Introducing “The Latino Catskills Project”

By Cristina Pérez Jiménez and J. Bret Maney

From popular culture like the hit Amazon series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel to coffee-table books on the Borscht Belt, the Jewish Catskills rightfully survive in cultural memory as a site of ethnic identity and American belonging. By contrast, almost no attention has been paid to the longstanding Latino inflection of the Catskills region, variously known as the “Spanish Alps” and, later on, the “Puerto Rican Alps.” Rectifying this erasure while also challenging the tendency to make the city the preeminent, even the sole, context for understanding Latino life in the Northeast, The Latino Catskills is a digital project that resituates the rural Catskills region, located 100 miles northwest of New York City, as a generative space of Latino culture and identities.

As the project will document, from the late nineteenth century through the 1970s, the Catskill Mountains were a popular summer destination for countless Spaniards, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and others of Latin American descent. These Latino travelers took day trips (known as giras), or stayed at private dwellings and the many resorts owned or managed by fellow Spanish speakers, such as the historic “Villas Hispanas” in and around Plattekill, New York, which offered affordable accommodations with typical “Latin” amenities, including traditional foods, drink, and musical entertainment, as well as opportunities for leisure and outdoor recreation, all of which helped shape Latino social life and establish the coordinates of what we’ve conceived of too often as exclusively urban identities.

Advertisement for villas hispanas and hotels catering to a Latino clientele. El Boricua [New York, NY], June 23, 1948.

Generously funded by a 2021–2022 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-US Latino Digital Humanities (USLDH) Grant-in-Aid, our project seeks to illuminate this important, if understudied, aspect of New York Latino history by building a digitized archive of significant Latino Catskills sites with associated primary sources and material objects. A mapping interface will allow web visitors to plot their own virtual itineraries through the region and explore a trove of cultural materials, including advertisements, brochures, photographs, audio recordings, and relevant news coverage related to the scores of now-defunct resorts, hotels, restaurants, and villas that served as a summer vacation network for a Latino clientele. At a later stage of development, this digital map will also connect to a series of multimedia-rich, thematic “exhibits” that interpret and tell the stories of these sites, objects, and people, from everyday Latino holidaymakers to luminaries such as the Cuban patriot José Martí, the Mexican writer José Juan Tablada, and musical virtuosi like Tito Puente and El Gran Combo, who enlivened the remarkable summer music scene that boomed in the area during the 1950s and ’60s. The digital map and accompanying exhibits will render visible the historical and spatial extension, as well as the cultural richness, of the Latino Catskills, while also broadening Latino geographies beyond their dominant urbanscapes.

We expect many users of our digital archive will be surprised to discover the longstanding Latino presence in the Catskills. As Bret, who teaches at CUNY, has put it, for far too long the region, associated with the tales of Washington Irving and the painters of the Hudson River School, has been seen as an exclusively “white-coded” space, sharply contrasting with the usual settings of Latino life in New York City’s barrios. The Latino Catskills project undoes this misleading binary by showcasing a long history of Latinos enjoying the region’s rural life—vacationing and celebrating, hiking and picnicking, playing sports and games, swimming and dancing—and thus cultivating a sense of joyful, collective belonging. In this way, the project aims to recover leisure, rest, and recreation as important social components of the Latino experience that enhance and complement dominant narratives of New York Latinidad, which have traditionally focused on the racialized experiences of urban poverty and toil. Latinos have long contributed to the economic and cultural richness of the Catskills. The Latino Catskills project rightfully reclaims the region’s rugged landscape as part of Latinos’ vibrant history and heritage.


Cristina Pérez Jiménez is Assistant Professor of English at Manhattan College where she specializes in U.S. Latinx and Caribbean diasporic studies. Her research on early-twentieth century Latinx New York has appeared in Revista Hispánica Moderna, Latino Studies, Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism, and CENTRO Journal: Journal of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, among other venues.

J. Bret Maney is an Americanist, digital humanist, and literary translator with appointments as Assistant Professor of English at Lehman College and in the Digital Humanities Program at The CUNY Graduate Center. He is curator of a digital public humanities project, The Literary Bronx, and translator and co-editor (with Pérez Jiménez) of a bilingual scholarly edition of Guillermo Cotto-Thorner’s Manhattan Tropics/Trópico en Manhattan (Arte Público, 2019), which won a 2020 International Latino Book Award for Best Translation.

Fighting Fascist Spain — The Exhibits (Español)

[Imagen: Daniel Alonso, “La Asamblea General de Delegados de S.H.C.” Frente Popular. 19 julio 1938, en Montse Feu. “Fighting Fascist Spain –The Exhibits.” Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Digital Collections.

Por Abby Schafer y Montse Feu

Fighting Fascist Spain: The Exhibits (FFSTE) es una colección digital sobre el sentimiento antifascista estadounidense con respeto a la Guerra Civil española (1936-1939) y la posterior dictadura (1939-1975). La colección y exposiciones, comisariadas por la Dra. Montse Feu, Ph.D., profesora asociada de la Sam Houston State University, reconoce a varios revolucionarios de la época, además de sus contribuciones individuales y colectivas al colapso del fascismo español. Después de más de una década de publicar sobre estas protestas obreras, la Dra. Feu creó este proyecto para preservar imágenes elocuentes de la lucha antifascista. Como se demostró a través de tales protestas, de las artes escénicas y gráficas, así como por otros medios, las creencias radicales y antifascistas desarrollaron una cultura propia, en su oposición a Francisco Franco.

FFSTE restaura y preserva esta cultura única en repositorios digitales disponibles para el público. En asociación con Arte Público Press de la Universidad de Houston, FFSTE está integrado en Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage Digital Collections, una plataforma informativa que fomenta una experiencia de usuario comprensible. Dra. Feu y sus asistentes de investigación han rescatado y mantenido cientos de artefactos antifascistas españoles a su vez en el portal del proyecto

Sergio Aragonés. “Asturias” España Libre 2 agosto 1968, en Montse Feu. “Fighting Fascist Spain –The Exhibits.” Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Digital Collections.

