May We Toot our Own Horn for a Sec?


We recently put out a call to some of our friends and collaborators, to ask them to reflect on what our project has meant to them and their communities across the United States. The response has been very heartwarming.  Here are excerpts from some of the notes we’ve received.  Thanks to all who responded.  We love you too!  This kind of feedback is what keeps us going, through thick and thin.  There’s much work to be done.  If you’d like to support us, please consider purchasing our book Invisible Immigrants:  Spaniards in the US (1868-1945).

¡Gracias, y adelante!


Photo courtesy of Luz Castaños.  Avelino Castaños, c. 1920

Robert Sanfiz, Director of Centro Español/La Nacional, New York City

Founded in 1868, the Centro Español/La Nacional is New York’s oldest Spanish immigrant organization. Once a center of the social lives of thousands of Spaniards in New York, La Nacional fell on hard times when, throughout the second half of the twentieth century, the immigrants dispersed and assimilated.  But now, at the start of the twenty-first century, thanks to the renewed interest of the immigrants’ grandchildren, together with the arrival to New York of a substantial number of young Spanish expats, new life has been breathed into our organization.

The work of Spanish Immigrants in the United States is invaluable to all of us, because it constitutes the bridge to the past that we –both the descendants of the immigrants, and the new arrivals– urgently need, in order to understand and honor our past, and to chart and navigate our futures.

Mike Muñoz (northern California)

My name is Michael Campos Munoz. I am the past Chairman of the Archie Green Fund for Labor Culture, and the founder of the Hawaiian Spaniard Project. We are the descendants of the eight thousand Spanish immigrants who found their way to the United States via Hawaii. I am also a member of the Club Español in Woodland Ca and the Rocklin Spanish Club. These two clubs were formed to support and improve the lives of Spanish Immigrants and have existed in one form or another since the 1920’s.


Spanish children of migrant farm workers, near Vacaville, CA, c. 1925.  Notice the tents in the background.

Until Professor James Fernandez began to collect and record the voices of our elderly parents and grandparents, very little had been done. Our rich history was dying, becoming invisible. James Fernandez has brought our historical memories back to life.  Accumulated in  his vast files are first and second hand accounts of the Spanish American War (1898), the building of the Panama Canal, The Vacaville Pruners Strike 1932, The Spanish Civil War 1936, the diaspora of thousands of Spaniards to North America between 1898 and 1940. They include forgotten memories of food and culture, our left wing roots brought from Spain, erased from our memories by Francisco Franco, Joe McCarthy and the anti communist union purges of the 1950’s .

His collection of photographs is incredible, and through social media, he has re-united families in Spain and the United States. He has given us a face of our own in the Spanish speaking community of Americans. Most Americans are dumbfounded when they learn that working-class Spaniards took part in the modern immigration history of the US.

I can only compare his work to that of Alan Lomax the renowned musicologist, and the modern day folklorist, Archie Green.

JOHN RANÓN, Tampa, Florida


Ángel Rañón and José Oural, at the Centro Asturiano in Tampa, Florida.

For years, many of those who comprise the Spanish colony in Tampa wondered how we fit into the big picture of Spanish immigration in the United States. We were curious and suspected that we were a significant piece of the puzzle, but we could not be sure.  Dr. Fernandez’ stellar research on a national level has resulted in giving form to the whole of the picture.  In so doing he has enlightened us and confirmed our place in the larger story.  Of course, for this we are grateful, but for the Centro Español of Tampa in particular, his efforts have also served to energize and encourage our now 126 year old institution to continue in its quest to preserve, honor, and celebrate the legacy of our founders and those that came after.  His methods, curiosity, scope of inquiry, devotion, and unflagging energy are an inspiration.

Kathy Pujazón Meers, Canton, Ohio

Our grandparents came here from Spain and their children grew up as life long friends. I Cabo 37lowerresam a second generation born here in the United States and feel the Spanish American Center Club has made me the person I am today.  When the club first got word that you wanted to visit, the older members were not sure what you wished to know or how important your project would become.  Facebook has been the best social media out there for everyone to see the interviews you did and post the information you have gathered.  Jim, your project has brought all of us here in the United States and Spain together.  Through pictures that you have scanned and posted, families across the world have been reconnected.

You lit a passion in myself to learn more about the Spanish people who came to Canton.  I started the project of gathering obituaries, pictures of headstones, and funeral cards for past members of the Spanish American Center.  I am interested in finding what jobs they did here, where in Spain they came from, where they might have lived in Canton, who are their family members, etc.  I found an obituary just last week for Florentino Fernandez who died at the age of 22.  He was the first Canton soldier to be killed in the North African area March 1943 during World War II.  He received the Purple Heart posthumously. The members of our club have told and shown me their appreciation for my interest in this project.

We need to continue with what our grandparents started when they came to America, preserve our heritage, continue the values they passed down, the importance and closeness of family, traditions, and recipes.

Your continuation of this project is so important.  Little did I know that there were so many of our Spanish communities throughout the United States.  Many of these communities no longer have active clubs. You have traveled to meet many of the descendants of our ancestors who came to America, and to document this history that can not be lost. You just have to see how many people follow your Facebook page, Spanish Immigrants in the United States, to realize the impact you have made on all of us.

Thank you again for all that you have done and bringing us together.


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Hawaiian Star, front page, 27 April 1907.


“My grandmother (child in front) and her family arrived to Hawaii aboard the Heliopolis in 1907.”  –photo and caption courtesy of Robert Martínez

When Columbus discovered America he knelt and offered a prayer of thanksgiving, according to history, and when the Spaniards discovered Honolulu this morning they also bent the knee and supplemented the act of adoration by fireworks.

Daylight fireworks in the grounds of a United States immigration station is something unusual So thought inspector Raymond Brown today when he heard a sizzling, hissing, sky-rockety sound and rushed out to see what was up.

There was a little group of bare-headed Spanish men and women, with rapt face turned toward the morning sun, and in their midst one of the immigrants was shooting off rocket after rocket as sort of an announcement to high heaven that their long journey was at an end an to God and the Hawaii Board of Immigration belonged all the glory.

Two thousand tho hundred eighty four men, women and children not counting three stowaways landed on Hawaiian soil between 7:40 and 9:40 o’clock this morning from the British immigrant steamship Heliopolis. 47 days from Malaga, Spain, which was off the harbor and examined by the quarantine officials yesterday afternoon and lifted er anchor to enter the harbor at 6:15 a.m. today, docking at the channel wharf at 7 o’clock sharp.

The great open ports, that permitted the egress of the lot of new citizen material, faced the growing daylight which made beautiful every thing upon which their eyes first fell when they marched ashore.


Passengers preparing to embark on the Heliopolis, Málaga, March, 1907.  Photo appeared in the publication “Nuevo Mundo,” April 1907.

