"Little Spain" Documentary about Spaniards in Manhattan

by Kimberly on Friday, November 19, 2010

little spain, documentary

On Wednesday the 17th of November a film by Spanish film director Artur Balder debuted in New York City. Balder, who is also a writer, had stumbled across the story of the Spanish population in Manhattan that came to be known as "Little Spain". Many people have heard of "Little Italy", but the story of the Spanish in the great American city was little known.

The documentary, appropriately titled "Little Spain", traces the journey of Spanidards who abandoned Spain in search of a better life in New York. The Spanish migrants settled into Lower Manhattan, throughout the 19th and 20th century forming a deeply rooted community. The community's center was 14th street, the heart of "LIttle Spain", where many signs of the Spanish still remain.

In fact, there is a Spanish social club known as the Spanish Benevolent Society, or rather La Nacional, that still exists today on 14th Street between 7th and 8th Ave. It was the clubs archives that the filmmaker dug into in order to shed light on a little known story.

His work culminated in the documentary that starts with the founding of La Nacional club in New York in 1868, and the massive migration from Spain to the US after the Spanish Empire lost Cuba in 1898. The film moves on to document the wealth and affluence of the Spanish population in New York (Golden Age) after the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and the community's sharp decline in the 80s and 90s.

This prominent socieity, although little know, led to a 14th Street in New York where Spanish was heard and spoken well into the 1960s. Spanish businesses filled the streets including famous restaurants such as El Coruña, La Bilbaina, or Café Madrid and also Spanish bookshops and textile stores.

In order to emphasize the strength of the community, despite the recent downfall, the film shows that a very popular Spanish holiday, St. James Day (Santiago Apostol), was still celebrated in the area until the 1990s.

There is little left of what once was Little Spain, but with the documentary by Artur Balder, the Spanish legacy in New York will live on forever.


Keywords: america,usa,little spain,documentary

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