos haciendo como parte de nuestro trabajo de campo realizado en Estados Unidos y España.

Hemos creado un album del primer año de este escaparate de caras, voces, acentos, chistes, recuerdos y nostalgias.  Durante los siguientes meses estaremos preparando transcripciones, traducciones e índices de los vídeos de este album, que, a la medida que crece, va constituyendo un importante archivo de la experiencia de la diáspora española en EEUU.

 

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Valentín Aguirre, Explorador (1928): Documentos rescatados

Centro Vasco Americano, fundado en 1913 en la barriada española más antigua de Nueva York, alrededor de Cherry Street, lower Lower East Side, entre los puentes Brooklyn y Manhattan.  La foto es de 1928.  Valentín Aguirre regentaba una pensión en esta zona de la ciudad antes de trasladarse a unas instalaciones mucho más grandes en el West Village-- 82 Bank Street.

Centro Vasco Americano, fundado en 1913 en la barriada española más antigua de Nueva York, alrededor de Cherry Street, lower Lower East Side, entre los puentes Brooklyn y Manhattan. La foto es de 1928. Valentín Aguirre regentaba una pensión en esta zona de la ciudad antes de trasladarse a unas instalaciones mucho más grandes en el West Village– 82 Bank Street.

En seis meses recorre España, Francia y América y vuelve con ganas de empezar de nuevo a visitar tanta gente tan amable, buena y tan española

“’LA PRENSA’ PAN BENDITO EN TODAS PARTES”

Todos conocen ya el viaje triunfal de don Valentín, el héroe vasco de nuestra colonia, por España y por Francia. En todas partes le conquistaron triunfos su hombría y buen humor.

Pero no le bastaba Europa a nuestro infatigable explorador. ¿Qué son 15,000 o 20,000 millas más o menos para el padre adoptivo de Paulino?

Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Kansas City, El Paso, New Méjico, Douglas, Arizona, Tucson, Los Angeles, San Pedro, Santa Mónica, Santa Bárbara, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Reno, Portland, Odeng, Utah, Montana, Idaho, Wanamokah, Boise, Idaho, North Jackman, Washington, Seattle, Butte, St. Paul, Minneapolis, Chicago, Canton, Ohio, Gary, Indiana, Lorain, Ohio, Pittsburgh y Nueva York.

¡Todo en siete semanas! ¿Hay algún yanki esforzado o candidato presidencial que quiera competir? Tan fresco y campechano, cual si nada hubiera hecho, se presenta en nuestras oficinas y nos dice: “Aquí estoy yo”.

–¿Bueno, y qué ha hecho usted?

–Pues nada, visitar con Mr. Henderson todos los agentes de la Compagnie Generale Transatlantique y todas las colonias hispanas en esos lugares y nunca hubiera pensado encontrar tanta gente tan amable, tan buena y tan española, que en todos lados me han llenado de agradecimiento y de admiración hacia ellos y me han dejado con ganas de visitar otra vez los mismos lugares y empezar hoy mismo otra vez.

Al llegar a San Francisco, California, un grupo de españoles nos recibieron en la estación y ya empezó la fiesta. Una gran cena nos organizaron en casa de Ramón Elorrieta, gran hotelero que honra la colonia y todos los hoteleros de San Francisco, más de treinta vinieron a la cena. Todos van juntos y se entienden bien y trabajan bien.

Todos tienen casas limpias, bien puestas –se puede presentar a cualquiera. Allí Meave tiene una cancha de pelota que es una maravilla y un hotel de su propiedad.

Si hablamos de Boise, Idaho, Aguirre se entusiasma y habla como si quisiera salir para allá en el primer tren.

–Juan Achabal, –nos dice—el millonario de Boise y Juan Anduiza, propietario de otra concha monumental de pelota y de un buen hotel, Juan Urtuviya, ganadero y otros amigos nos reciben.

Pueblo chiquito y toda la gente buena, sana y veinte y cuatro hotels españoles y todos llenos y todos viven bien La gente más robusta que he visto en todos mis viajes. Son gigantes. Ni dais cuenta de lo que es la gente de Boise, todos los días seis o más me ofrecían sus coches, casi todos tienen Packards.

Allí tuvimos reuniones y discusiones y tratamos entre unos cuantos para ver si se podía construir un club, para recreo de la juventud y para negocios, que elementos y dinero hay bastantes allí. Con el nombre de Achabal se puede acaparar todo el negocio de ganado de Idaho y aquellos que andan en negocio, si venían en acuerdo con Achabal, podían hacer mucho más de lo que hacen y acaparar todo el negocio de Idaho.

Todo está floreciente, mandan sus hijos a España, a Madrid a estudiar y ver. Dicen que allí

Valentín Aguirre, figura legendaria de la colonia vasca y española en Nueva York y en Estados Unidos.  Era el dueño de este edificio en 82 Bank Street (West Village, New York) que albergaba su restaurante ("Jai Alai"), su hotel (Santa Lucía) y su agencia de viajes.

Valentín Aguirre, figura legendaria de la colonia vasca y española en Nueva York y en Estados Unidos. Era el dueño de este edificio en 82 Bank Street (West Village, New York) que albergaba su restaurante (“Jai Alai”), su hotel (Santa Lucía) y su agencia de viajes.

se habla más suave el castellano. Hay una sociedad de socorros que el año pasado pagó diez mil dólares en auxilios y tienen quince mil dólares en caja y es una sociedad pequeña.

En el centro de Boise hay un salon de Bonifacio Garmendia, es el central de todos los españoles. Los dueños son muy simpáticos.

