January 19, 2019
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Spanish families torn apart by migration to US reunite

By Helen Cook.

New York, Jan 7 ( efe-epa)- When poverty and hunger afflicted Spaniards in the mid-19th century and the beginning of the 20th, hundreds of thousands migrated to the United States looking for work, and their families were left unexpectedly torn apart forever.

Though initially the vast majority left the Iberian Peninsula in hopes of finding a better life and returning to Spain a few years later, many were unable to do that. But some of those separated families are now, a century later, getting back together.

The reunions have been made possible thanks to the research of Hispanist James D. Fernandez, a professor at New York University (NYU), who has spent years trying to reconstruct the history of that exodus, compiling thousands of family documents and photos preserved by the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the expatriates.

Not an easy task, since in 1918 alone some 100,000 Spaniards decided to find their future in the US, added to the 20,000 to 30,000 annually that made the same voyage back in those days.

"If we wish to know the lost stories of that brief episode, we must visit the family homes. Their histories are all there, because there are no books," Fernandez told EFE about the migration of Spaniards to the United States, which he explains and documents in his work "Invisible Immigrants: Spaniards in the US (1868-1945)."

In order to avoid the disappearance of an important moment in Spanish history with the passing of time, the Hispanist decided to create a page on Facebook, which at first was aimed at publicizing his project but soon became an immeasurably valuable source of information.

Fernandez said a countless number of useful informants have showed up through the "Spanish Immigrants in the United States" page, which has more than 15,000 followers.

He said that when a photo is posted asking for information about the people in it and the location seen in the background, "in 15 minutes there are already four answers."

The distribution of photos to thousands of people on social networks has led to numerous family reunions through the recognition of grandparents or great-grandparents who sailed off to the Americas and were never heard from again.

For example, the NYU professor said, in one photo there are two families. The family on the right lends him the photo but doesn't know the family on the left, and in 15 minutes someone responds, "but those are my grandparents," and within two months the two families are having a reunion on Long Island.

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