Eleven hundred, half of the multitude, are under fourteen years of age. They are sturdy looking little ones, these children the large majority, and their parents are wholesome appearing people for the most part. Poorly but cleanly dressed, packing baby-chairs, small boxes and trunks, bags full of clothes, sacred articles of household furniture, souvenirs of the homes left far behind in the old world, articles which are to be the nuclei of new, it is hoped, better homes here, trudged one after the other in a long, wondering, observing, happy-looking line from the towering immigrant ship, through the channel wharf shed, across the road to the fresh, green lawns and tidy grounds of the Federal immigration station to undergo the examination and registration required before they are fully admitted to the Paradise of the Pacific.

Inspector Brown had his coat off and every now and then would take a sailor’s hitch at his suspenderless white flannels. He had his hands full and his head full, and his hear full too, for there were, of necessity in so great a crowd and after so long and continued a voyage, several little lives just going out and the doctor had to be called here, and a dose of medicine administered there, and a hurried call for the whisky bottle had to be attended to.

Among so many children it is remarkable that more are not sick. As it is, but eight cases of contagious disease at present exist in “New Madrid,” seven of measles and one of mumps.

A number have already been segregated on account of trachoma, and where one member of a family is sick the whole family is put apart, so that the members need not be separated.

There were a few deaths among the children during the voy age and the original shipment from Málaga was somewhat increased on the journey by births to the number of about two score. Life prevailed over death by several points. The increase has not shown any signs of ceasing and returns are expected daily.

The men of the crowd are a hardy looking lot, though they do not as a rule run to longitude. Many appear lazy in manner, but perhaps there is more nonchalance than downright laziness in their composition. They are good family men, if one may judge by the concern shown for their offspring. They seem ready to relieve the often overburdened mothers as much as possible in the matter of caring for the youngsters.

Religion percolates the host of immigrants as meat streaks the bacon fat. Among them is


Priest who accompanied the immigrants aboard the Heliopolis.

a priest. They would not come without him. His blessing at a birth, his comfort at a death, his continued prophecy of sure arrival in the new country and his invocations in the night watches for the cessation of the storm, were as the voice of a father to his fearful children.

Among them there will develop villains, men in whose blood is the brew of brigands, men who will wield the knife when angered and need the strong hand of the law when steeped in wine, but by far the greatest number of these men are honest, reliable, reasonable, wholesome, clean-minded, children- and home- and wife-loving men whose philosophy is practical as it is sometimes picturesque.

Among them there will develop villains, men in whose blood is the brew of brigands, men who will wield the knife when angered and need the strong hand of the law when steeped in wine, but by far the greatest number of these men are honest, reliable, reasonable, wholesome, clean-minded, children- and home- and wife-loving men whose philosophy is practical as it is sometimes picturesque.

And the women, they are workers and helpers and made of stern stuff, for they are poor and know what is endurance, suffering and labor. They came with glad smiles and happy hopes, looking upon Hawaii as a promised land. Theirs is to write much of Hawaii’s future history. Among the girls are the someday mothers and grandmothers of governors, legislators, supervisors, priests, merchants, teachers and leaders. Beauty is well represented. There are many beautiful maids among them and in their eyes are fair promises for Hawaii.

The boys are a vigorous lot and eager. The rising generation of these immigrants will be the greatest return on the investment of this big migration.

But little trouble was experienced throughout the voyage from Malaga. Once or twice the cook spoiled the bread and disturbances were threatened. One man, of an ugly disposition showed an inclination to lead an uprising which was promptly settled by the right hand of a ship’s office carefully placed under the tip of the jaw. The ship’s doctor, as may be imagined, was kept busy. The vessel was crowded and there was, of course much to be put up with. But the accommodations aboard the Heliopolis were way above those the Suveric had when she brought the Portuguese shipment from the Azores and Madeira.

Among the girls are the someday mothers and grandmothers of governors, legislators, supervisors, priests, merchants, teachers and leaders.

In a little galvanized iron shed at the mauka end of the channel wharf are the offices of Walter F. Dillingham and Consul Canavarro. [Dillingham was appointed, it will be remembered, by the Hawaii Board of Immigration to look after the immigrants after they should be passed by the Federal immigration authorities and Consul Canavarro will be on hand as long as the people are being handled to listen patiently to all complaints and to set all troubles right.

For some reason no one was allowed aboard the Heliopolis. The master of the ship, according to the first officer, had given such orders. Not that anybody was particularly desirous of going aboard, except in the interests of duty, for an immigrant ship is about the most ill-smelling thing in the world. Nothing exceeds the unpleasant odor unless it be that which emanates from a still larger immigrant vessel.

This forenoon all the families with sick members were transferred to quarantine island, where they will be well cared for; children dying upon arrival will be buried or cremated this afternoon. Tomorrow morning it is hoped that the Hawaiian band will play for the immigrants.

Over eight hundred bunks have been arranged on the channel wharf for the accommodation of women and children as they are passed by the immigration authorities and until they are disposed of on various plantations.

This morning numerous representatives of sugar plantations and other citizens viewed the newcomers and the general opinion was, as nearly as could be gathered, that they were a far better looking lot of people than those brought here in the Suveric.

Inspector Raymond Brown is of the opinion that they are a most desirable people and so expressed himself this morning. From his close observation he believes they could not easily be excelled as a lot of immigrants.

There is one among the immigrants who represents a newspaper of Madrid. He is a young, adventurous sort of chap, evidently, for he has undergone the hardships of an immigrant ship for the express purpose of writing back the story of the journey, the reception and prospects in Hawaii. He is Señor Brozas and he will go along with a family, like the rest to a plantation and do his share of the work, remaining incog as far as possible. Incidentally he is going to look up grape growing possibilities for certain home interests. He is authority for the statement that the present expedition received the blessing of the Pope, which is doubtless some satisfaction to the religious members of the crowd.

As a matter of form an investigation will be held here by the immigration authorities into the incidents of the journey, treatment aboard ship and the conditions under which the people embarked. It is believed that everything will be found absolutely satisfactory.

The Heliopolis goes hence to Hong-Kong to load for an English port or Dublin.



Further reading:

Eye-Witness Account of the Heliopolis Journey

SS Heliopolis in the News, March 1907


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Spain’s Civil War and the Americans who fought in it: a convoluted legacy

James D. Fernandez, New York University

Eighty years ago this week, in the Spanish North African enclave of Melilla, a group of right-wing generals staged a military coup, aimed at overthrowing Spain’s democratically elected government.

The July 1936 uprising unleashed what would come to be known – somewhat inaccurately – as the Spanish Civil War, a horrific conflagration that lasted almost three years.

The general consensus is that the war sent about a half-million Spaniards into exile, and another 500,000 to their deaths. Still today, more than 100,000 Spaniards lie in hundreds of unmarked mass graves strewn all over the Iberian peninsula.