En Odeng y Montahon todos son ganaderos y hoteleros. En Los Angeles la maravilla es el Bastanchurri Ranch de Gastón Bastanchurri. Ese hombre tiene diez mil acres de naranjas, limones, melocotones, ciruelas, toda clase de frutas –allí se estrenó Paulino Uzcudun. Seiscientos hombres tiene empleados. Es la cosa más hermosa que he visto en la vida. Allí todos españoles.

Da quince o veinte acres, con su casa en medio a un grupo para que los trabajen y así tiene todo dividido. Luego tiene una oficina central maravilllosa y fábrica de conservas. Luego hay en Los Angeles lo que llaman Plaza Mejicana donde toda la barriada de españoles y mejicanos… [ilegible]

–Bueno, creo que he dicho todo, y se prepara a despedirse el hombre fornido, como roble añoso, que ya no teme ninguna tempestad.

–Ah¡ no, quiero decir que el gran hombre que he encontrado en Europa y en América ha sido… el gran Zuluaga y tal como es el padre ha de ser el hijo. Antonio es tan parecido a su padre que parece que lo ha hecho él solo.

La Prensa (Nueva York), 24 de agosto de 1928

aguirretravel

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They said vs. nosotros dijimos: Canton, Ohio 1918

1048061_265633193599681_134100486_oIn the Archivo General de la Administración, located in Alcalá de Henares, Spain, we encountered this fascinating set of documents regarding a case of what we would today call workplace harassment. 

The facts of the case are as follows:  on April 21, 1918, a group of Spanish workers at the United Steel Alloy Plant in Canton, Ohio wrote to the Consul of Spain in New York, complaining about abusive behavior at the plant, and requesting his intervention in the matter.  The Consul contacted the authorities in Ohio, and less than three weeks later, the Governor of Ohio had received a report from the state’s Adjutant General, which was forwarded to the Consul, and eventually found its way into the archive in Alcalá de Henares.

What follows are 1) the workers’ complaint to the Consul, with a detailed description of the incident, which had occurred the day before; and 2) the official report filed by the Adjutant General, with a rather different account of what occurred at the plant.

Which version seems more credible to you? What can we learn from this incident about the attitude of these Spanish immigrant workers in 1919 towards their host country?  And what about the attitude of the other workers in the plant toward the Spaniards?

Canton, Ohio, 21 de abril de 1918

Sr. Cónsul General de España, NY

Muy Señor nuestro:

Los abajo firmantes a Ud elevamos, como representante de nuestra patria, la más alta protesta sobre un asunto indigno cometido en la persona de un súbdito español el día veinte del presente.

Los hechos han sido los siguientes:

Hace días que los encargados y altos empleados de la United Alloy Steel Corporation de esta ciudad, están colocando los bonos del tercer empréstito de la libertad, y en dicha fábrica trabaja el español Antonio Fernández, y el día que más arriba le indicamos, se presentaron a dicho señor tres encargados y varios empleados, con el objeto de que se subscribiese al empréstito; cosa que no quiso aceptar, pues gana poco sueldo, y tiene que mantener a su numerosa familia.

Los encargados de dicha fábrica, no quisieron o no creyeron las razones expuestas por el Señor Fernández, y le dijeron que “o tomaba el Liberty Bond, o lo colgaban”, y sin esperar otras razones, lo sacaron arrastro por toda la fábrica, y no conformes con esto, entre viente o treinta hombres, le metieron una gran barra de hierro por entre las piernas, y lo llevaban tirando en lo alto, y en esta forma lo llevaron hasta cerca del río, donde viendo las intenciones que llevaban los salvajes (que era colgarlo) tuvo que aceptar el empréstito forzoso.

Todo esto pasó en presencia de más de dos mil personas, policías y encargados, que presenciaban impávidos el bárbaro espectáculo cometido con un hombre indefenso, súbdito de una nación que creemos debe de ser respetada, y con la cual esta Nación no está en guerra.

Esperamos, Sr. Cónsul resuelva este asunto en la forma usual en estos casos, para que los criminales del brutal atentado sean juzgados por las leyes, pues no creemos se hagan solidarios de estos actos, dignos de que pasen en el Congo africano.

De Ud, respetuosamente

Antonio Fernandez Menendez, Francisco Muñiz, Ceferino Saieto, Fructuoso Díaz, José Molina Perez, Juan Saen Navarro, Antonio Velmonte, Jacinto Rodriguez, Jose Lopez,Ernesto Calero, Juan Perez, Bernardo Bigotes, Gregorio Viña, José Picallao, Cecilio Cuenllas, Pedro Suarez, Manuel Castro, Manuel Mezquita, Manuel Diaz, Crisanto Lopez, Emilio Fernandez, Benigno Saavedra, Joaquín Picallo, Isidro Cabo, Jose Fernandez, Celestino Perez Fuente, Aquilino Gonzalez, Jose Suarez, Antonio Fernandez, Rafael Garcia, Jose Cabo, Victor Gonzalez, Juan Luis Alonso, Antonio Martin, Alberto Suarez, Ramon Garcia,, Serafin Rey, Etevurio Alvarez, Fermin R. Suarez, Feliciano Alvarez, Jose Menendez, Alvaro Gutierrez, German Alvarez, Jesus Gonzalez, Jose Bigotes,Germán Muñiz, German Menendez, Abelardo Herrero, Alfonso Martinez, Rafael Troyano, Lorenzo Bigotes, Prudencio Campa, Juan Paz, Emilio Peña, Jose Ovies, Alfredo Cueto, Casimiro Alvarez, Felipe Camino, Rodolfo Menendez, Alvaro Fernandez, Ilario Gomez, Benito Gomez, Pedro Media Villa, Luis Media Villa, Bernardo Vergara

