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Reconstructing a history of Spanish immigration in West Virginia: Implications for multicultural education

Thomas Gene Hidalgo, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Spain has had a significant influence on the Americas since Christopher Columbus landed at Hispañola in 1492, sailing in a Spanish ship with a Spanish crew. That event began a period of conquest that left Spain in control of much of Latin America and dominant in the territory that would become much of the southwestern and western United States. Much has been written about the conquistadors and explorers who came to the “New World,” but after this period there is little mention of Spanish immigrants in the United States. This country experienced a period of mass immigration during the end of the 19th century and the first quarter of this century. Spaniards were among them, but accounts of this immigration rarely mention this fact. Several thousand Spaniards immigrated to West Virginia, drawn primarily by jobs in the coal mines. However, this story is virtually unknown because no one has documented it, like so much of America's past that is ignored in the “official history” of the country. This study fills a gap in knowledge about Spaniards who came to West Virginia while addressing the broader question of who is included and who is excluded in our history. The study employed oral history interviews and a review of documents and records to explore and document the experiences of the Spanish immigrants. It found that Spaniards immigrated primarily from the southern region of Andalucia and the northern regions of Galicia and Asturias. They left Spain for economic, political and social reasons and many lived in other countries and states before settling in West Virginia. Most labored in the coal mines, struggled in their day-to-day lives and experienced the sting of prejudice. They maintained their culture in many ways, including language, food ways and by starting a Spanish club in 1938, the Ateneo Español. The study suggests ideas on how the stories of the Spanish immigrants can be used to make a social studies class more multicultural through oral history. It also includes a survey of social studies educators and an analysis of textbooks.

Subject Area

Bilingual education|Multicultural education|American history|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Hidalgo, Thomas Gene, "Reconstructing a history of Spanish immigration in West Virginia: Implications for multicultural education" (1999). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9920609.