Those mass graves still haunt contemporary Spain, and the question of how the Spanish Civil War ought to be commemorated is still far from buried, not only in Spain, but also in the U.S.

Just two weeks ago, when President Obama visited Spain, the gift he received from Pablo Iglesias, the leader of the upstart left-wing political party Podemos, generated controversy.pabloiglesias.jpeg

The present was a copy of the book “The Abraham Lincoln Brigade: A Picture History,” and in it, Iglesias penned a dedication to President Obama:

“The first Americans who came to Europe to fight against fascism were the men and women of the Lincoln Brigade. Please convey to the American people the gratitude felt by Spanish democrats for the antifascist example provided by these heroes.”

To understand the symbolism and the controversial nature of this gift, we must examine the convoluted legacy of that war whose 80th anniversary is commemorated this week.

International war

Pablo Iglesias’ inscription points to why the term “Civil War” is a misnomer when applied to Spain, 1936.

Though the Spanish war did pit Spaniard against Spaniard, the conflict quickly became international. Within days of the onset of the coup, Hitler and Mussolini intervened on the side of the insurgent generals. Before long, the Soviet Union would come to the aid of the Loyalists, also known as the Republican forces, who supported the government.

To the chagrin of Spain’s elected government, the U.K., France and the U.S., in full appeasement mode, decided to remain neutral. They even imposed – and enforced – an embargo on the sale of arms to the Republic.

Despite – or perhaps because of – that embargo, for the duration of the war, Spain would be on almost everybody’s mind in the U.S., whether they liked it or not.

Moviegoers, for example, eager to see newly released movies such as Charlie Chaplin’s “Modern Times” or Walt Disney’s “Snow White,” had to sit through newsreels depicting the new form of modern warfare being premiered in Spain. With melodramatic music swirling and swelling in the background, audiences would hear foreboding newsreel narrators exclaiming:

“hundreds of thousands of noncombatants suffer the indescribable horrors of a continuous nightmare of fear and destruction.”

‘Second Year of Spain’s Civil War’ at 1’30”

The new medium of photojournalism – Life Magazine began circulation in 1936 – would bring fresh and horrifying images of the faraway conflict into the living rooms of average Americans.

Indeed, the war in Spain was felt with such immediacy in the U.S. that in an unprecedented display of international solidarity, some 2,800 American men and women risked life and limb to travel to Spain and join the International Brigades: the 35,000 volunteers from 50 nations who were recruited and organized by the Communist International to defend Spain’s Republic.

The first contingent of Americans arrived to Spain in January of 1937, and they called themselves the “Abraham Lincoln Battalion,” invoking the leader who had successfully presided over a Civil War in their own country.

U.S. volunteers in Spain, spring 1938.
New York University’s Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives, Author provided

Ernest Hemingway’s portrait of Robert Jordan in “For Whom The Bell Tolls” would become the iconic image of an American volunteer in the Spanish Civil War. But if Hemingway’s protagonist was a solitary and rugged WASP from Montana, most of the nonfiction volunteers emerged from vast, politically active communities, which were decidedly urban, working-class and ethnic.

The closest thing to a rifle that most of the volunteers had ever handled before Spain was probably a picket sign. Unlike Hemingway’s outdoorsman, real-life volunteers were likely to have had more experience sleeping on tenement fire escapes than in field tents.

And for each individual who made the ultimate sacrifice of taking up arms in Spain, there were thousands of Loyalist sympathizers who stayed behind. They raised funds to send medical supplies to the besieged government. They urged the FDR government to “Lift the embargo Against Loyalist Spain.” They did their bit, as the popular slogan went, “to make Madrid the tomb of fascism.”

Anti-fascist war

The Republic, hamstrung by the embargo, and splintered by internal differences, eventually fell. Franco’s troops marched into Madrid in April of 1939. Exactly six months later, Hitler invaded Poland and, according to most standard accounts, World War II was officially underway.

The horrors of that war help explain why the memory of Spain was subsequently eclipsed and almost forgotten. But there were other forces at work that would contribute to the transformation of how Spain would be remembered.

The fact is that, at the time, for many contemporary observers, the war in Spain was of a piece with the war against Hitler.

For starters, the Lincoln volunteers frequently depicted themselves as soldiers attempting to stave off another world war. In November, 1937, for example, volunteer Hy Katz would write home to his mom:

“If we sit by and let them grow stronger by taking Spain, they will move on to France and will not stop there; and it won’t be long before they get to America. Realizing this, can I sit by and wait until the beasts get to my very door – until it is too late, and there is no one I can call on for help? And would I even deserve help from others when the trouble comes upon me, if I were to refuse help to those who need it today? If I permitted such a time to come – as a Jew and a progressive, I would be among the first to fall under the axe of the fascists; – all I could do then would be to curse myself and say, ‘Why didn’t I wake up when the alarm-clock rang?’”

First National Conference of the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade n 1938. Robert Raven, in the middle, lost his eyesight while fighting.
Harris&Ewing, Library of Congress

In March of 1945, President Roosevelt himself, in a missive to a diplomat, would characterize the continuity he perceived between the Spanish war and WWII, between the Axis and Franco’s regime:

“Having been helped to power by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, and having patterned itself along totalitarian lines, the present regime in Spain is naturally the subject of distrust by a great many American citizens […] Most certainly we do not forget Spain’s official position with and assistance to our Axis enemies at a time when the fortunes of war were less favorable to us, nor can we disregard the activities, aims, organizations, and public utterances of the Falange [Spain’s Fascist party], both past and present.”

Even a publication like “Stars and Stripes,” a semi-official organ of the U.S. Armed Forces, would, in its European edition of July 1945, unhesitatingly affirm:

“Nine years ago last week, the first blow was struck in World War II. On July 17, 1936, in the picturesque garrison town of Melilla, in Spanish Morocco, a Spanish general and his Moroccan regiments proclaimed civil war against the infant, five-year-old Republic and its government…”

In 1945, the general contours of how the Spanish Civil War was likely to be remembered into the future were quite clear: as part and parcel of the long struggle against international fascism, perhaps even as the opening salvo of World War II.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the fifties…

Cold War

Between 1945 and 1955, Francisco Franco managed to refashion himself completely. No longer an ally of the Axis – in fact, he claimed that he had never been such a thing. Franco repackaged himself as a stalwart anti-communist, ruling over a strategic land mass at the corner of Africa and Europe. And it worked.

If, for FDR, Franco had been an illegitimate ruler, for Truman and Eisenhower, the generalissimo would become a crucial partner in the war between “freedom” and “communism.” Truman and Eisenhower helped end the Franco regime’s post-war diplomatic ostracism. In exchange, the U.S. got to build an archipelago of Cold War military bases on Spanish soil.