La Prensa, May 17, 1923

La Prensa, May 17, 1923

***

State of Ohio,  Adjutant General’s Department

Columbus,May 11, 1918

Hon. James M. Cox, Governor of Ohio

Sir:

In compliance with instructions from your office, I proceeded to Canton, Ohio, to investigate the facts stated in the complaint made by the Spanish Ambassador as to treatment of Antonio Fernandez, a Spanish subject, and found the following to be the facts in the case:

The United Alloy Steel Corporation is one of the largest corporations in Canton and employs about 4500 men, most of the labor being unskilled labor. The plant extends over quite an amount of territory along the tracks of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Antonio Fernandez was employed in “B” plant, which happens to be the farthest part of the plant from the general offices of the company.

During the noon hour on April 20 a flying squadron, composed of employees of the plant, were going thru the plant trying to persuade the men, who had not as yet subscribed for US Liberty Bonds of the third issue, to subscribe. This organization is an unofficial organization among the men, the officers of the company are not back of it.

The Flying Squadron approached Fernandez and asked him to subscribe for one Liberty Bond. He replied: “To Hell with Liberty Bonds.” This decidedly un-American utterance from a man who is enjoying the protections of the American Government and earning large wages in American factories, so incensed the flying squadron that they grabbed him, put him on a rail and carried him for a short distance thru the “B” plant. There were no threats of hanging of further physical violence displayed and no officer or policeman, either in the City of Canton or of the United Alloy Steel corporation were present.

Fernandez promptly agreed to buy a “baby” bond and was let down.

An immediate investigation fo the affair was made by the Chief of Police, Haxmer, of the United Steel Alloy Company, who found this incident had occurred and that the other Spaniards employed in “B” plant were very much excited and were unwilling to go ack to work Saturday afternoon. After a couple of hours of negotiation, they agreed to go back to work and the company agreed to pay them for the time they were not working and all the Spaniards, as far as I could find out, excepting Fernandez returned to work and are still working for the Company.

Fernandez was told by the officers of the Company that he could either work in “B” plant or they would transfer him o any other one of the departments in the factory where his services could be used, but he delined, was given his time to Saturday evening and left.

Notice was at once given in the factory that an occurrence similar to the Fernandez affair would be grounds for discharge of all men who took part in it. It would seem that the outbreak was caused by the unfortunate remark of Fernandez. The action was not official, nor did any officer or policeman of the Company stand by and see it carried out.

Very respectfully,

Geo N. Wood

The Adjutant General

Españoles en Cleveland, 1919.  Courtesy of Laura Goyanes.

Españoles en Cleveland, 1919. Courtesy of Laura Goyanes.

 

 

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New Document: “Spanish Action in Tampa” (1912)


accionespañolaentampacontraportada

Once in a while, researchers engaged in an archival project will catch themselves daydreaming about that elusive, perfect document. Like fishermen, who can lose track of time and everything else while imagining themselves landing that marlin, or like archaeologists who fantasize about uncovering that one rosetta-stone-like artifact that will suddenly make intelligible and whole all the other shards of evidence they have collected, historical researchers also indulge in all kinds of wishful thinking.

For someone who has been thinking about the Spanish history of Tampa, Florida for several years now, what would that perfect document look like? Let us daydream…

Our dream document would come from a period close enough to the arrival of the cigar industry to Tampa (1886) so that it would contain first-hand “living” memory of that momentous event, but from a period far away enough from that foundational moment so that it would reflect –and reflect upon– the dizzying development that rapidly ensued.  Our made-to-order primary source would be dated, let’s say, about a quarter of a century after the arrival to Tampa of Martínez Ybor, Haya and company.

Twenty-five years would be enough time to allow for interesting retrospective musings about the origins of modern Tampa, but not enough time for tourist-board truisms to have become fossilized.  In such a document we would see both consolidation and flux, construction and precariousness:  a half-built monument being erected by people who were not fully aware of the fact that they were constructing a monument, because they were too busy working, living, dreaming…

The document we daydream about would be bilingual, would contain succinct accounts of the founding and functioning of the colonia’s primary institutions, and lots and lots of photographs…

Who says dreams don’t come true?  Thanks to a post by Dan Pérez on a West Tampa Facebook Page, we were led to a truly astounding document that can viewed and downloaded hereAcción Española en Tampa/ Spanish Action in Tampa is a truly extraordinary snapshot of Spanish Tampa taken in 1913 and it features all those characteristics we’ve dreamt about.

The document has been preserved digitally and made public thanks to a collaborative effort between the Real Academia Hispano Americana de Ciencias, Artes y Letras and the Joseph P. Healey Library at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

Enjoy! And please leave comments below.  We want to make sure that the document can be easily downloaded, and we’d love to hear what you think about this treasure.

accionespañolaentampaportada

 

 

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New Document: Spanish Consul in San Francisco on Spanish Colonias (1938)

Photo courtesy of Joe Galván of San Leandro, California.  Joe's mother performed on the program announced on the handbill.

Photo courtesy of Joe Galván of San Leandro, California. Joe’s mother performed on the program announced on the handbill.

