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Manuel Marquis Cabrera

En las montañas

Spaniards in Southern West Virginia

By Tom Hidalgo

Manuel Marquis Cabrera came from southern Spain and worked in the coal mines of Raleigh County. He was one of thousands of Spaniards who came to southern West Virginia in the early 20th century. Photographer and date unknown

In 1920, 17-year-old Avelino Cartelle found himself in New York City, down to his last 50 cents and no job. He had arrived with high hopes a few months earlier from the town of Arnoya, in the northern region of Galicia, Spain, but now was thinking about trying his luck in Uruguay where he had a brother.

Then, Manuel Basquez, a Spaniard who had come from Spain with Cartelle, paid him a visit. Basquez had been to Logan County, West Virginia, where he had an uncle, and was preparing to go back there. He encouraged Cartelle to return with him to Logan and get a job in the mines.

West Virginia? Coal mines? It wasn't what Cartelle had in mind when he set sail for the Americas. "I wanted to stay in New York. I wanted to go to school. I didn't want to go to the mines," he recalled in a 1993 interview, at age 90.

He decided to go to West Virginia anyway, taking with him a two-dollar guitar he had brought with him from Spain. "I wore it over my shoulder all the way to Logan County," he said. Arriving in Logan, he went to work for the Guyandotte Coal Company for $10 a day.

Cartelle eventually settled in Oak Hill, and for many years owned and operated the popular Skyline Drive-In. He was one of thousands of Spaniards who came to West Virginia in the early part of the 20th century, drawn primarily by the prospects of jobs in the coal mines.

State Department of Mines records reveal that Spaniards first entered the mines in West Virginia in 1908, when seven were working at New River Coal Company's mines in Raleigh County. The number grew steadily over the years, peaking at 2,212 in 1921, when Spaniards were present in 19 of the state's 55 counties. Raleigh County had the most with 557. Logan had 467.

Spaniards came from throughout Spain, but most were from the southern region of Andalucia or the northern regions of Galicia and Asturias. Apparently, few came directly to West Virginia.

You can read the rest of this article in the Winter 2001 issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.