Publicado por las Sociedades Hispanas Confederadas, Frente Popular (1936-1939) y España Libre (1939-1977) fueron algunos de los periódicos de oposición más destacados contra el fascismo español en los Estados Unidos. Muestras las obras de reconocidos artistas a la cultura antifascista; dibujantes como Alfonso Rodríguez Castelao y Sergio Aragonés. FFSTE también muestra al caricaturista Josep Bartolí i Guiu en Ibérica (1953-1974). Como se percata en FFSTE, sus trabajos representan con precisión el injusto sistema de fascismo y la lucha de los trabajadores contra él. Las imágenes han sido restauradas e interpretadas con un experto cuidado. Los numerosos artefactos muestran un espectro vasto de emociones desde la seriedad hasta la comedia, pero constantemente son protestas contra la España fascista. Como consecuencia del rico y complejo material de FFSTE, es un proyecto continuo. 

Josep Bartolí i Guiu. Ibérica. 15 enero 1957,  en Montse Feu. “Fighting Fascist Spain –The Exhibits.”Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Digital Collections.

Numerosas mujeres fueron patrocinadoras vitales de la causa antifascista. Más investigación y edición sigue mostrando la importancia de la mujer en el movimiento y FFSTE ejemplifica el impacto cultural y colaborativo que las mujeres tuvieron contra la España fascista. El valor del archivo de la lucha antifascista en los Estados Unidos se despliega constantemente. 

Violeta Miqueli Mayóz, fuente desconocida, en Montse Feu. “Fighting Fascist Spain –The Exhibits.” Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Digital Collections.

A través de FFSTE, el público puede estudiar los lazos ancestrales, aprender sobre su herencia y explorar un área olvidada de la historia.

Lo invitamos a hojear los exhibiciones y colecciones, usar imágenes o contexto para actividades educativas, y, si tienen interés, participar creando recorridos visuales, planes de lecciones, grabaciones de audio o más, contacte a Dra. Feu mmf017@shsu.edu.

Equipo

Investigadora prinicpal: Montse Feu
Asistente técnica (otoño 2020): Jenny Patlán
Asistentes de investigación (verano 2021): Abby Schafer, Bailey Mills, Diego Colindres

Redes sociales

Recursos en línea

Sitio de web de Montse Feu

Sitio de web FFSTE

Exhibición Digital

Colección Digital

Arte Público Press


Montse Feu es profesora asociada de lenguaje y culturas en español en la Universidad Sam Houston State, Texas. Feu recupera y explora la cultura del exilio de la Guerra Civil Española en los Estados Unidos, la cultura anarquista hispana en los Estados Unidos y periódicos Hispanos en los Estados Unidos. Puede encontrar sus publicaciones y proyectos actuales en su página de web: montsefeu.wixsite.com/montsefeu

Fighting Fascist Spain — The Exhibits (English)

[Featured image: Daniel Alonso, “La Asamblea General de Delegados de S.H.C.” Frente Popular July 19, 1938, in Montse Feu. “Fighting Fascist Spain –The Exhibits.”Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Digital Collections.]

By Abby Schafer, Montse Feu, Bailey Mills

Fighting Fascist Spain: The Exhibits (FFSTE) is a digital collection about US antifascist sentiment regarding the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and subsequent dictatorship (1939-1975). The collection and exhibits, curated by Dr. Montse Feu, Ph.D., an associate professor at Sam Houston State University, acknowledges several revolutionaries of the time in addition to their individual and collective contributions towards the collapse of Spanish fascism.

Sergio Aragonés. “Asturias” España Libre Aug. 2, 1968, in Montse Feu. “Fighting Fascist Spain –The Exhibits.” Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Digital Collections.

After more than a decade of publishing about worker protests, Dr. Feu created this project to preserve powerful images of the antifascist fight. As demonstrated through such protests, performance and graphic art, and other media, radical and antifascist beliefs developed an entire culture, buried under the opposition of Francisco Franco. FFSTE restores and preserves this unique culture through digital repositories made readily available to the public. In association with Arte Público Press of the University of Houston, FFSTE is integrated in Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage Digital Collections, an informational platform that encourages a simple user experience. Dr. Feu and her research assistants have retrieved and maintained hundreds of Spanish antifascist artifacts in the project webpage as well.

Published by las Sociedades Hispanas Confederadas, Frente Popular (1936-1939) and España Libre (1939-1977) were some of the most prominent oppositional papers against Spanish fascism. They displayed the work of major contributors to antifascist culture; cartoonists such as Alfonso Rodríguez Castelao and Sergio Aragonés. The FFSTE also showcases Ibérica’s (1953-1974) cartoonist Josep Bartolí i Guiu. As displayed in FFSTE, their work serves as an accurate representation of the unjust system of fascism and the workers’ fight against it. The images have been restored and interpreted with expert care. The numerous artifacts show a vast spectrum of emotions, from gravity to comedy, but consistently protest against fascist Spain. In consequence to the rich and complex material of FFSTE, it is a continuous project. 

Josep Bartolí i Guiu. Ibérica. Jan. 15, 1957,  in Montse Feu. “Fighting Fascist Spain –The Exhibits.” Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Digital Collections

Numerous women were vital patrons to the antifascist cause as well. Additional research and editing will further exhibit women’s importance in the movement; however, the collection exemplifies the cultural and collaborative impact women had on the fight against fascist Spain. The archival value of the activism and print culture against fascist Spain in the United States is constantly unfolding. 

Violeta Miqueli Mayóz, unknown source, in Montse Feu. “Fighting Fascist Spain –The Exhibits.” Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Digital Collections.

Through FFSTE the public is able to study ancestral bonds, learn about their heritage, and explore a neglected area of history. We invite you to browse the exhibits and collections, use images and context for educational purposes, and if you are interested in participating by creating visual tours, lesson plans, audio recordings, and more, please contact Dr. Feu at mmf017@shsu.edu.

