Spanish Camp

La Voz de Galicia – January 19, 2018 →

Cristina PatoMy reading had nothing to do with Spanish immigration in the United State at the start of the century, but I put aside the two books on education and vocation I had to read that week to look for information on a camp of Spanish naturists on a beach of Staten Island in 1929: the Spanish Camp.

Since I began my life in the east coast of the United States, I have discovered, bit by bit, the fascinating history of Galician immigrants who started to arrive in Newark and New York between the end of the nineteenth century and the middle of the twentieth. The project Spanish Immigrants in the US, whose subtitle is Ni frailes ni conquistadores (Neither Friars nor Conquistadors) is devoted to recovering many of these stories under the guidance of New York University professor James D. Fernandez and the Asturian journalist Luís Argeo. My curiosity to know which Spanish immigrants were the ones who decided to form a naturalist commune (and according to some sources a socialist refuge) in the twenties led me to discover that the camp was demolished in 2001 after a sad battle with the real estate developer who purchased the land in 1997 and who ended in bankruptcy…

It was a book by Parker J. Palmer, the quaker and activist who posits social change through education, that led me to read about the life of the journalist, Christian anarchist, activist and pacifist Dorothy Day. Interestingly, it was Day’s followers the ones who attempted to save the Spanish Camp. In the ‘70s, she had purchased a couple of bungalows from the Spanish Naturopath Society for her own retirement and meditation. The Society was the landowner and individuals the owners of the bungalows in it…Today, the Spanish Camp is abandoned ground.

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