General Franco and President Eisenhower in Madrid in 1959
US National Archives

As Franco morphed from “Adolph’s Man in Madrid” to “Ike’s Man in Madrid,” and as the Spanish Civil War came to be viewed more and more through the retrospective lens of the Cold War, much history would get rewritten, on both sides of the Atlantic.

Franco actively destroyed or altered evidence of his dalliance with the Axis. And in the U.S., as historian Peter Carroll reminds us, it was precisely in anti-communist crusader Joseph McCarthy’s 1950s that George Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia” became a fixture of the Cold War canon. Orwell’s book was a powerful indictment of the Communist Party’s ruthless behavior in the war, and it was used to cast a shadow over the experiences and motivations of the Lincoln Brigade.

Before long, in both Spain and the U.S., the Spanish Civil War would be talked about not so much as an early battle of the anti-fascist World War II, but rather as a chapter in the annals of communist mischief and perfidy.

The actions of American volunteers, rather than being seen as heroic and prescient, would become suspect. And that is why, even 80 years on, Iglesias’s gift to Obama could still seem laden with symbolism and wrapped in controversy.The Conversation

James D. Fernandez, Professor of Spanish and Portuguese, Vice-President, Board of Governors, Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives, New York University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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“Un legado de humo” en España

Nuestro documental, “Un legado de humo/ A Legacy of Smoke”  –una melancólica evocación de la presencia de inmigrantes españoles en Tampa, Florida– tendrá cuatro proyecciones con coloquio este mes de julio en España.Slide1.jpg

En el gran teatro del Centro Asturiano de Tampa (Florida) se proyecta una película casera de 1937 rodada en la ciudad.  Los escasos asistentes intentan identificar los rostros que aparecen en la pantalla.  Un día antes, una profesora de piano centenaria imparte su clase semanal con una partitura muy especial.  Dos ancianos repasan el largo listado de motes tampeños que han recopilado durante años.  Y una mujer invita a su padre a almorzar y recordar con él la vida de sus antepasados.   Cuatro mini-relatos, como cuatro volutas de humo…

8 de julio, 19hh  Teatro de Ribadeo, Galicia. En el marco de “Ribadeo Indiano” una exploración y celebración de los vínculos transatlánticos de esta hermosa ciudad gallega. Coloquio posterior con los directores y con descendientes estadounidenses de emigrantes españoles:  Anthony Carreño, Laura Goyanes y John Rañón.

10 de julio, 20.30 h,  Círculo Habanero de A Devesa, Galicia.  Para esta proyección y coloquio, nos acoge el Círculo Habanero de la parroquia gallega del que salió uno de los protagonistas de la película: Ángel Rañón.  Nos acompañará en la proyección y coloquio el hijo de Don Ángel, John Rañón, de Tampa, Florida.

 12 de julio, 19.30h, Palacio de Valdés-Bazán,  Candamo, Asturias.  ¡Fueron tantos los tampeños que tenían raíces en este concejo de Asturias que había toda una zona de Ybor City conocida como el “Barrio Candamo”!  El nieto de uno de ellos, Anthony Carreño, nos acompañará en la proyección y coloquio posterior.  Nos acoge el ayuntamiento de Candamo.

14 de julio, 20 h. Sala Borau, Cineteca del Matadero, Madrid.  Coloquio posterior con los directores, y con Jacobo Rivera (periodista y escritor) y Emilio Silva (Asociación para la Recuperación de la Memoria Histórica).

Dirección: Luis Argeo y James D. Fernández
Duración: 50′
Idioma: Inglés y español con subtítulos en español
Año: 2015
País: EEUU/España

Trailer de “Un legado de humo/A Legacy of Smoke”

Página web del documental:

Para comprar el libro “Inmigrantes invisibles”






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Eye-Witness Account of the Heliopolis Journey

My Family’s Immigration from Spain to Hawaii and Life in the Sugar Plantation

[The following memoir was written by Ángela L. Plumbo (née Puerta León), in about 1979, at the age of 76. Because it was written from memories more than 70 years old, some of the details are likely to be inaccurate. Be that as it may, this is an extraordinary and rare first-person account of the Heliopolis crossing and of plantation life.  Document and photograph courtesy of Clifford Ramos, via our friends at the Hawaiian Spaniards Facebook Page.]

The Puerta family originated in Jaén, province of Andalucía, Spain.

My father, Manuel Puerta Calero was the youngest of three sons born to Alfonso Puerta and Teresa Calero.  Their forefathers had been wealthy land owners in Jaén but the family fortune had gradually diminished.

My mother, Dulce León Padilla, was the second daughter of the 7 children born to Clemente León and Manuela Padilla, wealthy and socially prominent in Jaen.

In 1886, Manuel and Dulce met and married in Jaén, shortly after his military discharge for a 4-year term of service.  They settled in Jaén and for a number of years he managed some of the León enterprises –olive groves and olive oil mill.  Eventually he became independent and established a soap factory in Jaén that prospered well for a number of years.


The photo was taken in the rear of the plantation home by the pineapple patch.  Ages: Teresa, 18; Frank, 21; Manuel, 14; father, 50; John, 12; Louie Cunha, 22; Josefa Puerta Cunha, 20; Ángela, 6.5; Emilia, 8; mother, 42; Baby Matilda, 6 months; Remedios, 3.5; Carmen, 17; Carmelita, 5.5.  Note:  Clemente, last of the children, was yet to be born.

By 1906 we were a family of 12 –10 children, father and mother– and business had dropped considerably.  In the latter part of that year an announcement appeared in the local papers soliciting family immigration to “Beautiful Hawaii” land of promise and opportunity.  To my father this must have seemed the ideal opportunity for change and adventure, because he lost no time in disposing of the factory and registering for immigrations, much to the amazement and dismay of relatives and friends.

Thus it was that on March 6, 1907 the Puerta family of 12 departed from the port of Málaga, Spain, on the SS Heliopolis for the long voyage around the Horn to a Hawaii with a stop for supplies in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

My recollection of the voyage is vague due to my age at the time –4 yrs, 9 mos.  But I know this segment of our history well from repeated telling in family conversations through the years.  Furthermore, for confirmation of dates, accuracy of data and fill-in of missing links, I recently consulted with two of my oldest sisters, then teenagers and now in their mid-eighties, which proved rewarding.


Spaniards preparing to board the SS Heliopolis, in Málaga, March of 1907. [Nuevo Mundo, Thursday, March 14, 1907, Año XIV, Num 688.]

The crossing was not altogether unpleasant in spite of cramped quarters, dull monotonous meals and stormy seas, though this cannot be said in my father’s case, who sept almost the entire voyage in his bunk deathly ill with sea sickness.  But the young folk had gay times in the evenings playing games and dancing in the recreation rooms.  There was a large hall for dancing where the band played nightly and additional entertainment was provided by some of the passengers gifted vocalists or instrumentalists, my father among them.  He played the guitar exceptionally well but was unable to perform except on the very rare occasions when the sea was extremely calm.