In this fascinating and complex document, the Spanish Consul in San Francisco reports back to the Ministry in Madrid on how the Spanish enclaves in California are reacting to the war in Spain. There are some apparent typos and some convoluted turns of phrase that occasionally blur the intended meaning; we’ve done our best to translate the document.  The bottom line: in the US as in Spain, support for the Republic was diverse and often divided.

16 August 1938

Subject: In response to circular no. 1762

Most Excellent Sir,

I am honored to respond to the Circular 1762 dated July 13.

The American Associations to Aid Spain in California have the same names and affiliations as in all of North America. They are the North American Committee and the Medical Bureau to Aid Spanish Democracy. With regard to the associations in California, I only should note that since the beginning of the year the North American Committee has been subordinated to, and practically dissolved into, the Medical Bureau, which name, thanks to the tact and prestige of Doctors Eloesser and Addis, has prevailed. The North American Committee, or, rather, its Executive Committee tried at the beginning to disseminate propaganda among the Spanish colony, but they had a difficult time because they didn’t speak the language, and the end result has been the recruitment of roughly one hundred members for the American Communist Party.

The Spanish Societies that aid Spain in California are divided into two groups: the Democratic Action group, and the Antifascist group. The Democratic Action groups are made up of Spaniards. They have a patriotic and democratic character. Their name comes [¿not so much?] from the unconscious influence of the propaganda campaign, but from the re-election of President Roosevelt, which came about just as the organization was forming. They raise funds through voluntary contributions, public events, excursions, dances and lectures. They sent the money they collected first to the Spanish Embassy and, after the law of neutrality was adopted in this country, to the Central Committee to Aid Republican Spain in Washington.

The Acción Demócrata societies that have maintained this spirit are those of San Leandro, Sunnyvale, Sacramento, Mountain View, Santa Clara, South San Francisco, Hollister, and the Club Recreativo Español de Wilmington.   Among the organizers of these associations in the countryside, the following deserve special mention because of their activity and consistency: Luis Puente of Sacramento, mechanic; Sebastian Walias, of Sunnyvale, farmworker; Juan Domingo, of Mountain View, laborer; Antonio Toledo, of Santa Clara, farm worker; and Sergio Blásquez of San Leandro, mechanic. They have all been in America for a long time, and their reaction to the Spanish tragedy is patriotic and working class; with regard to Spain, they do no promote a specific political line.

In San Francisco, whose Acción Demócrata was the original and the organizer of the rest, they have been going through a crisis that has resulted in the loss of their original founders and which has given rise o the presence on the board of people subject to the influence of the SIA [Solidaridad Internacional Antifascista], with some communist elements. Before, it was like the ones from the countryside that we’ve talked about; today, they don’t have a definite political line either. To date the funds they’ve raised have been sent to the Embassy and to the Central Committee in Washington.

The “Antifascist” group has been affiliated from the start with the entity with that same name in NY. Its base in California is in LA. It is formed by affiliates or sympathizers of the CNT and the FAI in Spain. They have an important branch in Vacaville. The tendency of these groups is to persuade all of the Spanish organizations to send funds to directly to similar workers groups in Spain. The members of this tendency are not necessarily grouped together in the two antifascist groups I’ve mentioned. El Antifascista, from Los Angeles, publishes a newspaper which I enclose…

Consul of Spain

Miguel Pizarro

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New document: Why the recruitment of Spaniards to Hawaii ended in 1913

 

Emmigrant Poster 16_20 frm_WEB

 

Transcription and translation of another gem from the Archivo General de la Administración, in Alcalá de Henares, Spain.

 

On July 1, 1913, the Spanish Consul of Hawaii files a report to the Consul of San Francisco who in turn forwards the document to the Ministry of State in Madrid.

“It is my honor to inform Your Excellency that, according to reports I have been able to obtain recently, Honolulu’s Board of Immigration plans on suspending, for now, the expeditions of Spanish emigrants from the port of Gibraltar to the Hawaiian Islands; expeditions which, as Your Excellency knows, said corporation has frequently directed and organized during these last years, with the cooperation of its European agents. Mr. Raymond Brown, the main agent and representative of the Honolulu’s Board of Immigration in Europe, has been ordered to move on to Cracow and other points in Austria and Russia, to continue there his propaganda efforts, offering to the peasants of those countries the opportunity to emigrate to these islands.

I believe that two factors have influenced said corporation to discontinue their efforts in Spain, to wit: 1, the crisis that threatens the sugarcane industry on the Hawaiian Islands, should the US Senate approve (which, in all likelihood, it will) the tariff reforms that are currently under discussion. Under those reforms, beginning in 1916, sugar will be able to enter freely [without duties or tariffs] into the United States. If this reform becomes policy, as it probably will, the sugar producers in this country will have serious difficulties competing with those of Cuba and other Central American countries. The unavoidable drop in sugar prices would greatly diminish the income that the Hawaiian islands currently derive from the sugarcane industry, and it is unlikely that they will be able to continue spending large sums of money to recruit and bring workers to this archipelago.

The second reason is that many of the Spanish emigrants, after working for one or two years on the cane plantations, emigrate to California, because there it is easy for the Spanish laborers to acquire cheap land, and to live independently, devoting themselves to the cultivation of the same crops that we have in South and Central Spain. During the first six months of the current year, more than 700 Spaniards (men, women and children) have left Hawaii, headed for San Francisco. Most of them have been on these islands for only one or two years. This without doubt has greatly discouraged the directors of the “Board of Immigration” who have decided that bringing Spanish emigrants is not an wise use of their funds.

If my reports are not confirmed, I will immediately inform Your Excellency of everything related to this matter which could be of interest to our Nation.”