Project Team

Primary Investigator: Montse Feu
Technical Assistant (fall 2020): Jenny Patlán
Research Assistants (summer 2021): Abby Schafer, Bailey Mills, Diego Colindres

Social Media

Web Resources

Montse Feu’s website

FFSTE website

Digital Exhibit

Digital Collection

Arte Público Press


Montse Feu is Associate Professor of Spanish languages and cultures at Sam Houston State University, Texas. She recovers and explores the Spanish Civil War exile culture in the United States, US Hispanic anarchist culture, and US Spanish periodicals at large. Find her publications and current projects at montsefeu.wixsite.com/montsefeu

Publicación de la colección digital: “Antifacismo y feminismo en la Página de la mujer de La voz (Nueva York, 1938)”

Ana María Díaz Marcos (Universidad de Connecticut)

Acaba de salir a la luz esta colección digital que recoge más de setenta textos y documentos del periódico antifascista La voz, publicado en Nueva York durante los años de la contienda civil española con un talante radicalmente antifascista. Este trabajo de investigación, digitalización y edición se llevó a cabo durante el confinamiento y la pandemia del 2020-2021 dentro del programa Recovery of the US Hispanic Literary Heritage/US Latino Digital Humanities (USLDH). Este proyecto se publica gracias a una beca del programa USLDH y The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. En medio del aislamiento y la distancia social, La voz me puso en contacto con multitud de personas que contribuyeron generosamente desde puntos dispares del planeta: Canadá, Cuba, España, Estados Unidos, Francia, México, Reino Unido, Puerto Rico y Rusia. Gracias a todxs ellxs ha sido posible recoger y estudiar estos documentos para ponerlos al servicio de la comunidad, los estudiantes y los académicos interesados en conocer la historia del antifascismo en Estados Unidos, sus vínculos con el feminismo panamericano de los años treinta y la vida de la colonia hispana en el Nueva York de la época.

 “Anuncio de La voz”  7 de mayo de 1938

A esta colección la acompaña una exhibición digital sobre la historia y los protagonistas de La voz que saldrá a la luz el próximo mes de julio. Ambas publicaciones permitirán conocer los avatares y dificultades de esta significativa empresa editorial -La voz tiraba 17.000 ejemplares cuando llevaba solo un año en la calle- y rescatar a figuras tan injustamente olvidadas como su director, el vigués Ceferino Barbazán y quien fue probablemente la primera editora de su combativa “Página de la Mujer”, escondida tras el seudónimo “Lina Mares”: la activista y sufragista mexicana Margarita Robles de Mendoza. Una de las inesperadas sorpresas de esta investigación ha sido poder charlar con la hija de Ceferino Barbazán. A sus noventa y seis años, Gloria Barbazán me cuenta, en impecable español, la dedicación y el entusiasmo de su padre por aquella empresa editorial y recuerda que en el edificio de The Spanish Newspaper Corporation en el número 838 de Greenwich Street de Nueva York (hoy un edificio de apartamentos) se instaló entonces el primer ascensor eléctrico del barrio.

“The Spanish Newspaper Corporation” 2 enero de 1939.

Por último, esta investigación sobre La voz ha dado pie a otro estudio que se publicará en otoño: la biografía de la bibliotecaria y activista Ernestina González Rodríguez que vivió en el exilio neoyorquino durante casi veinte años y cuyo mitin en el Royal Windsor fue cubierto ampliamente por La voz. Su periplo desde Medina del Pomar (Burgos), su compromiso antifascista y activismo en Nueva York, sus problemas con el Comité de Actividades Antiamericanas y su regreso a España en los años cincuenta, descubren la apasionante vida de una figura que era hasta ahora absolutamente desconocida, a pesar de la enorme relevancia de su lucha contra el fascismo tanto en España como en Estados Unidos.


Ana María Díaz-Marcos es catedrática de Literatura Española en el Departamento de Literaturas, Culturas y Lenguas de la Universidad de Connecticut. Sus campos de trabajo son la literatura, el teatro, el feminismo histórico y los estudios de género. Su último trabajo sobre Margarita Nelken, publicado en la revista Feminismos de la Universidad de Alicante, está disponible en el enlace:
https://rua.ua.es/dspace/bitstream/10045/111723/1/Feminismos_37_10.pdf

Una batalladora antifascista: Margarita Nelken en el Centro Galicia de Nueva York

[Imagen: “Nota autógrafa de Margarita Nelken”, La voz 21-09-1938.]

Por Ana María Díaz-Marcos (Universidad de Connecticut)

La noche del 20 de septiembre de 1938 el Centro Galicia de Nueva York experimentó un lleno absoluto con motivo de la visita y el mitin de Margarita Nelken (1894-1968) organizado por Sociedades Hispanas Confederadas. Este acto político de enorme relevancia para la colonia hispana de Nueva York constituye un magnífico ejemplo de activismo antifascista que buscaba socavar la política de neutralidad mantenida por Estados Unidos y conseguir apoyo internacional para la causa republicana. Nelken regresaba de México donde había participado en dos congresos internacionales y fue recibida con gran entusiasmo a su llegada al aeropuerto de Newark.

“Hoy llegará a Nueva York”, La voz 19-09-1938.

El periódico neoyorquino La voz documenta la importancia del evento y presenta a Nelken a sus lectores como “una autoridad en arte, notable escritora y oradora de altos vuelos” (19-09-1938). El entorno y el público no podían ser más propicios pues en el Centro Galicia se celebraban con regularidad actividades sociales, culturales y bailes con el fin de recaudar fondos para la España leal. La visita de Nelken tuvo una enorme relevancia política para la comunidad hispana antifascista afincada en Nueva York y La voz da cuenta del gran interés que suscitó. El periódico documenta la cancelación de una reunión de Comités Femeninos Unidos para asistir al mitin, informa sobre los homenajes que se le brindaron a Nelken en varios hoteles de la ciudad, incluye una dedicatoria manuscrita de la autora y publica un reportaje sobre los discursos de esa noche.

