A Tale of Two Trunks

Invisible Emigrants:  Spaniards in the US 1868-1945
Countdown to the inauguration:
20, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12…


It would be hard to come up with two objects that could represent the bold coin-toss hazarded by migrants better than these two now-empty chests.

Both trunks ended up in Extremadura; one in Campanario, Badajoz, the other in Trujillo, Cáceres.

One of them came back to Spain with its owners, full of documents and photos that chronicled the ups-and-downs of the migrant’s life, and eventual financial success.  There’s a receipt for a bank transfer from San Francisco to Madrid; another for a a transfer from Madrid to Cáceres.  Proof of the accumulation of a modest fortune in Hawaii and California, though the source of the money remains a mystery to the descendants.

The other trunk came back to Campanario without its owner. It contained 22 pieces of used clothes that had belonged to a worker in the Ford Motor Company plant in Detroit.  He died of a heart attack in the Motor City at age 37, without ever getting to meet his last child, conceived during a brief trip he had made back to Campanario a few years before.  The letter/inventory that accompanied the trunk on its journey back to Spain explains that Spanish friends in Detroit had paid for his funeral and for the freight of the trunk that they sent back to the widow.

These two trunks will now sit side by side in Madrid, at the end of our exhibition.  Like two perfect strangers standing side by side a century ago on the docks of a bustling port, about to subject their fate, like all migrants always, to the toss of a coin:

Heads or tails?

[Gracias a Elena Barquilla y Juana Gallardo]

Emigrantes invisibles: Españoles en Estados Unidos, 1868-1945,” a major exhibition of photos, videos, documents and objects that tell the story of the diaspora of working-class Spaniards to the United States, will open in Madrid’s Centro Cultural Conde Duque on 23 January 2020. In the lead-up to the opening, we will be publishing a series of behind-the-scenes snap-shots.

Emigrantes invisibles. Españoles en EE.UU. (1868 – 1945)


DIRECCIÓN DEL PROYECTO EXPOSITIVO:María Luque, Responsable Asuntos Culturales de la Fundación Consejo España-EE.UU.

Cuenta con la colaboración del Ayuntamiento de Madrid y el apoyo de la Fundación Rey Juan Carlos I de New York University, Técnicas Reunidas, la Embajada de Estados Unidos en España, el Instituto Franklin de la Universidad de Alcalá de Henares, Navantia y Cosentino

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