***

Follow how the Spanish-Hawaiian saga was covered in the international press one hundred years ago here.

Learn more about one descendant of Spaniards taken to Hawaii as children here.

Order the documentary Dan Albert’s Paella/ La paella de Daniel Albert here.

Check out the amazing Facebook page organized by descendants of the Hawaiian Spaniards here.

 

 

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New document: Spain’s Lost Children in West Virginia (1916), Part One.

The Spaniards in West Virginia:  Discovery of 3000 compatriots.  A center of anarchism: No consul, no schoolmaster, and no priest

By Alfonso de Castilla in Las Novedades, NY, February 24, 1916

[translated by Veronica Carchedi.  Thanks to Suronda González for helping us track down the original document.  Scroll down to see original Spanish]

Confessions of an anarchist

spelterSign59“… in Clarksburg, Thursday at ten. I’ll be waiting for you at the hotel, “The Waldo.” I have to introduce you to a barber …”

Those are the exact words used by my anonymous confidant to set up our appointment. It seemed like a sensational scoop. I was being offered, through a trustworthy channel, interesting revelations.: an anarchist wanted to speak to me.

How could I not go? I left for Clarksburg – the heart of West Virginia – and I stayed at “The Waldo.” My stay, although brief, was intense with emotion: a very deep and very intimate emotion, very much from the soul. This intense emotion is what I hope to convey today to my readers in these lines written on the fly.

Punctual, like a good Englishman, the man – who is Spanish – appeared at “The Waldo.”

He approached me, sure he was not making a mistake, and in Castilian, with a slight Asturian accent, holding out his right hand he said:

 “I knew that you would come … Did my letter surprise you? Well now I just have to introduce you to the barber.”

The man spoke quickly, nervously, as if wishing to finish as soon as possible, and I was about to ask he why he was in such a hurry.

I did not need to ask the question: he beat me to it, once we were outside the hotel.

“Let’s go to Grasselli. No one will recognize me there, and that is where I will introduce you to the barber. In Clarksburg it is not in our interest to be seen together.”

“Why?” I finally ventured to ask him.

“Because …” he murmured almost between teeth, “We Spanish here are considered anarchists …”

“What do you mean anarchists?”

 “Yes, sir, yes, as anarchists … Or ‘ácratas’. You can say it either way, according to something I just read in the ‘Working Class Culture [Cultura Obrera].’”

“And what ‘Culture’ is that?”

“The [anarchist newspaper] “Cultura Obrera” of New York … It is our Spanish language textbook. It not only the journal with the largest circulation, it is, in fact, the only publication in our language that reaches us.”

“And as is clear from your words, the seed gives fruits …”

“That is right. But its better for us not to talk about those fruits: it will be enough for you to see them.”

“But, you …”

“I am a believer.”

“In the value of those fruits?”

“Now that no one can hear us, I will tell you that no. But one has to live,  my friend! And here the ones who live are the ones who know. Would you like me to tell you what those who know know? Well … whatever that “Cultura Obrera” says, at least for those who know how to read. Those who can’ read listen to it being read aloud.

“Are there many of you?”

“In Clarksburg there are three thousand, mostly Asturians.”

“How many inhabitants does Clarksburg have?”

“Some nine thousand. But this town is industrially the most important in West Virginia, and in its surroundings there are many zinc smelters, and tin factories, crystal, ceramic, and coal  for electric light, that employ more than twenty-five thousand workers. The principal centers that I remember are Grasselli, North View, Meadowbrook, Adamston, Kelley Hill and Norwood. The important ones are the zinc smelters of the “Grasselli Chemical Company,” in Grasselli and in Meadowbrook the “Clarksburg Zinc,” in North View the tin-plate factories of “Phipps Sheet and Tin Plate” in Kelly Hill the “National Carbon” ones in Grasselli, the crystal factories of “Lafayette Glass” and “Peerless Glass,” in Adamston the “Tuna Glass” and the “West York Glass,” in Clarksburg the “Norwood Glass” and the “Pittsburg Plate Glass,” in Norwood the “Hayel Atlas” the “Owens Bottle” the “Clarksburg Pottery,” the “McNocoll Pottery …”

We arrived to Grasselli. It’s a large town but not urbanized. There are no streets, and the houses, in capricious disorder, are not numbered. Each one of them is designated by the name of the head of the family that lives there.

We inquired at one house but they were Germans, and they do not understand us. We knocked on another; they were Polish… and we were Greek to them. Finally, we caught sight of a barbershop. The barbershop was Spanish. There we conversed with our barber.

The culture of the emigrants

The barber is Catalan. And this Catalan is one of the most learned men in Grasselli. We asked him:

 “How many Spaniards live in Graselli?”

“About three hundred, half of them married and not many elderly.”

“What kind of wages do they earn?”

“Between $2.25 and $5.25 a day, the same as in all these parts. They pay the most in Meadowbrook, where there are probably another three hundred Spaniards, about 80% of the workers there. The factory in Meadowbrook is the biggest of this area. Two of my good friends are there, the master Atanasio Fernández and the foreman Manuel González. They have been here many years.”

“And are they content?”

“Hombre, let me tell you. You can’t deny that they treat them well and they earn even better. When the price of zinc rose, the factory in Meadowbrook increased all the wages, without anyone even requesting a raise. From their savings, many have their own houses, and some even have land.”

“Well, then, why do they complain?”

“That’s a funny question! To gain respect. If the poor did not yell every once in a while, what would the rich do for us? The rich!”

At this point, the good barber regaled me with a harangue against Capital, against Order and against Religion.

