Invisible Immigrants: Crowdfunding Homestretch

alonso_159_copyOur goal:  To publish a deluxe book of photographs that will document, celebrate and honor the unsung lives of the tens of thousands of Spaniards who settled in the United States in the late nineteenth- and early twentieth- centuries.

Our method:  For several years now, Luis Argeo and James D. Fernández have been traveling all over the U.S. and Spain, conducting research in libraries and archives, visiting cemeteries, interviewing descendants of immigrants, and, whenever possible, scanning their family archives.  In addition, for more than a year-and-a-half, we have curated a Facebook page which will soon have 5,000 followers.  We originally thought of the FB page as a site for us to display our findings, but it quickly became much more than that: social media have helped us grow the archive, build community, and help reconnect the scattered elements of this little known Spanish diaspora.

Outcomes:  So far, we have amassed a vast digital archive of more than 6,000 images.  Since they have been stashed away in private family albums for the last 60 years, most have only been seen by a handful of people.  Wonderful images of Spanish immigrants at rest, work and play, in spontaneous snapshots and composed studio portraits, in diverse places like Hawaii, New York, New Jersey, West Virginia, Connecticut, Vermont, California, Florida, Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Vermont, Rhode Island, etc.  We will make a selection of several hundred of these private images in order to create a public album of the Spanish diaspora in the US.

The campaign:  Our immigrant ancestors didn’t use words like “crowdfunding” or “microdonations”, and yet, for almost every one of their initiatives, they practiced those things.  If they wanted to build a social club, organize a show, or buy an ambulance to send to their beleaguered patria, they would do a colecta or suscripción, asking each member of the community to contribute according to their means.  We decided to follow the same method for the production of this project, which we now call “crowdfunding.”  We are using the secure Kickstarter platform –which is owned, operated and guaranteed by Amazon– to accept donations as small as $1.00.  A pledge of $55.00 entitles the donor to a copy of the book.

Campaign results so far:  With 10 days left in the campaign, we are at 80% of our target Cabo 37lowerres($27,996/$35,000).  263 backers have made contributions ranging from $1.00 – $5,000.  About 425 copies of the book have been pre-ordered.  Our goal is within reach, but we need a strong final push.  Kickstarter campaigns are all-or-nothing endeavours:  we establish a target and a deadline; backers pledge their support; if the target is reached by the deadline, the pledges are processed, and the project is realized; the the target is not reached, the pledges are nullified, the campaign fails, and the book does not get published.

Campaign highlights:

*thus far, we have received celebrity endorsements from Plácido Domingo, Guillermo Fesser and Elena Anaya,and, most recently, the great Spanish chef and restaurateur José Andrés.  We are working on several other high-profile endorsements for the homestretch.

*since the campaign began, we have either completed or scheduled interviews with La Nueva España, El Comercio, El Diario-La Prensa (NY), Voices of NY, and Pura Política.  (We’ll include links as they become available).  Many sympathetic blogs and FB pages have helped spread the word:  Lori Needleman, Humans of Spain, Revista Libero, and others.  El Diario-La Prensa invited us to contribute an op-ed, which was published on October 4.

*several Spanish businesses (eg. Despaña of NY and Carmen and Lola of Miami) and organizations (eg. Tampa’s Centro Español) have come on board as sponsors, and we will be working with a number of others in the closing days of the campaign.

*many descendants of Spanish immigrants have become aware of our work thanks to this campaign; their archives will be incorporated into the project as we move forward.

Pitch:  With the cooperation of scores of descendants of Spanish immigrants from all over the United States and Spain, we are compiling what essentially will be the graphic archive of the Spanish diaspora in the U.S.  And if you help us reach our crowdfunding goal, “Invisible Immigrants:  Spaniards in the Unites States 1868 – 1945″ we will produce a gorgeous book and keepsake that will feature many of the highlights of that visual archive, and that will use images to tell the largely unknown story of these invisible immigrants.  Please help us as generously as you can.


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Plácido Domingo Sings the Praises of “Invisible Immigrants”

The legendary tenor salutes our project to produce a deluxe book of photos that will document, celebrate and honor the lives of Spanish immigrants in the United States.

