Working hard…

One of the most common themes that emerges from interviewing descendants of Spanish immigrants, or from just perusing their family albums is: “work, very hard work.” From the apricot orchards to the zinc refineries, from the granite quarries of New England through the sardine canneries of California and on to the cane fields of Hawaii, the history of Spanish immigrants in this country is, in many ways, a proud history of smelly, back-breaking, lung-taxing labor.

That is why it is striking to come across, now and then, evidence of prejudice against Spanish immigrants, often cloaked –-as anti-immigration invective often is—in ideological terms. In December of 1920, for example, US Representative Harold Knutson stood on the floor of Congress and said these words: “My parents came to this country as immigrants and in the very nature of things I would be inclined to oppose any proposition looking toward the suspension of immigration to this country… [But] immigrants are coming in now at a rate where we cannot sift them out, and the worst part of it is that the class of people we are receiving now are largely radical in their political opinions. I am willing to stake my reputation as a member of this House that foreign Governments are financing the movement of radicals from several countries in Europe, moving them over here. Before the war, [WWI] immigration from Spain was practically unknown [this is inaccurate]. Two weeks ago, when I visited Ellis Island, I found 2,000 immigrants from that country were received in one day. Spain is a seething mass of anarchy, and the Government is gathering these anarchists up and dumping them on us.”

In another post we’ll look at how representatives of the Spanish community in the US responded to these charges…