I did not want to argue with him. The man defended his argument with the unequivocal phrase, “Read ‘Cultura Obrera’ and you’ll see how you’ll end up speaking just like me!”

I had a few more questions for the anarchist barber.

“And do you Spaniards who live in this region remain officially Spanish?”

The barber smiled somewhat ironically; who knows if he was thinking that he was a many without a country?   But he eventually deigned to answer:

“Spaniards … we do not know if we are. Spain does not have the slightest idea that we exist here. In all the United States there are only three consulates … Who knows where ours is! That’s why some of us have preferred North American citizenship because at least it will protect them. The rest do not have anyone to protect us.”

“And have you not made an effort to get at least an honorary consulate?”

“Yes, sir. It has been a few months since we last heard after we proposed to Madrid the creation of an honorary vice consulate, appointing for it a good Italian lawyer, a good friend of ours, mister Biagio Mercadino and as ambassador it seems they are going to name a Spaniard, the young Cornelio Aizpiru, a tinsmith who works in the “Sutter, Roofing & Cornice” in Clarksburg.”

“Well at least that is something.”

“Very little. What we need is a Spanish career consul. Why do we not have it? And another thing we need is the implementation of a money order service. Our savings, which should go to Spain, end up staying here! Not only do they not benefit our families, but they don’t even benefit our banks either.”

“And what about religion?”

“Most of us do not have one. Better said, even if we wanted to, we could not be more than Protestants… And that is how the few here that still retain a religious conscience have ended up.”

“But if you do not have religion, it’s not because of a lack of good education, is it?”

“Neither good nor bad; the “Cultura Obrera” is everything. But that is not for women and children and, of course, neither of these, in their immense majority, learned to read or write.”

“Then you live completely alienated from the world, and even more so from the homeland …”

“Only to a certain extent, because Clarksburg is close; and in Meadowbrook, without going much further, we even have a magnificent grocery store, which is full of Spanish products, and especially all kinds of canned food It’s better than nothing.”

“And do they force you to buy from this grocery store?”

“No, sir! You only shop there if you want, and you only buy what you want to buy.”

“And are you fraternally connected with the three thousand Spaniards who are here?”

“Are you kidding! Every one belongs only his own little group, and no one wants to know about the others. Unity goes against our temperament.”

“But in unity there is strength.”

“But we are opposed to everything that others want to impose on us by force…”

Requesting a school

We left Grasselli, returned to Clarksburg and still had time to go to Meadowbrook.

My guide spoke up again:

 “Do not doubt it, see what you see that we Spanish are moderate, hardworking and even respectful of the law… If you only met the Italians! What happens to our folk is simply that here they are influenced by some trouble-makers whose anarchist doctrines find fertile ground.”

“And to what do you attribute this influence?”

“Lack of education is the only thing to blame.”

“And you who can talk to me and guide me with so much sense: why do you not influence your compatriots so that they return to the good path?”

“Because I, sir,” he stammered slowly and perhaps with embarrassment, “no longer know which path is the right one… I am a wretch! I began like them, renouncing even God and today, married, with five children! I suffer alone, because I can tell no one, the horrible shame that my kids believe in nothing as well… Nor can they hope that someone might someday bring them faith!

“That is why I wanted you to come, for you to understand how we live, and to see if you manage to get someone to come to educate us, to wake up our conscience and our understanding. Even if it has to be a priest who only knows how to speak about God!”

Once in Meadowbrook I attended a meeting of miners, all Spaniards, who were planning — for reasons that escaped me — to call for a strike.

My companion presented me as one of them and even invited me to speak to them.

What happened next is hard to imagine. I spoke to them as brothers. I reminded them about the homeland, I evoked their parents who live far away. And I spoke to them, sincerely, of the necessity that they seek out an education, that they learn to be something more than unconscious instruments of labor.”

A voice interrupted me:

“What we need here is a Modern School [Escuela Moderna]!

And another voice added:

“Even if it isn’t modern!”

My companion squeezed my arm with intimate emotion.

“They demand that because they don’t know what they are asking for, a Modern School. In the factory where I worked, the “Clarksburg Zinc Company,” it was discovered that in North View there is a secret society of dynamiters, and they were about ready to fire all the Spanish workers! The director, even though he is Jewish, asked the Catholic Bishop of Clarksburg to intervene and speak to us…”

I did not want to hear more. Spain has in North America more than seventy thousand compatriots, abandoned, lost! Here they live without hope that Spain will hear them.

Spain, who knew how to discover a world, conquer it, and lose it, still has much left to discover.

Her own lost children.

(Las Novedades, NY, 24-II-1916)

 

Spelter2Los españoles en West Virginia

Descubrimiento de 3000 compatriotas

Un foco de anarquismo, sin cónsul, sin maestro y sin sacerdote

Por Alfonso de Castilla

en Las Novedades, NY

24-febrero-1916

Confesando a un ácrata

“….en Clarksburg, el jueves, a las diez. Le espero en el hotel “The Waldo”. He de presentarle a un barbero…”

Así, textualmente, me citaba la anónima confidencia. Tratábase, al parecer, de una sensacional información de periodismo. Se me brindaban, por fidedigno conducto, interesantes revelaciones: un ácrata quería hablarme.

¿Cómo no ir? Marché a Clarksburg-corazón de West Virginia- y me hospedé en “The Waldo”. Y mi estancia, aunque breve, fue intensa en emoción: una emoción muy honda, muy íntima, muy a flor de alma, que es la que hoy quisiera reflejar a los lectores en estas líneas hilvanadas al vuelo.

