Photos Show Spanish Life in NYC

November 23, 2010

Banquet in honor of the Lincoln Vets. Club Obrero Español, 1945. Photo courtesy of Joe Mora.

On September 17, over 150 people attended the opening of “La colonia: a photo album of Spanish immigrants in New York, 1898–1945” at NYU’s King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center. Co-sponsored by ALBA and curated by ALBA board member James D. Fernández, “La colonia” uses the family archives of seven descendants of Spanish immigrants to explore and display the history of Spaniards in New York.  (Video interviews from the opening here. Spanish TV coverage here. Other press coverage here.)

By the mid-1930s, roughly 30,000 Spaniards lived in the city. Most were working class immigrants from the northern coastal regions of Spain (Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Country). Many came to New York after stints in Spanish-speaking America, particularly Argentina, Mexico, Cuba and Puerto Rico. Like other ethnic immigrant groups, throughout the 1920s and early 30s, Spaniards wove dense networks of mutual aid societies, social clubs, soccer leagues, etc. After the outbreak of the civil war in Spain in 1936, this infrastructure would be tapped to mobilize the community on behalf of the Spanish Republic.

Opening reception of "La Colonia." Photo Juan Salas.

“La colonia” has aroused great interest in Spain and has been covered in dozens of newspaper articles, several radio reports, and even a featured spot on Spanish television’s nightly news program. Fernández has received over a hundred e-mails from people in Spain, other parts of Europe, and the U.S. with questions, information, and, in some cases, images of Spaniards in New York. He hopes to expand the exhibition and have it travel in Spain.