Apropos of my father’s unfortunate sea-sickness:  Canned milk provided for the babies was rationed but extra could be purchased in the ship’s store.  With a baby in our family this privilege was available to us, fortunately for my father who survived the voyage solely on a milk diet, the only nourishment his stomach could tolerate.

After 52 days at sea, broken by a 24-hour stop for supplies in Buenos Aires, Argentina, we arrived in Honolulu late in the afternoon, April 26, 1907, where an enormous crowd of natives, waving joyfully, greeted us with shouts of welcome and shower of flowers, while the Band played “Aloha.”  The surprise of such a warm welcome and relief of safe arrival moved us was another delightful surprise:  rows of endless tables piled high with tropical dishes and fruits.  We were lodged in tents equipped with comfortable sleeping accommodations.  Breakfast equalled the dinner in service, quantity and variety, as were al the meals that followed during our 5-day stay in Honolulu, location of the Company’s headquarters.

Routinely, after breakfast, the heads of families would report to Headquarters for assignment of destination.  They system of distribution was 10 families to each plantation, where furnished homes awaited them, including meal upon arrival with several days’ supply of staples; such as coffee, sugar, rice, salt, etc.  The Company Store provided credit and all accounts deducted from monthly wages which the families patronized until they had saved enough money to buy in town where the same merchandise sold for less.

Our family was assigned to Papaiko on the Island of Hawaii not far from Hilo.  In early morning on the 5th day we boarded a Company boat and arrived in Hilo late that afternoon, where a group of Puerto Ricans waited to escort us to the plantation.  Incidently [sic], while disembarking my oldest sister, Josefa, fell in the water and was rescued by a native Portuguese youth, son of a prominent family in Papaiko at that time, by name of Cunha.  Courtship followed and marriage a year later.

The house assigned to us in Papaiko was the largest in the village, since we were the largest family, not only there, but in the entire ship’s list of 220.  To our great surprise and relief, after the long weary walk from Hilo to the plantation, we found the banquet-size table laden with platters of codfish rice and tropical fruits prepared by a Puerto Rican woman.  Ironically, our farewell dinner in Spain had been Codfish Rice!

To our great surprise and relief, after the long weary walk from Hilo to the plantation, we found the banquet-size table laden with platters of codfish rice and tropical fruits prepared by a Puerto Rican woman.  Ironically, our farewell dinner in Spain had been Codfish Rice!

At this point let me explain that all aides, from landing time on, were Puerto Rican because they spoke Spanish, much to the relief and delight of the “Strangers in Paradise.”

We also had a bigger plot of land, where my father immediately planted pineapples,


The Puerta family according to the 1910 federal census, Papaikou Village, Hilo, Hawaii.

bananas, papayas, sweet potatoes, etc.  The coffee tree front of the house was ornamental as well as productive in the last year of our stay.  My father also built an oven, which tumbled with the first earthquake the following day.  The second oven was built by a native Portuguese.  It was earthquake-proof and served my mother well with baking and roasting coffee.  To a Spaniard bread is truly the “staff of lie” because it constitutes a great part of the meal, beginning with soup and ending with cheese.  Therefore baking was a major household chore in our family.  I recall the ease with which my mother managed the long handled paddle to remove the enormous round loaves baked on banana leaves.

The Contract

TERM:  4 years

WORK:  Planting and cutting sugar cane –6-day week.

WAGES:  Men -$24.00 per month.  Increased to $30.00 the 2nd year

                   Women –$10.00 per month.  Increased to $15.00 the 2nd year.

HOME: Rent free (with land for gardening)

BONUS:  Gift home on completion of the 4-year term.

EDUCATION:  Adult evening classes in English, tuition free.

hawaicartelThe plantation life proved very disagreeable and undesirable for my parents and grown children, who missed the culture and comforts of city life they had known in Spain, They yearned for better social life and surroundings, therefore a few months previous to the termination of contract my oldest brother, Frank, obtained employment on merchant ship bound for San Francisco and made several crossings, returning each time with glowing reports on the beauty of the city and countless employment opportunities with better wages.  In view of such bright prospects my parents decided to make the move on termination to the contract, which was near expiration.  He forfeited the “bonus gift home” and as son as freed from contract we moved to Hilo in preparation for the final move to San Francisco.  My father and two brothers went ahead and soon were employed, rented the largest flat on Telegraph Hill and arranged transportation for Mother and the rest of us.  In early Spring of 1912 we embarked on the SS Wilhelmina in Hilo and arrived in San Francisco 5 days later.  We have all remained in California, except for Remedios (our baby in the voyage from Spain) who returned to Spain after her retirement in 1974 and remains there enjoying the Spanish way of life among our countless cousins.

Mother passsed away in June 1919, age 52, victim of that year’s deadly epidemic of influenza.

Father passed away in December, 1934, from intestinal hemorrhage.

The seven of us remaining and well:

Teresa –88

Carmen –87

Emilia –78

Angela –76

Remedios –73

Matilde –70

Clemente –69



Angela L. Plumbo, Immigrant

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Home Jersey or Away Jersey

by Luis Argeo

Any one who would be surprised to find a Sporting de Gijón jersey framed between trophies and other soccer relics behind the bar of a social club in a city in the Midwest United States, should perhaps read this story.

[A slightly different version of this article appeared in Spanish in the Spring 2016 issue (#16) of Líbero (Madrid, Spain).   Translated by Alejandro J. Fernández]

The Spanish Society Soccer Club of St. Louis.  The Society and club were founded by Asturian immigrants like Prudencio “Pete” García (in suit, in center), to provide structure and recreation as well as moral and financial support to the lives of the Spaniards who had come to the area to work in local industry, primarily the zinc works that had been built on the river front in South St. Louis. [Photo courtesy of Lori Becker and family]

In the neighborhood of Carondelet, in South Saint Louis (Missouri), the brick family homes that were built over a century ago still characterize the landscape; most are just a short walk away from the once-booming metal works that line the banks of the Mississippi River.  And ever since 1937, one of those reddish buildings, located on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Blow Street, has been home to the Spanish Society, a club founded by Spanish immigrants 10 years prior. In addition to a modest auditorium on the second floor and an impressive smokehouse for chorizos out back, the association has a cantina where the members, still today, can reminisce about the old times, while they play an occasional card game or the traditional Asturian past-time of “la rana.”  Two plasma screens feature European soccer matches whenever there are games. One afternoon, in 2011, a match between Real Madrid and Sporting de Gijón was on those flat screens. After watching a few plays, one of the old-timers in the club pointed to one of the rojiblanco players, a center midfielder named Nacho Cases, and wondered aloud:   “Hey, do you think that Cases boy might be the grandson of Chus?”

It turns out that the answer was “yes”; but to understand why an elderly man in St. Louis, Missouri was on a first name basis with the grandfather of a soccer star from northern Spain, we need to look at the fascinating and intertwined histories of soccer and immigration in the city of St. Louis.


