The term Spaniard refers to people who originated from Spain, a country that historically has been characterized by strong regional and cultural diversity. The tensions between political unity and cultural diversity have been one of the principal themes of Spain’s history and were effectively resolved only with the 1978 constitution, which created a quasi-federal political system.
At first glance it might seem that a common religion would contribute to cultural and social homogeneity. After all, Spain has been and remains overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, the official religion of the country until the 1970s. For the vast majority of Spaniards, however, affiliation to Roman Catholicism is only nominal. Moreover, the power and influence of the Catholic Church in Spain’s political life has been a source of controversy and social divisiveness for at least the last two centuries. The Church, for instance, contributed to the political instability that resulted in Spain’s greatest upheaval of modern times, the Spanish Civil War of the late 1930s.
Spain’s internal diversity is most apparent in the presence of various peoples and languages spoken in the country. The primary language is Castilian, which is generally known as Spanish. Castilian is only one of a number of Latin-based languages, however, which evolved in the Iberian peninsula over the centuries after its conquest by Rome. Some of these languages are recognized by Spain’s constitution as co-official with Castilian in their region. Gallego, very similar to Portuguese, is the official language of autonomous Galicia; Catalan is the official language of Catalonia. Two other autonomous regions, Valencia and the Balearic Islands, have official languages which resemble Catalan although there is some dispute as to whether these are dialects or distinct languages. Basque, an ancient language unrelated to any of the others, has official status in the Basque Provinces, now known as Euzkadi.
Speakers of some of Spain’s languages also consider themselves to be distinct peoples. This is particularly the case with the Catalans, Basques, and, most recently, the Galicians, whose leaders often argue that the present autonomy accorded their respective regions is derived from the fact that they are nationalities distinct from the Castilian Spanish. Thus, in this entry the term Spaniards refers to all immigrants and their descendants from the country of Spain, even though they may be of different ethnolinguistic origins. (See also BASQUES. )
Spain is one of the oldest states in Europe and was the first European power to have an empire in the Americas. When Columbus initiated the permanent European presence in the Western hemisphere, he did so for Spain, or, more precisely, for Castile, one of the two constituent parts of the Spanish monarchy. The conquest of a massive empire in the Americas transformed Spain into the leading European power, a position it held during the sixteenth century and somewhat beyond. For most of this time, the country was ruled by the Spanish line of the Habsburg dynasty, which used the wealth (gold and silver) from the New World colonies to help extend its political and military interests on the European continent. Spain’s dominance was viewed with great concern by other European states. Eventually, by the mid-seventeenth century, excessive spending, financial mismanagement, and challenges by other European powers for control of the sea and colonial expansion all contributed to Spain’s decline.
In the wake of the War of Spanish Succession (1700– 15), the French Bourbon dynasty came to power, and the country’s new rulers tried to rebuild Spain’s economy. Such efforts were hampered, however, by the continent-wide wars initiated by the French Revolution and especially by the invasion of French troops in 1808. These events also undermined the absolute monarchy and eventually led to the installation of a liberal, constitutional system by 1834. At the same time, all of Spain’s colonies on the American mainland succeeded in becoming independent. The once-great empire in the New World was to be reduced to the islands of Cuba and Puerto Rico.
For much of the nineteenth century, Spain’s political history was marked by instability, repeated military coups, and civil wars. A stable constitutional system was created after 1875, but this was undermined by the loss of the remaining colonies (Cuba and Puerto Rico) during the Spanish-American War of 1898 and the rise of political movements such as socialism and anarchism. Politics became increasingly polarized after World War I. The military dictatorship of Primo de Rivera (1923–30) was followed by a republic which attempted to initiate democratic and progressive reforms. These reformist policies antagonized most of the country’s existing elites, including the Catholic Church and in particular the armed forces. A military revolt in July 1936 initiated a brutal civil war that lasted until March 1939, when the Nationalist rebels, led by General Francisco Franco, won an unconditional victory.
Franco established a dictatorial regime that remained in power until 1975. Initially, his regime imitated the fascist systems of Germany and Italy, but, following their defeat in 1945 and the patent failure of the fascist-inspired economic policy of autarky by the 1950s, Franco’s regime adopted a more liberal-capitalist approach. Political stability, the encouragement of foreign investment, and a growth in the tourist industry all contributed to an improvement in Spain’s economy and general standard of living.
Following his death in November 1975, Franco was succeeded by a handpicked successor, King Juan Carlos. From the first moments of his reign, however, the king made it clear that he wanted to be the king of “all the Spaniards” and that this meant transforming the country into a democracy. The Spanish transition took place quickly and peacefully: the first elections were held in 1977 and a new constitution was proclaimed by the end of 1978. In 1986 Spain became a member of the European Community.