Puntual, como buen inglés, apareció en “The Waldo” el hombre, que es español.

Se me acercó seguro de no equivocarse, y en castellano, con ligero acento de astur, dijo, tendiéndome su diestra:

-Ya sabía que usted no faltaría..¿Le sorprendió mi carta?…Pues ahora sólo necesito presentarle al barbero..

Hablaba el hombre de prisa, nervioso, como deseando acabar cuanto antes, y a punto estuve de pedirle alguna explicación a su apresuramiento.

No tuve necesidad de hacerlo: él se me adelantó, en cuanto nos vimos fuera del hotel.

-Vamos a Grasselli. Allí nadie me conoce y allí es donde he de presentarle a ese barbero. En Clarksburg no conviene que nos vean juntos.

-¿Por qué? -me aventuré, al fin,a preguntarle.

-Porque… -murmuró casi entre dientes- a los españoles se nos tiene aquí por ácratas..

-¿Cómo por ácratas?

-Sí, señor,sí:por ácratas..o por anarquistas que de los dos modos se dice, según acabo de leer en la “Cultura Obrera”.

-¿Y qué “Cultura” es esa?

-La “Cultura Obrera” , de Nueva York…Nuestro libro de texto en castellano: la revista, no ya de mayor circulación, ¡la única! que de nuestro idioma llega hasta nosotros.

-Y según se desprende de sus palabras, la semilla está dando sus frutos..

-Así es.Pero de tales frutos vale más que no hablemos: basta con que usted los vea.

-Pero, usted..

-Yo soy un convencido.

-¿De la eficacia de esos frutos?

-Ahora que nadie nos oye, le diré que no. Pero ¡hay que vivir, amigo! Y aquí viven los que saben. ¿Y quiere usted que le diga qué saben los que saben? Pues…lo que en esa “Cultura Obrera” leen, los que aprendieron a leer, o lo que escuchan si a leer nadie les enseñó.

-¿Y son ustedes muchos?

-En Clarksburg unos tres mil: la mayoría asturianos.

-¿Cuántos habitantes tiene Clarksburg?

-Unos nueve mil. Pero este pueblo es, industrialmente el más importante de West Virginia, y en sus alrededores funcionan numerosas fundiciones de zinc, y fábricas de hojalata, cristal, loza y carbones para la luz eléctrica,llegando a más de veinticinco mil los obreros empleados en ellas. Los principales centros que ahora recuerdo son: Grasselli, North View, Meadowbrook, Adamston, Kelley Hill y Norwood. Son muy importantes las fundiciones de zinc de “Grasselli Chemical Company”, en Grasselli y en Meadowbrook la “Clarksburg Zinc”, en North View: las fábricas de hojalata, de “Phipps Sheet and Tin Plate” en Kelly Hill; las de la “National Carbon” en Grasselli: las de cristal de “Lafayette Glass” y “Peerless Glass”, en Adamston: la Tuna Glass” y la “West York Glass”, en Clarksburg; la “Norwood Glass” y la “Pittsburg Plate Glass”, en Norwood: la “Hayel Atlas”, la “Owens Bottle”, la “Clarksburg Pottery”, la “McNocoll Pottery”…

Llegamos a Grasselli. Es un gran poblado ,sin urbanizar. No hay calles ni las viviendas, en caprichoso desórden, están numeradas. Cada una de ellas se designa por el nombre del cabeza de familia que la habita.

Preguntamos en una casa: allí viven unos alemanes, y no nos entienden:preguntamos en otra: son polacos…y se hacen los suecos.

Al fin, vislumrbramos una barbería. La barbería es española. Y allí nos entrevistamos con nuestro barbero.

 

La cultura de los emigrados

El barbero es catalán. Y este catalán es uno de los hombres más ilustrados de Grasselli. Le interrogamos:

-¿Cuántos españoles residen en Graselli?

-Unos trescientos: la mitad de ellos casados y no abundan los viejos.

-¿Qué jornales ganan?

-Entre $2.25 y $5.25 al día: como en todos estos alrededores. Donde más pagan es en Meadowbrook, donde viven otros tantos: el 80 % de los que allí trabajan. La fábrica de Meadowbrook es la mayor de estos contornos. En ella están dos buenos amigos míos: el maestro Atanasio Fernández y el capataz Manuel González. Llevan aquí ya bastantes años.

-¿Y están satisfechos?

-Hombre..le diré. No puede negarse que se les trata bien y que cobran mejor. Cuando subió el precio del zinc, la fábrica de Meadowbrook aumentó, sin que nadie lo pidiera, todos los jornales: muchos con sus ahorro tienen casa propia, y algunos hasta tierras.

-Pues, entonces, ¿cómo se quejan?

-¡Tiene gracias la pregunta! Para hacerse respetar. Si los pobres no gritamos de cuando en cuando, ¿qué harían los ricos por nosotros? ¡Los ricos!..

El bueno del barbero, al llegar a este punto, me ofreció toda una selecta conferencia contra el Capital, contra el Orden y contra la Religión.

No quise discutirle. El hombre argumentaba con una frase contudente:-“¡Lea usted la “Cultura Obrera” y a ver si usted no habla como yo!”

-Unas cuantas preguntas más quise hacerle al ácrata barbero.

-¿Y ustedes los españoles que en toda esta región habitan ¿siguen siendo oficialmente españoles?