A special message of support from the great Hispano-Mexican tenor, Plácido Domingo
A special message of support from the great Hispano-Mexican tenor, Plácido Domingo

“Most people have no idea that tens of thousands of Spaniards emigrated to the United States in the late nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Some may have heard of figures like the great Lucrecia Borja –La Bori–, who sang at New York’s Metropolitan Opera for decades, or the legendary Brooklyn-born actress and dancer Margarita Cansino –better known to most as Rita Hayworth. But these are only two of the most visible representatives of a vibrant and mostly invisible community of tens of thousands of Spaniards who have quietly made major contributions to the social and cultural fabric of the US.

I salute and support this “Invisible Immigrants” project, which will rescue and disseminate the legacy of these unsung men and women. “

“La mayoría de la gente no tiene ni idea de que, a finales del XIX y principios del XX, decenas de miles de españoles emigraron a Estados Unidos. Puede que algunos hayan oído hablar de figuras como la gran Lucrecia Borja –La Bori– que cantó durante décadas en la Metropolitan Opera de Nueva York– o de la bailadora y actriz Margarita Cansino –mejor conocida como Rita Hayworth. Pero estas son tan sólo dos figuras visibles de una comunidad vibrante y principalmente invisible de decenas de miles de españoles que sin ruido han hecho grandes contribuciones al tejido social y cultural de los EEUU.

Saludo y apoyo el proyecto de “Inmigrantes Invisibles”, ya que ayudará a conservar y divulgar el legado de estos hombres y mujeres anónimos.”

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Help! Crowdfunding for “Invisible Immigrants: Spaniards in the US, 1868 -1945″

alonso_159_copyWe have launched a kickstarter campaign with the goal of publishing a deluxe book of photos that will document, celebrate and honor the lives of Spanish immigrants in the United States.

You can learn all about the project and contribute to its realization here.


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A Tale of Two Covers

canton,1938-1945Thanks to Kathy Pujazón Meers, who has lovingly preserved her grandfather’s papers, we can now study and enjoy the programs printed by the Spanish American Center (Centro Hispano-Americano) of Canton, Ohio, for the annual summer picnics hosted by and for the Spanish colony in that city, beginning in 1936. Kathy is in the process of scanning all of this material (thanks, again!), and we hope to soon be able to upload the entire collection. It’s a gold mine for the historian or history buff.

The program covers, particularly in the early years, are beautifully designed. As we were going over the first batch of scanned programs that Kathy has sent to us, we noticed a striking fact: the 1943 cover –which focuses on the US war effort in World War II– recycles and repurposes the cover from five years earlier –which focuses on the then-ongoing Spanish Civil War.

A fine essay could be written about this repurposing and recycling. About how the repetition suggests that the Canton colony almost certainly saw World War II as a continuation of the struggle against Fascism that had begun in Spain in 1936. About how the handshake of the 1938 cover would seem to span the Atlantic – Republican Spaniards at the front, in Spain, reaching out to Republican Spaniards in the rearguard, like those in Canton, Ohio–, whereas the handshake in the 1943 cover seems to be between Americans, united in stance, united in victory. About how in five years the language of the program cover has switched from Spanish to English, pointing to the process of assimilation that was certainly accelerated by the outcome of the Spanish Civil War and the outbreak of World War II.

In sum, even though the two are almost identical, the 1938 cover seems to emerge from a community that is still straddling two countries and two languages, whereas the 1943 cover points to a community that knows that it has passed the point of no return.  The implications of that knowledge will powerfully condition the experience of the immigrants, and, in particular, the experience of their children.

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New Document: Program from a 1934 soccer match, Canton, Ohio

Cabo 37lowerresWe recently made an extraordinarily productive and enjoyable trip to Canton, Ohio, where we attended the annual picnic of the town’s Spanish community.  The Spanish folks there were incredibly hospitable and generous, and we were able to gather tons of information and interviews, stories and images, all of which will help us reconstruct more fully the history of Spanish immigrants in that part of the country.

Special thanks to Laura Goyanes, of Cleveland, who organized the overall trip for us, and to Chris and Mike Vega, who were our invaluable contacts in Canton.  There were well over 100 people at the picnic; the Spanish Club in Canton is doing a great job trying to preserve the legacy of their immigrant ancestors.

Among the jewels we were able to scan was this 16-page program from a 1934 soccer match and picnic held in Canton.  Documents like these are goldmines of information, and they’re also a lot of fun to look at!  Thanks to the Cabo family for preserving and sharing this beautiful document.

Enjoy it and share it  here. [It's a 15M file, so it might take a while to load.  It's worth the wait!]

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


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


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


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