Spaniards have a long history of migration, both within Europe and across the Atlantic. The transatlantic flow began almost immediately after the European arrival in the Americas at the end of the fifteenth century and has continued, with varying degrees of intensity, ever since. Spaniards were fully integrated into the great trans-Atlantic migration from Europe in the second half of the nineteenth century and the first part of the twentieth: from 1846 to 1932 almost five million people left Spain for the Americas, putting Spain in fifth place, behind Great Britain, Italy, Austria-Hungary, and Germany. The motives for this massive migration were similar to those operating elsewhere in Europe: the disruption caused by the spread of industrialization and the increasing integration of the global, and especially the trans-Atlantic, economy.
The vast majority of these migrants went to the two remaining American colonies, Cuba and Puerto Rico, which until 1898 were favoured destinations. So were a number of the former Spanish colonies which had become independent in the first two decades of the nineteenth century. Mexico and, above all, Argentina received hundreds of thousands of Spaniards: one third of the 4.5 million Europeans who went to Argentina between 1857 and 1915 came from Spain. Existing migration chains, active recruitment and the attraction of countries in which their language was spoken all drew Spaniards to Latin America; only a tiny fragment of the huge Spanish migratory flow went to North America and most of those went to the United States. Hawaiian sugar planters recruited people from southern Spain as labourers between 1907 and 1914 and later in the century Basques were specially recruited as shepherds for Nevada.
The vast majority of those who crossed the Atlantic came from a small number of provinces in Spain: the Canary Islands and the Cantabrian coastal areas of Galicia, Asturias, and Santander. All had a poor and overpopulated countryside and emigration became a standard experience for people in those regions. Two other provinces, Almería and Murcia, in the southeast, also became important sources of migrants when the local mining industries collapsed. Many of these migrants were “birds of passage” or sojourners, young males, both single and married, who crossed the ocean in search of wages to supplement the income from a smallholding. Many hoped to “make America,” as the Spanish saying put it, and return home as indianos, people who had made a fortune.
Residents of Spain were among the very first Europeans to arrive in Canada. In the sixteenth century, Basque fishermen and whalers worked the waters off Newfoundland. Their activities are commemorated in place names such as Port aux Basques and Spaniards’ Bay and in the remains of graves, pottery ovens, dwellings, and even a complete galleon discovered by archaeologists. The Spanish presence on the west coast began in 1774. The Crown sent official expeditions of exploration north from ports on the Pacific coast of Mexico to protect California by preventing Spain’s imperial rivals, Russia and Great Britain, from establishing themselves in the area. Spain had a military post at Nootka on Vancouver Island but never attempted to colonize the region. This post was abandoned in 1795. The only remnants of this early presence are names such as Galiano Island, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Narvaez Bay, and Mount Bodega.
Given the ease of migrating to countries where Spanish was the national language and for which well-established migratory chains already existed, there can be no surprise that few Spaniards came to North America. Modern Spanish migration to Canada falls into three clearly defined periods during the twentieth century. In the first, which lasted until 1957, there were very few immigrants from Spain. An estimated 2,000 Spaniards did come in 1913–14 but that was a much larger number than in previous or succeeding years. The total number of people who had come from Spain was 2,208 in 1921, 1,472 in 1931 and 1,030 in 1941. From 1946 to 1956 only 2,556 Spaniards were admitted to Canada, an average of 232 per year. In fact almost half came in 1951 and 1956; the average for the other nine years was only 150.
The second period began in 1957. The year before the Spanish government had created the National Emigration Institute to assist its nationals who sought to leave the country. This was part of a radical change in the overall economic policy of the Franco regime from autarky, or national economic self-sufficiency, with massive government intervention to a more liberalized model of industrialization. This shift included a concern to facilitate the migration of “excess” population, especially from the countryside. At the same time Canada was actively seeking more immigrants and in 1957 the two governments signed an agreement to bring Spaniards to Canada.
Three expeditions of Spanish immigrants were organized under the auspices of the 1957 agreement. The first, in May 1957, was known as “Operation Alce” (Moose) and brought 125 couples from all regions of the country to Canada. The following month “Operation Bisonte” (Bison), brought 98 single men, most of whom were farmers and most of whom came from the region of Navarre. The final expedition was organized in 1960 by the Spanish Catholic Commission on Emigration and brought 50 single women to work as domestic servants. This period of officially sponsored immigration ended in 1960.
Of course many Spaniards had come to Canada outside of these government agreements and they have continued to do so since 1960. A number of exiles from the Civil War came to Canada after having gone to a third country, usually one in Latin America. The pattern of Spanish immigration to Canada since 1960 resembles that of the years before 1957 and is marked by a steady but small flow of people. Between 1961 and 1989 a total of 16,184 Spaniards came to Canada, an average of 558 per year. The peak years were 1966, 1967, and 1968 with, respectively, 1,161, 1,372, and 1,367 Spanish immigrants.
