Thousands of Spaniards came to West Virginia in the early part of the 20th century to work in the then-booming coal mines of the region. Avelino Cartelle, Manuel Basquez, and Cayetano Hidalgo were three such men. In the winter issue of GOLDENSEAL magazine, Tom Hidalgo, the grandson of Cayetano Hidalgo, recounts the experiences of these and other Spaniards who settled in southern West Virginia.
In the article titled, “En las montañas: Spaniards in Southern West Virginia,” Hidalgo shares the stories of the dreams, events, and the promise of work that led many Spaniards to West Virginia. Some, like Basquez, came to join family. Some came by way of other places. Frank Troitiño worked as a construction worker building the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Francisco Ubeda Guirado worked on the Panama Canal. Manuel Marquéz Cabrera worked in a Chicago meat packing plant. John Ubeda, at age 5, came with his family and begin working in the mines at age 12.
The Spaniards brought their rich family heritage, culture, and traditions with them to Raleigh, Fayette, Logan, and neighboring counties. They built businesses and houses, and they raised families. In 1938 they formed Ateneo Español, an organization to promote the interest and general welfare of Spaniards in the Beckley area. Today, the organization continues to be an important part of their lives and heritage.
The fall issue of GOLDENSEAL, due out December 5, also includes articles about the USS West Virginia, Taylor County’s color guard of retired veterans, the history of WSAZ radio, and the Air-Ola Radio Company of Huntington.
GOLDENSEAL is West Virginia’s magazine of traditional life and is a quarterly publication of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. It is available for $4.95 from Bookland at Cross Roads Mall, Tamarack, or by calling (304)558-0220, extension 153.