At the start of the 20th century, huge steam ships crossed the Atlantic loaded with European immigrants who had hopes of prospering in a new continent. Between the XIXth and XXth centuries, some four million Spaniards packed their bags with equal measures of fear, hunger and excitement. Although the majority headed to Spanish-speaking countries in the Americas, tens of thousands of them passed through the Immigration Center of Ellis Island in New York.  Many stayed in the New York area, but many others boarded trains and headed towards factories with impossible names in places like Ohio, Kansas, or Missouri. Legend has it that a Basque man who lived in the Big Apple, Don Valentín Aguirre, would meet fellow Spaniards at the Manhattan docks and lead them to his Cherry Street boarding house, which doubled as a restaurant and an unofficial employment agency.


García Football Club of East St. Louis, c. 1921.  [Photo courtesy of Mary Ann Rodríguez]

Aguirre, and his wife, Benita Orbe, would provide the immigrants with baskets of food, whose size depended on the length of their train trip.  The Basque hosts would also pin a note on to the travelers’ lapels, indicating their final destination, so that the train conductors would know when to tell them to disembark.  It is thought that Atanasio Fernández and Ángel García were the first to get off the train at Saint Louis station, in 1901. They knew that there was work for them. The Edgar Zinc Co. factory needed men;  that company and others  would soon hire many more workers from the same part of Asturias as these two skilled laborers. Thus began the story of the Spanish colony of Saint Louis.  

In those first years of the twentieth century, while the people of the city hummed the song “Meet Me in St. Louis,”  and the town hosted both a major Universal Exposition and the third Olympic Games of the modern era (1904), the zinc foundry in Carondelet attracted large numbers of Spaniards, many of whom had experience at the zinc plant run by the Royal Asturian Mining Company in the seaside town of Arnao (Asturias). More men from that part of Asturias continued to arrive, seeking homes and jobs; new factories opened up on the other side of the Mississippi, in places like Fairmont City, Illinois, and even in states as far away as West Virginia or Pennsylvania.  The Spanish immigrants become known for their skill and endurance as furnacemen at the smelters, and a chain of vibrant and interconnected Asturian colonies eventually emerged along what we might call the zinc circuit, stretching from St. Louis and East St. Louis, all the way to Cherryvale, Kansas, Spelter, West Virginia, and Donora, Pennsylvania.  This surprises many Americans: though not as well known as other, larger immigrant groups –Germans, Italians, Irish or Scottish, for example– working-class Spaniards did participate in the immigrant history that forever transformed the US in the XIXth and XXth centuries.

By the time those first Asturian workers began arriving to the city, Robinson Field in North Saint Louis was already hosting soccer matches with more than 6,000 spectators, like the one between St. Teresa’s and Cycling Club in April of 1897. And when in 1905, the “Pilgrims,” an English team on an exhibition tour, was invited to play in the city against a team composed of local all-stars, there was an overflow crowd of fans at the 15,000-seat Cardinals baseball stadium. Just two years after that English visit (the locals lost 10-0), and three years after the exhibition matches of the Olympic Games in the city, the first fully professional soccer league in the United States was created: the St. Louis Soccer League (SLSL).


Match between Spanish American AC (East St. Louis) and St. Louis Olympics, Spring, 1928.  The Spaniards won, 2-1. [photo courtesy of Linda Rodríguez Sampson]

Spanish immigrants also wanted to participate in the fashionable sport, and in that same year, 1907, they would establish the first Spanish soccer team in the city, named Asturias Club, made up of metalworkers with last names like García, Fernández, or Menéndez. It would not be entirely professional, nor was it the only team born in the city’s fledgling Spanish community. The men basically learned how to play in their free time, kicking the ball around the open spaces between the river and Broadway that the Edgar Zinc Co. had reserved for coal piles.  Despite all odds, they got quite good at the game. The grave shortage of proper playing fields in the city was not rectified until years later, when, thanks to the good offices of a priest, municipal institutions were pressured to create adequate pitches. In 1912, three fields were inaugurated, one in Carondelet (the Spanish neighborhood); in that same year, municipal leagues were organized for the amateur teams. That MUNY League had nothing to envy about the professionals. Father Dooley had arranged for referees, official structure, local sponsors, and even trophies. In addition, spectators could attend the games for free. Players in the professional leagues were often not very happy about the success of the MUNY league, and the more ambitious professional clubs would even try to poach talent away from the amateur organization. The Spanish soccer players competed with gusto on both sides of the Mississippi. Among the most glorious teams, we could highlight the Spanish Sports Club, that played in the MUNY of Saint Louis until 1935, when the team moved to the professional league, and was sponsored by an undertaker (Burke’s Funeral Home). The Burke’s Undertakers won two titles in the SLSL before the league passed on to a better life in 1939. On the other side of the river, teams like the Spanish American AC (municipal champions of East Saint Louis in 1930), or the García Football Club (sponsored by a transport company that worked for the American Zinc Co. in Fairmont City) played their way into Illinois soccer history. “Banjo Suárez and my grandfather started playing in the East Saint Louis/Fairmont City league”, explains Christopher Cueto. “My grandfather was the manager of a semi professional team. In fact, the reason why he got promoted to the position of foreman at  American Zinc was because the owners of the factory had seen him running his soccer team. He was just a worker, but they told him: ‘anyone who can manage those boys on the field should be able to do it in a zinc factory as well.’  That was how they promoted him. And in the end, he would be promoted to Supervisor,” adds this proud grandson of asturianos.

The Sociedad Española or Spanish Society of Saint Louis was founded in 1927, and their soccer team would travel to all the Spanish colonies of the area. In the midst of the Great Depression, the dues of the club members allowed the Society to acquire its own clubhouse in less than ten years, where they could organize parties and recitals, and even offer health and burial insurance to compatriots with problems. During the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), the Sociedad Española would


The Sparta Leader Chicago team vs. the team of St. Louis Spanish Society, 1934.  Sparta dominated the league for years. [Photo courtesy of Lori Becker and family]

serve as a center for fundraising meetings on behalf of the Spanish government. At the same time, their soccer team played against professional clubs from Saint Louis or Chicago, and players like Prudencio “Pete” García would, without knowing it, start their journey toward the US Soccer Hall of Fame.  “My father and his brother in law, ‘Chic’ Fernández, were founders of the Spanish Society”, comments Prudencio’s son, Donald García. “Before marrying, the men lived in boarding houses, all together, so sports were a form of entertainment. My father was always involved in sports, and he always wanted to make sure that young people would have something healthy and productive to do. That was how the team Los Caballeros arose, at the beginning they played in the league of the Catholic diocese. Years later, my father would become a soccer referee.”