The period of most arrivals in Canada corresponds to the years in which Spaniards generally were migrating most actively, either to other countries in Europe or within Spain itself. This helps explain the large number of Spaniards who came to Canada from third countries: according to a study done in Toronto in 1986, 43 percent fell into this category. Likewise, the immense scale of population movement within Spain accounts for the fact that many Spaniards came to Canada from the cities. The same Toronto study revealed that over half of the respondents had an urban background. Immigration fell off noticeably after 1977, when Spain had become a relatively wealthy country and democracy had been re-established following the death of General Franco. Between 1980 and 1992 the annual immigration of Spaniards to Canada was on average only 166.
Spaniards have overwhelmingly entered the urban and industrial side of Canadian society. Even many of those men who came as part of “Operation Bisonte” and were intended to be agricultural workers left their designated agricultural jobs after less than a year although this meant having to assume the cost of their travel from Spain.
While Ontario and Quebec have always received more Spaniards than any other province, the relative importance of the two for Spanish immigration has changed over time. In 1921 only 18 percent of the Spaniards in Canada lived in Quebec but by 1941 that had risen to 32 percent. From throughout the 1950s and into the late 1960s Quebec received the largest share of Spanish immigrants so that, by 1971, 39 percent of the total lived there. By 1969, however, more Spaniards were going to Ontario and by 1981 its share of the Spanish population had surpassed Quebec’s. This changed again during the 1980s as more immigrants went to Quebec than Ontario.
By 1991 the Spanish population of Canada was concentrated essentially in two provinces, Ontario (38 percent) and Quebec (43 percent). In the 1991 census 82,675 people claimed Spanish as their single ethnic origin; of these 43,940 (53 percent) lived in Ontario and 21,165 (26 percent) lived in Quebec. Alberta (8,125), British Columbia (6,560), and Manitoba (1,475) were the only other provinces with more than 1,000. Some Spaniards could be found in every other province, including the 10 in Prince Edward Island, and there were 20 in the Northwest Territories; only the Yukon had none.
The census produced a significant inconsistency between the number of people who called themselves Spaniards, in whole or in part, and the number of immigrants from Spain. Slightly more than 16,000 Spaniards came to Canada from 1960 to 1990 and in the 1991 census 11,175 people gave their place of birth as Spain. Even so, nearly 159,00 people claimed to be entirely or partly of Spanish ethnicity. One possible explanation is that a large number of people from Spanish-speaking countries other than Spain declared themselves to be Spanish by ethnic origin.
The 1991 census also revealed that the Spaniards were almost entirely an urban population: nearly 87 percent of them lived in 12 of the country’s metropolitan areas, defined by the Census as cities with at least 100,000 people and the adjacent urban and rural areas which constitute their economic and social hinterland. Toronto, with 49,490 (single- and multiple-responses), had by far the largest Spanish population, followed by Montreal, with 28,690. The next most important nuclei were in Vancouver (13,160), Ottawa-Hull (8,035), Calgary (6,570), Edmonton (6,450), Hamilton (3,930), Winnipeg (3,295), London (2,625), Kitchener (2,400), and Windsor (1,810). In some provinces the Spaniards are even more concentrated in these metropolitan areas than the already high national average. For instance, those in Winnipeg account for 94 percent of all Spaniards in Manitoba, those in the five Ontario areas account for 89 percent of the province’s total, and those in Calgary and Edmonton 88 percent of the total for Alberta.
The Spanish migration to Canada has been motivated primarily by economics. There has been one exception to this, however. The Spanish Civil War produced a massive flow of exiles, estimated at some 500,000. Most of these went to France, the Soviet Union, and various Latin American countries, but after World War II some did make their way to Canada. The exact number may never be known but, from 1947 to 1958, 481 refugees, stateless, and displaced persons from Spain were admitted to the country. Another 89 were admitted between 1959 and 1967.
A sample of the Spanish population of Toronto interviewed in the mid-1980s presented a somewhat different pattern. The largest segment, 40 percent, said they had come to Canada for economic reasons. The rest said that they had come for adventure and to travel (30 percent), to join family and friends, (20 percent), and for political reasons (10 percent).
The economic life of the Spanish population has been determined by two basic factors: profession and gender. Until the 1960s Spain was a primarily agricultural country and most of the Spaniards who came to Canada had been employed in the agricultural sector at home. A significant percentage, about 15 percent, got jobs on farms when they arrived in Canada, but the work was long and hard and the salaries low, between $90 and $140 per month in 1960. As a result, these immigrants, who had left the countryside of their own country in search of better economic opportunities, also left the Canadian countryside for the more remunerative employments available in the cities. This move from rural to urban settings was the reason that many Spanish immigrants who had originally settled in Quebec moved to Ontario.
