The Spanish Diaspora in the US and the Spanish Civil War

June 15, 2012

Dan Albert is the second child from the right, lowest row, right in front of the ruddy man in overalls.

En español aquí.

1937.  A picnic in Toro Park, 9 miles from Monterey, California.  Several hundred Spaniards from the Monterey Peninsula and the Santa Clara Valley enjoy a pleasurable get-together.  But the raised clenched fists remind us that a war is going on in Spain, and that this social gathering 6,000 miles away in all probability is a fundraiser for the beleaguered Republic.

Many of these Spaniards had been taken in the early 1900s to the Hawaiian Islands to work on the sugar-cane plantations: a treacherous fifty day voyage around Cape Horn.  The majority of those Spaniards later re-emigrated from Hawaii to California, where they worked, among other places, in the region’s fruit orchards and fish canneries.

That was the precise trajectory of the parents of Dan Albert, the subject of a documentary I am working on together with Luis Argeo.  During our recent trip to California, Luis and I learned a great deal about the wartime mobilization of these working class Spaniards in northern California.  Dan told us how his parents broke with the Catholic church during the war, because of the church’s support of Franco. He recalled how the refrain of one of his mother’s favorite songs was “but at Madrid, boom boom boom boom, ¡no pasarán!” And he told a moving story of about the day in 1940 when his mother was naturalized as an American citizen.  She had learned that at the naturalization ceremony, the Judge would hand her the flag of Spain, which she was to surrender, in exchange for the stars and stripes.  Concerned that the court might hand her the Francoist flag, –which she didn’t want to touch– the night before the ceremony she sewed her own tricolor Republican flag. When it was her turn to swap symbols, this five-foot-nothing Spanish lady took out her homemade  banner, and, while handing it over, proudly told the perplexed judge: “This is the flag of Spain.”

To watch a four-minute teaser of our documentary-in-progress, click here:  It Happened in Monterey.  Watch for the Republican flag!


One Response to “ The Spanish Diaspora in the US and the Spanish Civil War ”

  1. joseph L fernandez on June 24, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    Very good old pictures James. Most of us never heard of the long trip of these good people, always good to learn about history
    But the raised clenched fists remind me and problably most people of something else. Why would it be that while that flag was hoisted in Spain the Gran Via in Madrid went by two other names,namely Avenida de la Union Sovietica and Avenida de Rusia?
    We all know the answer.
    Thanks for the info.