Prudencio García was born in Salinas (Asturias) in 1899. He would arrive with his mother to the United States in 1907, to be reunited with his father who was already working in the city. His love for soccer made him a player and a tireless promoter of the sport within the Spanish colony of Saint Louis. Like many of his Spanish compatriots, following the tragic outcome of the Spanish Civil War, Prudencio did not wait long to request citizenship in his host country. He obtained more papers in 1949, documents that certified him as a FIFA referee, and that he would use a year later to travel to Brazil, as part of the delegation of the American Referee Association that participated in the World Cup. In this way, Prudencio became the first American to participate as a referee in a World Cup. “Since he was already 50 years old” comments his son, “they put him as a linesman.”  From the four games that Prudencio ran along the sidelines with the flag, maybe the most bitter thing for him was the match between Sweden and Spain for third place. His country of origin lost 3-1, with a goal from Zarra.

The US also fielded a team in that World Cup. Their only victory in the group stages was against colossal England.  On that US team, which barely fielded a professional player, were six players originally from Saint Louis. And among those, the defender Harry Keough, a mailman who, by his own admission, had learned how to play soccer with the Spanish workers from Carondelet. The Irishman Keough’s neighbors were as amazed at his skill with the ball as they were at the ease with which he spoke Spanish.  In fact, his proficiency in that language led to him being appointed team captain in the US World Cup debut against the Spanish National Team (Spain 3- Us 1).

Harry Keough wasn’t the only American soccer legend close to the Spanish immigrants of Saint Louis. Adelino “Billy” Gonsalves (1908-1977)–the “Babe Ruth” of US soccer– is considered the most outstanding player every born in the United States, and he played for some seasons in St. Louis.  “My father’s older brother, Joe “Cobby” Rodríguez, was a goalie on the Shamrocks where he got to play with Gonsalves. “I remember my father would talk about Billy Gonsalves, about his strength, but he always referred to him by his nickname, ‘Pianolegs,’” recalls Linda Rodríguez.


Written on back:  “Juan:  this is the third one born at home.  As you can see, I’ve got a complete mid-field now.  OK.  –Enrique Menéndez.”  [Photo courtesy of Marleen Menéndez]

Following the Second World War, when soccer was ceding ground to other professional sports, in a country whose habits and lifestyles and lifestyles were in the midst of radical transformations, the children and grandchildren of those Spanish workers from the Saint Louis area continued finding in soccer a sign of their identity. That is the only explanation of why, year after year, descendants of Spanish immigrants continue meeting on both sides of the river to play the annual “Chorizo Bowl.” Charlie Suárez, a grandson of immigrants who settled in Fairmont, explains: “We think that everything started in the year ’47 or ’48, as a friendly match, as a challenge between the asturianos from Saint Louis against those from Fairmont and East St. Louis. They decided to face each other every 1st of January . Since American Football had its Rose Bowl or its Orange bowl, they named the match ‘The Chorizo Bowl.’  A year’s never been missed, it’s played in rain, sleet, hail or snow.  In recent years, the teams’ compositions have been changing, and many participants are from different ethnic groups. On the team from the East there are many Mexicans now. And it’s the responsibility of the host to make the chorizos that will be eaten after the game”. When they play on the East side of the Mississippi, the meeting point is Koke’s, a tavern right outside what was once the main gate of the American Zinc Company in Fairmont City, Illinois. The next year, the members of the Spanish Society of Saint Louis are in charge of preparing the chorizos. Thomas Fernández reports from Saint Louis. “My brothers and I have been participating for 29 years. At first I played, but now I do coach work. If I get back in shape, maybe next year I’ll play.  There are men older than me doing it. And even though I don’t have all the results at hand, I can honestly say that I only remember one loss and one tie, the rest have been victories for the team from the Saint Louis side. Including the 5-1 victory this past January.”  Responsible for the chorizos this year was Brian Kestler, a grandson of Asturians who zealously guards his Grandma’s secret recipe.


“Hey, do you think that Cases boy might be the grandson of Chus?”

Chus Cases, grandfather of the midfielder for Sporting, Nacho Cases, was a late immigrant to Saint Louis, though he was still able to enjoy that sense of camaraderie that the Asturians fostered and managed to pass on to their neighbors and descendants in the Carondelet section of St. Louis. Chus arrived in 1964, and two years later would have his wife and his sons join him. Jesús Cases, son of Chus, father of Nacho, spoke to us in a café in Gijón, reminiscing about his childhood in Missouri:  “My father used to take me to the Spanish Society where he would play la llave [another Asturian past-time brought to St. Louis by the immigrants] . Just two days after arriving, I was already playing soccer with the kids’ team. I learned how to play in the snow there; and I remember the good organization and resources of those children’s leagues. When we returned to Spain in the 70’s, there weren’t even balls, the children just played on their own in the street.” Jesús Cases brought soccer back from Saint Louis, Missouri, to Spain, in his suitcase. In Asturias he played for industrial teams, like the Camocha, the Caudal, or Ensidesa, and he passed the St. Louis home-grown passion for soccer to his son Nacho Cases.  Nacho, midfielder on Sporting de Gijón, told us:  “One day, in 2011, my father was contacted on Facebook from the United States. I think it was the daughter of his coach in Saint Louis. On a television at the Spanish Society they had seen me play against Madrid in the Bernabéu. We were thrilled, and we sent them a jersey with my signature.”

That Sporting de Gijón jersey today occupies a spot of honor in the Spanish Society of Saint Louis. For some people in the cantina, perhaps the youngest, or those who don’t have Spanish origins, the garment probably just seems like one more ornament in a space crammed with objects, trophies, and flags from distant places. Many people in the United States don’t know the long history of soccer in their own country, thinking that the sport is a more or less recent European importation. But for the older members of the association, for those whose memories reach all the way back to those early days when soccer was still a worthy rival of American Football, or for those who might recognize on TV the grandson of an old compañero at the factory or the club, the signed jersey isn’t a symbol of distant and exotic stardom.  Rather, it is a reminder of the deep history and the strong ties of a beloved community.  For them, Chus’s Sporting shirt is practically a home team jersey.


As a young boy, Jesús Cases learned to play soccer on the youth teams of the Spanish Society in Saint Louis.  When he later returned to Spain, he continued playing the game on regional teams, and he transmitted his love of the sport to his son, Nacho, who is now a midfielder for the Sporting de Gijón.  [Photo courtesy of Jesús Cases]


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Spaniards in the US, 1919, According to the Literary Digest

EDUCATION IN AMERICANISM:  Lessons in Patriotism prepared for THE LITERARY DIGEST and especially designed for High School use

–The Literary Digest, March 22, 1919



Immigrants from Galicia, Spain, on their tenement rooftop in Manhattan, c. 1925.  [Courtesy of the Alonso-Sánchez family]

SPANISH AND THE SPANIARDS –An important fact to be noted about the many persons in the United States who speak Spanish as their original tongue is that only a minority are Spaniards who have immigrated to the United States in latter years.  Spanish, it will be readily recalled, is the native language of Mexico, Central America, and the countries of South America, excepting Brazil.  In Brazil, Portuguese is the national medium of intercourse, altho in this state of South America and others, as well as in Central America, many denizens speak Spanish and Portuguese with equal facility.  Now many thousands of people have come among us from these countries.  But here we are interested solely in the assimilation of Spaniards from Spain, who have immigrated to the United States to settle here for good, or merely to earn a livelihood during a certain fixed period and thereafter to return to their homeland.