Esta intelectual madrileña de origen judío fue diputada socialista por Badajoz y en diciembre de 1936 se afilió al partido comunista. Vehemente y apasionada en sus escritos y discursos políticos, Nelken ejerció durante la guerra un periodismo radical desde la tribuna de periódicos como Claridad o Mundo obrero y llevó adelante una agenda febril dentro y fuera de España. A sus detractores les molestaba el ardor de sus discursos incendiarios en los que se expresaba con rabia y apasionamiento. Nelken no se mordía la lengua, como explica Carmen Baroja en sus Recuerdos al rememorar que en la Casa del Pueblo al hablar de las empleadas domésticas no había dudado en arremeter duramente contra las mujeres burguesas (105). De las noticias sobre las multitudinarias apariciones públicas que tantas ampollas levantaron, se deduce que Margarita conjugaba carisma y poder de convicción con prestigio intelectual, conectaba con las comunidades antifascistas y era una oradora brillante que no dejaba indiferente en aquel periodo convulso. La acogida que recibió Nelken en Nueva York fue formidable: “el público puesto de pie recibió con delirantes muestras de entusiasmo a la ilustre batalladora antifascista y culta escritora.” (La voz, 21-09-1938)

“Homenaje a la señora Nelken”, La voz 20-09-1938.

El reportaje de La voz documenta la dinámica de muchas actividades antifascistas en las que convergían instancias sociales, políticas y solidarias. En este mitin participaron tres oradores (el comunista Daniel Anguiano, la delegada de Sociedades Hispanas Gloria González y la propia Nelken), durante el mismo se inició una colecta que permitió recaudar 435 dólares (equivalentes a unos 8.000 de hoy), se homenajeó a Nelken con un ramo de flores con cintas de los colores de la bandera republicana y su discurso se cerró con entusiastas aclamaciones y la espontánea subida de numerosas personas al escenario para saludarla.

El mitin de Nelken refleja su fe inquebrantable en la victoria republicana gracias a “un ejército popular disciplinado y fuerte y un proletariado unido”. Su argumentación aborda la internacionalización del conflicto, destacando el apoyo de otras naciones sin excluir a Inglaterra, Francia o Italia, con una nota rotundamente conciliadora en la que manifiesta que no se puede “confundir a los pueblos con los malos gobernantes”, marcando una línea divisoria entre ciudadanía y mandatarios. El reportaje de La voz resalta la valentía de esta oradora que era capaz de convencer y emocionar al mismo tiempo pues poseía “la rara cualidad de hablar al corazón y a la mente”. Su emotivo discurso de esa noche fue una pieza “bien pensada, elocuente, que tuvo pasajes de verdadera emoción y momentos de arranques valientes fulminando la obra cruel del fascismo”.

Acabada la guerra, Nelken se exilió en México y nunca regresó a España, se la juzgó en rebeldía y se la escarnizó como icono del “rojerío”. Fue una activista con voz y agencia en una sociedad patriarcal convulsa, como muestra el lúcido retrato que ofrece de ella Federica Montseny, quien no duda en apuntar la incomodidad de muchos hombres ante mujeres con agencia y perfil público, destacando la valentía de Nelken en ese contexto: “tanto hablando como escribiendo si tenía que atacar atacaba y eso le creó muchos enemigos” (Rodrigo 274). Sus apariciones públicas fueron tachadas con frecuencia de incendiarias y provocativas pero su furia tenía mucho que ver con el contexto en que escribía o pronunciaba sus mítines (Preston 317). Margarita Nelken fue una intelectual comprometida y una figura mediática en su época, despertó pasiones y desató odios y ese fervor que enardeció a multitudes -como el público del Centro Galicia en Nueva York esa noche de septiembre del 38- le ocasionó numerosas enemistades. De su activismo incansable por la democracia da cuenta la semblanza que ofrece La voz al describirla como “ilustre batalladora antifascista”.

Obras citadas:

BAROJA, Carmen (1999). Recuerdos de una mujer de la generación del 98. Barcelona: Tusquets.

PRESTON, Paul (2002). Doves of war. Boston: Northeastern University Press.

RODRIGO, Antonina (2002). Mujeres para la historia: la España silenciada del siglo XX. Barcelona: Carena.

“Nota autógrafa de Margarita Nelken”, La voz 21-09-1938.

Ana María Díaz-Marcos es catedrática de Literatura Española en el Departamento de Literaturas, Culturas y Lenguas de la Universidad de Connecticut. Sus campos de trabajo son la literatura, el teatro, el feminismo histórico y los estudios de género. Su último trabajo sobre Margarita Nelken, publicado en la revista Feminismos de la Universidad de Alicante, está disponible en el enlace:
https://rua.ua.es/dspace/bitstream/10045/111723/1/Feminismos_37_10.pdf

Sororidad antifascista: Federica Montseny en La voz, 18 de enero de 1938

Por Ana María Díaz Marcos, Universidad de Connecticut

El 1 de enero de 1938 aparece en la “Página de la Mujer” del periódico neoyorquino La voz una felicitación de Año Nuevo que apela a la sororidad antifascista deseando salud “A las mujeres de lucha unidas contra el fascismo”. En la misma página Margarita Robles de Mendoza publica un artículo titulado “La partida y la contra partida” celebrando el asociacionismo femenino a través de “Ligas de mujeres contra el fascismo y la guerra”. El concepto de sororidad resulta central para abordar el asociacionismo y activismo de las mujeres de la colonia hispana de Nueva York en los años treinta. La “Página de la Mujer” de La voz es un ejemplo excepcional de los poderosos vínculos entre feminismo y antifascismo que se ponen de evidencia en los artículos destinados a unas lectoras retratadas en las páginas del periódico como hermanas, amigas, activistas, feministas, antifascistas, madres y mujeres modernas.