El barbero sonrió algo irónico, quién sabe si pensando que él no tiene patria alguna: pero dignose contestar:

-Españoles…no sabemos si lo somos. España no tiene ni la menor noticia de que existimos aquí. En todos los Estados Unidos solo hay tres Consulados…¡Cualquiera sabe dónde está el nuestro! De aquí que algunos de nosotros hayan preferido la ciudadanía norteamericana que por lo menos les protege. Y los demás no hay quien nos ampare.

-¿Y no se han hecho gestiones para conseguir ni un simple Consulado honorario?

-Sí, señor. Hace un par de meses que según hemos sabido, se propuso a Madrid la creación de un Viceconsulado honorario, indicándose para él a un buen abogado italiano, muy amigo de todos nosotros.el señor don Biagio Mercadino y como canciller parece ser que van a nombrar a un español: el joven Cornelio Aizpiru, hojalatero que trabaja en la “Sutter Roofing & Cornice”, en Clarksburg.

-Pues esto ya significa algo.

-Muy poco. Nosotros lo que necesitamos es un Cónsul de carrera y español. ¿Por qué no lo hemos de tener? Y otra cosa que nos urge es la implantación del servicio de giros postales. Nuestros ahorros, que deberían ir a España,¡se quedan aquí! Ni siquiera benefician, ya que no a nuestras familias, a nuestros bancos.

-¿Y de religión?

-La mayoría no poseemos ninguna. Mejor dicho, aunque la quisiéramos , no podríamos ser más que protestantes…Y en eso han acabado los pocos que aún conservan aquí conciencia religiosa.

-Pero si no tienen ustedes religión, no será por falta de buenas enseñanzas…

-Ni buenas ni malas:la “Cultura Obrera” es todo. Pero esta no es para mujeres y niños y ¡claro! ni aquellas ni éstos, en su inmensa mayoría, aprendieron ni a leer y escribir.

-Entonces viven ustedes completamente alejados del mundo, y mucho más de la patria nativa…

-¡Hasta cierto punto nada más, porque Clarksburg está cerca; y en Meadowbrook, sin ir más lejos, hasta tenemos un magnífico almacén de comestibles, en el que abundan los productos españoles, y especialmente toda clase de conservas…Algo es algo.

-¿Y les obligan a ustedes a surtirse de ese almacén?

-¡No, señor! Compra solo el que quiere y lo que quiere.

-¿Y están ustedes fraternalmente unidos los tres mil españoles que por aquí se encuentran?

-¡Qué hemos de estar! Cada uno pertenece a su bando, y nada quiere saber de los otros.La unión repugna a nuestro temperamento.

-Pues la unión sería la fuerza.

-Pero como nosotros nos oponemos a todo lo que se nos quiera imponer por la fuerza..

 

Pidiendo una escuela

Salimos de Grasselli, regresamos a Clarksburg y aún tuvimos tiempo de ir a Meadowbrook.

Mi cicerone volvió a tomar la palabra para decirme:

-No dude usted, vea lo que vea que los españoles somos sobrios, trabajadores y hasta respetuosos con las leyes..¡Si usted conociera a los italianos!..Lo que pasa a los nuestros es sencillamente que aquí están influenciados por unos trouble-makers cuyas doctrinas anarquistas encuentran campo propicio…

-¿Y a qué atribuye usted esta influencia?

-La falta de educación es la única culpable.

-Y usted, que con tanta cordura me habla y me guía, ¿por qué no influye cerca de sus compatriotas para que vuelvan por el buen camino?

-Porque yo,señor..-balbuceó lentamente y acaso con vergüenza-ya no sé cuál es ese camino…¡Soy un desdichado! Empecé como esos, renegando hasta de Dios y hoy, casado,¡con cinco hijos!..sufro a solas, porque a nadie se lo puedo contar, la pena horrible de que estas criaturas mías en nada crean tampoco..¡ni a nadie esperan que les traiga una fe!…

Por eso he querido que usted viniera, que usted se enterase de cómo vivimos, y a ver si usted consigue que alguien venga a ilustrarnos, a despertar nuestra conciencia y nuestro entendimiento ¡aunque sea un cura que no nos sepa hablar más que de Dios!…

Ya en Meadowbrook asistí a una reunión de mineros, españoles todos, que proyectaban- ignoré aún por qué- declararse en huelga.

Mi compañero me presentó como uno de ellos y hasta me invitó a que les hablase.

Fueron aquellos instantes de alucinación. Les hablé como a hermanos. Les recordé la patria, les evoqué a los padres que allá quedaron lejos..Y les hablé, sincero, de la necesidad de que se instruyeran, de que aprendiesen a ser algo más que inconscientes instrumentos de trabajo…

Una voz me interrumpió:

-¡Lo que nos hace falta es una Escuela Moderna!

Y otra voz agregó:

-¡Aunque no sea moderna!

Mi compañero me apretó el brazo con íntima emoción.

-Piden porque no saben lo que piden, una Escuela Moderna…En la fábrica donde yo trabajo, la “Clarksburg Zinc Company”, se ha sabido que en North View existe una sociedad secreta de dinamiteros ¡ y a punto han estado de despedirnos a todos los trabajadores españoles!…El director , aunque es judío, ha pedido al Obispo católico de Clarksburg que él interceda y nos hable….

No quise oír más. España tiene en Norteamérica más de setenta mil compatriotas, abandonados,¡perdidos! Aquí viven sin esperanza de que España les oiga…

A España, que supo descubrir un mundo, conquistarlo, y perderlo, aún le queda algo por descubrir.

Sus propios hijos ausentes.

(Las Novedades, NY, 24-II-1916)

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