New York University’s King Juan Carlos I Center of Spain presents “La Colonia: Spanish Immigrants in New York, 1898-1945,” a new exhibition of photographs and archival materials that documents the experience of immigrants from Spain in early twentieth-century New York City. The exhibition, which is free and open to the public, is on view Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 53 Washington Square South (between Sullivan and Thompson Streets). For more information, visit www.nyu.edu/kjc.
New York City experienced a substantial influx of working-class immigrants from Spain in the early 1900s. Compared to many other national groups from Europe, the Spanish colony in New York was relatively small. But the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 brought heightened visibility to New York’s Spaniards, as the city mobilized in response to the war in Spain.
By the mid-1930s, there were likely between 25,000 to 30,000 Spaniards living in New York City; by way of comparison, today there are about 14,000 Spaniards registered as residents with Spain’s consulate in New York.
Using snapshots from the family albums of these immigrants and their descendents, this exhibition, curated by James Fernandez, associate professor of Spanish, chronicles the history of this forgotten episode of Spanish and U.S. history.
These immigrants worked in a range of trades: as domestic help and dockworkers, construction workers, cigar makers, silk-weavers, and steam-boiler operators. The remarkable growth of the city’s Spanish-speaking population also created opportunities in the food and entertainment industries for Spanish entrepreneurs like Prudencio Unanue, who founded Goya foods in lower Manhattan, and Gregorio Bustelo, who opened a small coffee-roasting store on Fifth Avenue in El Barrio, a section of East Harlem known as “the neighborhood.”
This exhibit at KJCC is presented in collaboration with Nueva York, a groundbreaking interpretive exhibition that explores for the first time the significant historic ties between New York and the Spanish-speaking world, organized by the New-York Historical Society and El Museo del Barrio and on view from September 2010 through January 2011. For more information visit www.nyhistory.org and/or www.elmuseo.org.