EMIGRATION FROM SPAIN TO THE UNITED STATES –The bulk of Spanish natives in the United States have been coming in  a steady flow for many years.  We speak of recent years only, because American history shows so plainly how influential Spanish immigration to the western hemisphere has been since the discovery of Christopher Columbus.  The mere record of certain Spanish names that are written in the annals of American professional and commercial life is proof of their complete assimilation.  But in the marvelous industrial expansion of the United States during the past twenty-five years or more, this country, as is well known, drew on all Europe for skilled and unskilled labor.  Much of this man-power for industries came from south and southeastern Europe.  Spain’s contributions to American requirements is not so generally known.

SPAIN’S POPULATION HERE –The larger percentage of Spanish immigrants in the country are of the unskilled laboring class.  Before the war the tide of immigration was heavily on the increase.  Shipping conditions during the war naturally caused a slackening in the numbers of Spaniards bound to our shores.  Yet during the war, we are told by a reputable authority, from 30 to 40 per cent of the unskilled workers in munition plants, shipyards, mines, and other industries were Spaniards from Spain.

During the war, we are told by a reputable authority, some 30 to 40 per cent of the unskilled workers in munition plants, shipyards, mines and other industries were Spaniards from Spain.

THE RETURN TO SPAIN –Despite the fact that many of the workers in war-industries were gaining from seven to twelve dollars per day, a great return movement to Spain began with the inauguration of the compulsory military service law after the United States had become involved in the world conflict.  The spirit of the law, Spanish authorities admit, was “very magnanimous,” but the interpretation as practiced by some agents of the Government confounded a host of Spanish laborers who did not understand English, either to speak or to read sufficiently to assure them of their rights.  The result was that many of these workers simply ignored the law, basing their decision on the fact that they were not American, but Spanish citizens.  Naturally, many of them were taken into custody by the agents of the Government.  But the United States Government fairly met the problem by appointing a military exemption board at the service of the Unión Benéfica Española, the chief Spanish benevolent association in this country.  The appraisers on this board, lawyers who know Spanish and American law equally, served, as American lawyers all did, without remuneration, and voluntarily.  It is in the records of the Unión Benéfica Española that it retrieved two thousand men who were drafted mistakenly.

PRESENT POPULATION OF THE SPANIARDS –It is stated that at present the population of Spaniards in the United States may be safely numbered at 80.000.  They incline very decidedly to settle in colonies of their own people.  One group is to be found in the coal mining disticts of West Virginia.  There, it is said, a settlement of about two thousand dwell in a village built after a genuine Spanish model.  They are a notable constituent of

Asturian Picnic in WV

Picnic of Spanish (mostly Asturian) workers in West Virginia, c. 1915. (Photo courtesy of Ron González.)

the population also in large industrial centers such as Philadelphia, Cleveland, New York, Newark, Elizabethport, New Jersey, Bayonne, and Waterbury, Connecticut.  Many Spaniards are to be found in Tampa, Florida, where they work in cigar factories or are engaged in agricultural pursuits.  In the main, we are informed, they are spread all over the country, and, owing to changing labor conditions at present, their movements are in diverse directions.  As laborers they are said to be steady and industrious, and they quickly accommodate themselves to the varieties of climate encountered in the different sections of the United States.

As laborers they are said to be steady and industrious, and they quickly accommodate themselves to the varieties of climate encountered in the different sections of the United States.

ASSIMILATION OF THE SPANIARDS –Of the Spaniards who have come here as laborers in recent years, a great many are married men.  It has been their practice to send to Spain monthly sums for the support of their family.  After a due period, they would be able to bring the family into this country and rear their children under American institutions. The abnormal high cost of living in the war years, of course, discouraged this tendency.  But, we are told, once conditions return to normal the Spaniards will be prompt to settle and


Spanish immigrants in Mountain View, California, c. 1920.  (Photo courtesy of Frank Campos).

take root in the United States.  Two reasons impel them to this course, of which the first is that the Spanish laborer can earn more money here and enjoy better living conditions than he enjoys at home.  The second is –more generally appreciated among the better-informed workers– the opportunity for the advancement of their offspring.

AMERICAN DUTY TO THE SPANISH IMMIGRANT—  Some Spanish observers here claim that the Spanish workman is held at a distance from American currents of thought and progress as the result of a lack of understanding.  They speak regretfully of the fact that he goes from the mine or the factory to his home and back again as a mere human machine. The consequence is that he drifts into narrow circles of his own class and race and unconsciously ignores the vast opportunities provided by the American government in education and self-advancement.  This statement applies only to the Spanish laborer, who is in the majority of the more lately acquired Spanish population in this country, and who must be differentiated from the Spaniards prominent in commerce and the professions. To meet the sitation, it has been suggested by a well-advised authority that in all industrial centers where Spaniards are to be found in numbers, education organizations should take them in hand to encourage them in the study of our language and nationalism.


Mass meeting in the auditorium of Tampa’s Centro Asturiano, commemorating the six month of a cigarworkers strike, 1920.

THE SPANISH LABORING CLASS –A chief point claimed in favor of the Spanish workman is that he is law-abiding and thrifty.  Court records, we are told, rarely reveal a Spaniard charged with a major or minor offense.  To be sure, there are exceptions to the rule, but in general, it is held, the Spaniards are people of moderate habits and very regular in their work.  Nor do they figure largely as public charges. Their great benevolent society, La Unión Benéfica Española, looks after the indigent or the sick, or those in need of legal advice, as shown in the draft-law cases.  But the majority do not really require outside aid, and they ask it only because they feel it is forthcoming as they are members of the society in good standing.  This societies has branches wherever Spaniards are settled in this country and also shows consideration to Spaniards who are not of the membership.

THE TWO CLASSES OF SPANIARDS HERE –Among the unskilled Spanish workers, about 50 percent know how to read and write Spanish, and the majority of them do not speak or write English.  Therefore, it is urged by some Spanish authorities that they should be invited and stimulated to learn English, so they may the more speedily qualify for American citizenship.  On the other hand, altho the commercial and professional classes of Spaniards are in the minority, they incline very readily toward American citizenship because they come here to stay.  As exporters and importers, especially on the Atlantic coast, Spaniards are influential in our civic life; and as professional men, tho comparatively small in number, they rank high in distinction.


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