La Voz, 31 diciembre 1937

Esta felicitación de Año Nuevo alude a la agencia femenina de las “mujeres de lucha” cuyos esfuerzos trascendían cualquier tipo de frontera nacional. Las lectoras de La voz eran hispanas afincadas en Nueva York y la “Página de la mujer” se dirigía a ellas como mujeres unidas por su lengua, cultura e ideología en una sororidad transnacional que defendía causas comunes: la lucha contra el fascismo y los derechos de la mujer, la crítica antibelicista, la defensa de los valores democráticos y la protección de la infancia. En esta “Página de la mujer” publican en poco más de un año cuatro españolas de reconocido prestigio en la arena política e intelectual: Ernestina González (22-12-1937), Federica Montseny (18-1-1938), Dolores Ibárruri (17-3-1938) y Margarita Nelken (21-9-1938).1

El subtítulo del texto de Montseny subraya que “hace un llamamiento vibrante a las Mujeres de América” sostenido sobre tres pilares: la función maternal (refiriéndose a las madres españolas y americanas que desean proteger el futuro de sus hijos), la sororidad (apelando a sus “hermanas” en esta petición de ayuda de Solidaridad Internacional Antifascista) y la idea de que las mujeres tienen agencia y son luchadoras. Montseny se dirige a sus hermanas de América desde ese terreno común, con “voz de mujer y de madre, de combatientes en esta lucha”, pidiendo su apoyo para la causa republicana en un momento en que “los cuatro caballos del Apocalipsis… asolan las tierras de Iberia”. En su llamamiento se destaca que la solidaridad internacional es indispensable para combatir el fascismo, caracterizado en el texto como un peligroso enemigo universal que amenaza a esposos e hijos.  En ese contexto se volvía imprescindible la acción de la mujer, madre protectora y mujer de lucha, que tenía el deber de actuar para defender a las generaciones venideras de la amenaza fascista:

¡Ayudadnos! ¡Movilizad vuestras conciencias! ¡Agitad a favor de España y las víctimas del fascismo donde quiera que estéis! Es vuestro deber de antifascistas, de madres, de mujeres dignas, en todo momento. Al ayudarnos, empezáis a defenderos contra un enemigo que es vuestro enemigo; empezáis a proteger la vida de vuestros esposos, de vuestros hijos, mañana también amenazadas por los mismos que (…) siembran la desolación y la muerte en la mártir España. ¡Mujeres, madres de América! (…) Vuestra solidaridad moral y material; vuestra ayuda, el hálito de la fraternidad generosa es nuestro consuelo y nuestra esperanza.

La apasionada petición de Federica Montseny a comienzos de 1938 no contemplaba barreras políticas, geográficas o de clase, se dirigía a las mujeres españolas, hispanas y americanas, de todas las clases, profesiones y nacionalidades, unidas política y espiritualmente en un puente transatlántico construido sobre una sororidad cimentada en ideales de justicia, solidaridad, libertad, derecho, democracia y justicia, militando en un frente común contra el fascismo y la guerra:

Donde quiera que militéis, no importa la clase a la que pertenezcáis, si en vuestro pecho alienta un corazón noble (…) un alma justa, habéis de colocaros de nuestro lado; habéis de sentir el odio hacia los verdugos y la piedad, la fraternidad más encendida hacia las víctimas… ¡Maestras, intelectuales, empleadas, periodistas, obreras! Donde quiera que estéis, escuchadme.


Notas

1. Hoy examinamos el texto de Federica Montseny (1905-1994). De familia e ideología anarquista, Montseny ejerció el periodismo en Solidaridad Obrera, fue miembro de la CNT y llegó a ser la primera mujer ministra en España, ocupando la cartera de Sanidad y Asistencia Social en 1936.


Ana María Díaz-Marcos es catedrática de Literatura Española en el Departamento de Literaturas, Culturas y Lenguas de la Universidad de Connecticut. Sus campos de trabajo son la literatura, el teatro, el feminismo histórico y los estudios de género. Su último trabajo sobre Margarita Nelken, publicado en la revista Feminismos de la Universidad de Alicante, está disponible en el enlace:
https://rua.ua.es/dspace/bitstream/10045/111723/1/Feminismos_37_10.pdf

Feminismo y antifascismo en la “Página de la mujer” en La Voz

Por Ana María Díaz Marcos

El periódico neoyorquino La voz empieza a publicarse en julio de 1937, haciendo gala desde el primer número de un rotundo compromiso antifascista. El 11 de diciembre de 1937, con el artículo “Amigas de habla hispana” firmado por Lina Mares, se inicia la publicación de una “Página de la mujer” destinada a las mujeres hispanas interesadas -además de en los aspectos de hogar, crianza, moda y feminidad asociados históricamente con el sexo- en cuestiones políticas, feministas e intelectuales como la lucha de la democracia contra el fascismo, los derechos de la mujer, la educación, los conflictos bélicos y los derechos de la infancia.

La “Página de la mujer” editada por Mares se construye así en tribuna destinada a las “mujeres de mi raza y de mi lengua” que aúna la vocación política antifascista y feminista con otros elementos característicos de la prensa femenina más convencional: recetas, consejos de belleza, patrones y fotos de moda, publicidad, salud y estética. Esta convergencia del claro compromiso democrático antifascista y la voluntad feminista tiene una poderosa presencia en el periódico hasta mayo de 1938, cuando la firma de Lina Mares deja de aparecer en el encabezamiento de la “Página de la mujer” que pierde de inmediato esa orientación política. Durante esos seis primeros meses de publicación la página expone su ideario democrático y feminista a través de numerosos artículos que se dirigen a una mujer moderna interesada en un abanico amplio de propuestas: “lo mismo el consejo legal para la defensa de vuestros derechos de mujer, que la receta de cocina; el patrón de moda, que la manera de ataviaros o conservar vuestros encantos físicos. Lo mismo hallaréis el artículo relativo a la educación o el cuidado de vuestros hijos, que la noticia y el comentario oportunos sobre alguna conquista de nuestras hermanas en el campo de la ciencia, de la industria o en el aula universitaria”.

Con ese espíritu de sororidad Mares describe en el artículo “Amigas de habla hispana” el papel de la mujer en la sociedad, centrándose en varios ejes fundamentales: como madre en su sentido pleno y no como “mera máquina de producir hijos”, como ciudadana y como compañera del hombre, con quien comparte los mismos derechos y deberes. No es posible establecer por qué la “Página de la mujer” perdió tan pronto su orientación política y feminista pero lo cierto es que esos primeros meses el mensaje se vincula sobre todo a las colaboraciones y el trabajo editorial de Lina Mares (de quien no se tienen más datos en este momento) y de la periodista y sufragista mexicana Margarita Robles de Mendoza que vivía en Nueva York en aquellas fechas y que contribuye activamente en ese página entre enero y abril de 1938 con artículos que reflejan su vocación desde el título: «Hermanas de España, Aquí Estamos» (La Voz, 22-I-38), «La Posición de la Mujer ante el Fascismo» (La Voz, 20-I-38) y «La Mujer en la Alemania Nazi» (La Voz, 21-III-38).

