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Conquerors, immigrants, exiles : the Spanish diaspora in the United States (1848-1948)

  • Author(s): Varela-Lago, Ana Maria
  • et al.
Abstract

This dissertation studies the modern migration of Spaniards to the United States and the process of identity formation among the Spanish immigrant communities in America from the U.S.-Mexican War to the aftermath of World War II. The starting point underscores one of its main arguments: the impetus for the development of a Spanish ethnic identity among Spaniards in nineteenth- century America was U.S. expansionism in Mexico and the Caribbean. Confronted with American and Cuban nationalism, Spanish immigrant elites in some cases "invented" national traditions even before they were embraced in the homeland. Using a transnational framework that foregrounds the complex historical relationships between Spain, Latin America, and the United States the thesis highlights the singularity of the Spanish immigrant experience in America, rooted in the legacy of the Spanish "discovery" and colonization of the Americas. This legacy offered Spanish immigrant elites the symbolic tools they needed to forge a Spanish ethnic identity in the United States. The idea of Spain and Spanish identity favored by these nineteenth- century elites, however, held less appeal for the increasing numbers of immigrants from Spain arriving at American shores in the twentieth century. Sub-national and supra-national loyalties defined many of these newcomers, some of whom espoused anarchism or supported separatist movements in Catalonia and the Basque Country. Their anticlericalism and their repudiation of Spain's colonial wars in Morocco countered the elite's imperial image of monarchic, Catholic Spain. This analysis helps us understand the diaspora's enthusiasm for the proclamation of the Spanish Republic in 1931, as well as the immigrants' overwhelming response when the Republic was attacked by General Franco's military uprising in 1936. The unprecedented mobilization of the Spanish diaspora during the Spanish Civil War charted a singular path to Americanization. Most immigrant narratives point to World War II as one of the key moments in this process, but I argue that, in the Spanish case, the war in Spain played the crucial role. The circumstances of the war, however, complicated this process. For many Spaniards "becoming American" was not a voluntary choice, but one born of their transformation, after Franco's victory, from emigrants into exiles

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