Dentro del proyecto de Recuperación del Legado Escrito Hispano se prepara una galería con los artículos publicados por Margarita Robles de Mendoza en La Voz. El objetivo es que esta galería esté disponible y en acceso libre para el verano del 2021.


Ana María Díaz-Marcos es catedrática de Literatura Española en el Departamento de Literaturas, Culturas y Lenguas de la Universidad de Connecticut. Sus campos de trabajo son la literatura, el teatro, el feminismo histórico y los estudios de género. Su último trabajo sobre Margarita Nelken, publicado en la revista Feminismos de la Universidad de Alicante, está disponible en el enlace:
https://rua.ua.es/dspace/bitstream/10045/111723/1/Feminismos_37_10.pdf

Picture This: The Modesta We Never Knew

Train depot in background, black and white photograph of a woman in foreground

Tracing a relevant role model in US History

By Cecilia López

Amid the pandemic, I was invited to be a research contributor for Sarah Rafael García’s archival ethnofiction project on the life of Modesta Avila. During this time, I had moved back home after completing my first year as an undergrad student at the University of California, Berkeley. My initial reaction to Modesta Avila’s story was utter shock at how young she was when she battled for land rights. Just like Modesta, I am nineteen years old and was born in Santa Ana, California where she had familial ties and was convicted in court. As I reflect on my everyday struggles, I cannot fathom the fears and emotions that went through Modesta’s mind as she tried to sustain her livelihood. 

Photograph of Modesta featured alongside original images of the Combs House, and Cannery and Packing House. Below Avila’s photo, the inscription states: “In 1889, Modesta Avila objected to the Santa Fe railroad running through her mother’s land and hung a line of laundry across the tracks. Although she removed it before the train arrived, she was later charged and convicted of a felony, sentenced to three years in San Quentin and Died there at age 22 after serving two years of her sentence.” Photo Credit: Cecilia Lopez

Modesta Avila, a Mexican American a folk heroine, is known for her resistance against the Southern Pacific Railroad during the 1800s. Born and raised in San Juan Capistrano, California, Modesta lived in her family’s home that laid fifteen feet away from the railroad tracks. The many disruptions caused by the train impeded on her life and ability to engage in daily activities, such as caring for her hens. After voicing her concerns and still seeing no necessary measures being enacted or even considered by the railroad company, Modesta took matters into her own hands by placing a laundry line post across the railroad tracks. Along with this physical barrier, she attached a note: “This land belongs to me. And if the railroad wants to run here, they will have to pay me ten thousand dollars.” Shortly after performing this act of protest, Modesta was arrested for the obstruction of the railroad and would face three years of incarceration at San Quentin Prison.

Although I am frustrated by the injustice Modesta faced, I am very honored to now share her story with others. During the month of July 2020, I had the opportunity to visit and photograph Modesta’s house as a way to document her memory. Along with my parents and two younger sisters, I traveled from Santa Ana to San Juan Capistrano, California. My parents, who have lived in Santa Ana for over 40 years, were intrigued by Modesta’s poignant story, yet they questioned why no one ever spoke about her in the community. Upon arriving, my first inclination was to observe the space and walk around the area before shooting any photographs. The entrance exhibits a memorial wall that frames the trunks of the evergreen trees that wrap around Los Rios. This adorned stone wall lies near a neighborhood of native hummingbird sage, honeysuckles and prickly cactus with vibrant ruby red tunas. Centered in the middle of the memorial is a plaque with Modesta’s black and white mugshot from San Quentin Prison when she was arrested for the obstruction of the railroad. Following the memorial is a dirt path that leads toward Modesta’s home, now known as the Hummingbird Cafe or Combs House. Built in 1865, the Combs House was moved to Los Rios Street in 1878 when Forster City, south of San Clemente, failed and was later abandoned. The name pays homage to its original owner, Jack Combs, who served as an early town constable and lived on the property.

Located on 26711 Verdugo Street, Modesta Avila’s house quickly stands out as the only historical site right next to the train tracks and Metrolink station. Her house now serves as a tourist attraction that serves Greek and American food. Photo Credit: Cecilia Lopez

After researching Modesta for months, it was fascinating to visit her home, yet troubling to be there knowing how her story would ultimately end. While walking past her brown wooden house, I paused to reimagine how this space once looked. I felt that it was crucial to fully immerse myself in the environment to visualize how Modesta’s mid 19th century home might’ve looked, as well as the other living conditions that surrounded her. Despite not being able to enter the interior of her home, I was able to explore the house quite well and witness how the train tracks were literally right outside her front porch. The whistles of the train rang in my ears while the aged wooden planks of Modesta’s house creaked and echoed like the sounds of distant cries. It felt hauntingly surreal to take each step into what felt like another realm, where Modesta was standing right beside me.

The Los Rios Street District is the oldest and continually occupied residential street in California. Californian plants, such as cactus and succulents surround the area to provide a variant of diverse colors and wildlife. Photo Credit: Cecilia Lopez

I hope that my photographs allow the viewer to place themselves in the shoes of Modesta, as well as question the institutions or forces of power and privilege that push members of our society out to the margins. After recognizing how Modesta’s story had been sexualized, criminalized or simply forgotten, I made it my personal and visual objective to shoot as much detail as possible, thus providing multiple alternative perspectives. Unfortunately, many people in Santa Ana and the surrounding community are still unaware of Modesta’s narrative due to the lack of archived information and history that has documented her memory. Historians such as Richard Brock and his work, Modesta Again: Setting the Record Straight have countered Modesta’s narrative by criminalizing and sexualizing her . While the responsibility of a historian involves telling a more “accurate” sense of the past from an unbiased position—this is not the case. The history taught in standard US classrooms is dominated by an idealistic Westernized perspective told by the white cisgender male perspective. The counter narrative provided by Modesta reciprocates the equal oppressive and damaging behavior expressed in court that did not grant her a fair trial or the opportunity to voice her story as its authentic truth. And here I am, a nineteen year old in 2021 re-presenting history for all of us to learn more about the truths of Modesta Avila’s life.


Cecilia López is a photographer, research coordinator and literacy tutor. She is an advocate for human trafficking survivors; her creative work intersects social justice themes with photographic documentation. She is a second year undergraduate student at the University of California, Berkeley majoring in Sociology with a focus on Chicanx Studies and Digital Humanities. Currently, she is a research contributor for the 2020-2021 USLDH Mellon-Funded Grant: Modesta Avila Obstructing Development Since 1889, an archival project that documents the life of Modesta Avila, under the direction of Sarah Rafael García.  

Collecting and Re-presenting US History: Digital Storytelling as Archives

Woman standing in front of a powerpoint screen

By Sarah Rafael García

As an adjunct professor teaching Ethnofiction Through Contemporary Narratives at Chapman University, every semester I tell the following story on the first day of class:

In late 2019, I arrived to meet with Dr. Gabriela Baeza Ventura after procrastinating for months and while carrying a backpack full of books and snacks. I procrastinated to meet with her and loaded my backpack with too many things because I thought I would spend six to eight hours beating my head against my laptop. You laugh, but you should all know that I went to undergrad before the internet existed. As you can imagine, I’m not tech friendly at all. But what I learned in a couple of hours, besides how to create a virtual timeline, was that the digital humanities are also abbreviated as DH and not about elaborate techy skills. DH is about the passion to share knowledge — to provide information without the barriers of financial constraints and paywalls. Dr. Baeza Ventura became a relevant role-model — not because we are from the same generation — but because she’s a Latina passing on knowledge in order for all of us to be able to collect, preserve and re-present our own history in the US. And now I’m passing on those skills to you, I can’t wait to see what you teach others.

After a year of navigating through a pandemic and witnessing an invasion of the US Capitol by white supremacists, I find myself lacking motivation to continue creating. But as a Chicana born at la frontera and first generation everything, I also know more than ever that Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) communities need to continue to evolve and rise through our various platforms. I started to incorporate digital humanities into literary projects in 2016. As a MFA graduate and writer who was struggling to sustain myself through employment and obtain acknowledgement as a scholar, I brainstormed on how I could fortify my work while still remaining creative, critical and countering the national headlines.

I felt it was imperative to be strategic on how I passed on research and information to my audience. I didn’t want to develop a textbook or seminar or false news. I also prioritized accessibility through the use of diverse languages (regional dialects, Spanish and non-academic) and the visual arts. This led to my first collaborative multimedia project SanTana’s Fairy Tales, which included storytelling through music, visual arts and digital archives produced via powerpoint and presented on electronic devices in a live exhibition and accessible via a website.

As a result of that experience and the impact it made in Mexican-American Studies classrooms, I couldn’t imagine completing another publication without support from documented resources or archives. It was through the University of Houston Katherine G. McGovern College for the Arts and Project Row Houses Fellowship in 2019 that I got to visit and learn from Arte Público Press’ Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Program (Recovery) and US Latino Digital Humanities Program (USLDH).

With the help of Recovery/USLDH, I created my first virtual timeline for my living archival project, Reality Check 3rd Ward. It was the first fellowship program that allowed me to establish research methods to collect and preserve BIPOC history and culture while drawing parallels from regional BIPOC social justice movements to national politics. The combined mentorship also led me to design an undergraduate course. Ethnofiction Through Contemporary Narratives is a research and writing workshop using digital humanities and creative writing to trace BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and feminist history from the 1960s to present time. The course is open to students studying history, anthropology, creative writing, ethnic studies, women and gender studies, and humanities in order to pilot how they each will interpret US history while also learning to enhance and document their research through the arts and digital humanities. Students are expected to complete a historical virtual timeline, multimedia project in one semester. Over the last two semesters, I have witnessed a new generation of students accomplish more in three months than what I accomplished in a one-year fellowship.

Modesta Avila Obstructing Development Since 1889 (#MAOD)

Artistic rendition of Modesta Avila.
(Image credit: Carla y Patricia Zárate Suárez)

Through each past experience, I continued to research Modesta Avila. She served as muse for one of my stories in SanTana’s Fairy Tales and learning about her then taught me how to dig deeper for more unsung heroes while conducting research for Third Ward Houston. She became my research topic for the USLDH Mellon-Funded Grant: Modesta Avila Obstructing Development Since 1889 (#MAOD).

To me, Modesta Avila has become even more relevant these last few weeks. As a Mexican American who obstructed development of the railroad system in Southern California in the late 1800s, her place in history has been perpetuated as a criminal. She is the first felon out of Orange County who was initially convicted in Santa Ana and became the first woman admitted into the San Quentin State Prison. Her mugshot has become as iconic as the Australian 19 Crimes wine labels showcasing British prisoners through augmented reality. She’s known by some but none have actually heard her story without her mugshot establishing their point of view.

The majority of the publications available before 1920 are newspaper clippings and court documents, all of which cover the points of view of city officials and court proceedings in Santa Ana. Most recently, like in the last 15-20 years, there seems to be a fascination about Modesta currently existing as an urban legend near the San Juan Capistrano train station and to many in Santa Ana she has provided inspiration as a late 1800’s youth activist fighting against development. However, the majority of her history has only been published under white scholars and some even go as far as minimizing her purpose to merely a nuisance.

Follow the #MAOD Twitter account at @ModestaAvilaOD

#MAOD is a bilingual platform for collecting and sharing relevant history with a specific focus on Latinx, women and regional narratives in English and Spanish. #MAOD builds movement culture by preserving and re-presenting history from a people of color point of view. Combined, the archives and published creative work will also present a bilingual open-source book through APP Digital that engages a broader audience through diverse language, scholarly work and the digital humanities. With the collaborative research produced alongside undergraduate student and photographer Cecilia Lopez, we will transpose Modesta Avila’s image from criminal to digital storyteller. The digital enhancement is supported in part by multi-media artist Carla Zarate Suarez and transmedia artist Reema, jointly they will create the graphic illustrations and augmented reality for digital storytelling. Most recently, Modesta Avila has resurfaced in Twitter– collectively we have reconstituted her image to demonstrate a story from an alternative perspective. Her narrative includes black and white photos as regional documentation. #MAOD is the first multi-media scholarly publication of Modesta Avila that is collected, preserved and re-presented by two Chicanas from SanTana: Sarah Rafael García and Cecilia Lopez.

And yet over the last few weeks media headlines share how white supremacists rioted and vandalized the White House. Their actions have not been held accountable as a criminal act; they continue to gain attention and live their lives. This, again, leads me back to Modesta Avila– who was convicted and sent to San Quentin State Prison for hanging up a clothesline across railroad tracks. As a woman of color and Mexican American myself, born in the US, I have experienced firsthand how I too have become a nuisance to the white hierarchical models of this nation. Tracing Modesta’s history is affirming and also provides a method to continue to teach the next BIPOC generation to tell their own history– the digital humanities is the platform that has the potential to set the record straight and elevate our work and US history virtually and globally.


Sarah Rafael García is a writer, community educator, and performance ethnographer. She’s the author of Las Niñas and SanTana’s Fairy Tales, co-editor of pariahs writing from outside the margins and the forthcoming sci-fi anthology Speculative Fiction for Dreamers as well as founder of Barrio Writers and LibroMobile. Currently, she splits her time between shipping books out to loyal readers across the nation, teaching Ethnofiction Through Contemporary Narratives, and developing an archival ethnofiction project for the life of Modesta Avila as a 2020 USLDH Mellon-Funded Grantee. Follow her on Twitter: @SarahRafaGarcia.

Fighting Fascist Spain: The Exhibit

black and white group photo

Worker Antifascist Culture in US Spanish-language Periodicals

By Montse Feu, Sam Houston State University

[Featured photo caption: España Libre, Feb. 16, 1962:1. Founders’ picture. From left to right: Jesús González Malo (11th first row); José Nieto Ruiz (4th second row​); Félix Martí Ibáñez (8th second row); Aurelio Pego (5th top row). Should readers identify people in photograph please email Montse Feu at mm017 (at) shsu (dot) edu. Thank you.]

Over the last decade and through several publications, I have shared the story of US Hispanic workers in their fight against fascism, which included fundraising for the victims, grassroots activism, and publication of periodicals. My book, Fighting Fascist Spain. Worker Protest from the Printing Press (2020), shows how workers’ print culture and politics, most prominently anarchism and socialism, shaped their antifascism. Likewise, my co-edited volume, Writing Revolution: Hispanic Anarchism in the United States (2019), examines the ways in which Spanish-language anarchist periodicals established and maintained transnational networks that fought for the emancipation for workers from the late nineteenth through twentieth centuries in the United States, and part of this fight was the eradication of fascism. With this in mind, I have recovered, transcribed, and compiled Spanish Civil War exile correspondence to show its effectiveness as a post-war communication method that antifascist leaders like Jesús González Malo employed to strengthen their resistance networks in the context of transnational anarchism in Correspondencia personal y política de una anarcosindicalista exiliado: Jesús González Malo (1950-1965) (2016).

I research this fascinating topic thanks to the Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage program, which welcomed me as a research assistant while I was working on my PhD coursework. Interested in learning more about Spanish Civil War exile in the United States, I had applied to the University of Houston. My interest, both academic and personal, developed from the fragmented stories of anarchists, the Spanish Civil War, fascist terror, and transatlantic travels to the Americas I heard as a child. My research assistantship mainly consisted of recovering and cataloguing two Spanish Civil War Periodicals: Frente Popular (1936-1939) and España Libre (1939-1977). One of the first texts I catalogued was a refugee narrative. It portrayed refugees in their miles-long walk toward France at the end of the Spanish Civil War. The piece especially caught my attention because it described their crossing of my native hometown near Barcelona. From that moment, disseminating such hidden stories of resistance has been my calling, the root of much of my happiness, and the greatest privilege I have experienced.

Fighting Fascist Spain: The Exhibit, sponsored by the Grants-in-Aid of the US Latino Digital Humanites (USLDH) program, visualizes the story of the Sociedades Hispanas Confederadas (SHC) as told in Fighting Fascist Spain (2020). When the Spanish Civil War broke out, about two hundred US Hispanic cultural and mutual aid societies came together in what became known as the Sociedades Hispanas Confederadas (SHC). The SHC was devoted to its antifascist cause, particularly through its activism and the publication of Frente Popular (1936-1939), which changed its name to España Libre (1939-1977), until democratic elections were held again in Spain. España Libre (1939-1977) was the longest sustained antifascist bilingual periodical in the United States. Twentieth century U.S. Hispanic workers had a clear transnational consciousness: old migrants and new exiles from European fascism coalesced in overlapping communities across the United States and were linked to similar antifascist networks in other countries. Along with affiliated associations, theater groups, rallies, and demonstrations, periodicals provided public spaces of protest and solidarity in the United States.

Fighting Fascist Spain: The Exhibit intends to recover and make available worker antifascist visual culture. As physical objects, images in US Spanish-language periodicals are fragile. This digital collection will document otherwise disappearing memories of local and global networks of political protest and solidarity. Visual sources recovered in The Exhibit comprise but are not limited to:

  • announcements and photographs of rallies and demonstrations, photographs and obituaries of demonstrators
  • announcements of cultural fundraisers and the antifascist plays, photographs and obituaries of participants
  • cartoons, and photographs and obituaries of artists

Fighting Fascist Spain: The Exhibit intends to support antifascist researchers, descendants, and the general interested public in their efforts to recover information on victims of fascism and their allies, rebuild broken family stories, and amplify the victims’ voice and perspective.


Montse Feu, P.hD is an associate professor at Sam Houston State University. Dr. Feu recovers the literary history of the Spanish Civil War exile in the United States, US Hispanic periodicals, and migration and exile literature at large. Her most recent book is Fighting Fascist Spain. Worker Protest from the Printing Press, (2020) You can find her online at: https://montsefeu.wixsite.com/montsefeu.