Some of the men had vocational or technical training before leaving Spain, while others had work experience in other European countries, usually France, Germany, or Switzerland. As Spanish training and apprenticeship programs generally followed European patterns they were recognized in Canada and Spaniards were able to quickly get jobs as mechanics, carpenters, painters, or construction workers. They were also able to move into heavy industry: many of the Spaniards in Windsor, Ontario, found jobs in the automobile factories. Some families were able to open small businesses, such as food stores and restaurants, but the relatively small size of the Spanish population in any given city limited the opportunities for this. By the end of the 1960s about half of the men worked in manufacturing activities. Another 25 percent, probably made up of those who were best able to acquire one of the official languages, worked in offices or in the service sector. Together they represented the bulk of the Spanish population, which generally could be categorized as lower middle class.
The experience of women was different. With less formal training than men and obedient to traditional cultural patterns, many remained at home to care for the children. Those who did find paid employment usually did so in domestic service or, to a lesser extent, in the retail trade or in restaurants. In Montreal some found work in the textile industry. As time passed, more women moved into the work force: the adoption of new values and the increasing difficulty of maintaining a home on the husband’s salary alone made the figure of the housewife a less predominant one. Even so, women have been less involved in the labour force than have men.
A significant minority of the community have become members of the professions. These include engineers, university professors, managers, businessmen, and doctors. Many of this last group came to Canada to do post-graduate training and decided to stay when offered attractive positions.
The social composition of the Spanish immigrants is closely connected to the development of Spain itself, which changed rapidly from a poor, largely rural society into an affluent, urban society with a service and industrial economy. Seen in this perspective, the evolution of the Spanish community in Canada since World War II can be divided into two periods, with the late 1960s and early 1970s as the dividing line.
In the 1950s and early 1960s most of the immigrants had little education or training and worked in agriculture and above all in manufacturing and construction. The women worked in domestic service. Alongside this mass of manual labourers there was a small but growing group of highly qualified professionals. By the mid1960s the majority of Spaniards arriving in Canada intended to work in industry, but professionals already constituted about a quarter of the arrivals, outnumbering those who hoped to work in construction. Clearly, the rising levels of education in Spain, and above all the explosive growth of the universities, had begun to change the immigrants’ expectations.
The second period began at the end of the 1960s and was fully in evidence by the early 1970s. The number of Spaniards who arrived in Canada in these years was on the decline and those who did arrive aspired less and less to jobs in industry and construction and more to white-collar administrative work. At the same time, the number of professionals, among whom medical doctors were the most significant group, came to constitute a third of the total. This trend increased during the 1980s and 1990s: the number of immigrants fell but the percentage of students, scientists, and professionals continued to rise.
The economic evolution of the Spanish community has followed the general national trends. Those who came in the 1950s and 1960s, the vast majority, were able, after many years of hard work, to acquire the standard comforts of Canadian life. Almost all of them own a home, have a car, and are able to return to Spain regularly, either for summer vacations or to avoid the winter. They have also been able to provide their children with an education and a standard of living far superior to that they had in their own youth. At the beginning of the 1980s almost 90 percent of them felt satisfied or very satisfied, in material terms, with their life in Canada.
However, this general contentment has begun to change under the impact of the prolonged recession and the emergence of increased uncertainty regarding employment prospects, especially in the industrial sector. To the large majority of the immigrants who are approaching retirement age, the prospect of losing their job or having to undergo some kind of retraining program is not an attractive one. Many would like to retire to Spain, but very few of their Canadian-born children share this desire. And, in any case, in Spain they would only find a very similar situation to that in Canada.
Spaniards do not have a great tradition of creating community organizations. However, like all people from largely agrarian societies, they were very attached to the practices and loyalties of their home villages, things such as games and athletic activities, the local festival, religious processions, and brotherhoods. (These last are at least as much connected to local identity as to religious belief, strictly speaking.) The Franco regime, which sought to control many aspects of public life, made the emergence of vigorous and autonomous organizations very difficult. The regime persecuted many organizations, and not just political ones, which it felt were too liberal, and punished their members. As participation in public life was not encouraged, and could even be dangerous, Spaniards were increasingly loath to move beyond circles of family or friends and when they did they tended not to participate very actively.
In spite of this background, Spaniards in Canada have created and maintained some community life. And they have done so even though their small numbers and residential dispersal have prevented the development of Spanish neighbourhoods in Canadian cities. In Toronto and Montreal, which have the largest Spanish populations in the country, Spaniards tend to live in neighbourhoods with a large number of people from other Latin countries, such as Portuguese, Italians, and Latin Americans, with whom they share services and even festivals. For example, Spaniards are found in all areas of the city of Montreal as well as in suburbs such as Greenfield Park, Laval, Brossard, and Dollard-des-Ormeaux. There is no Spanish quartier, but Montreal’s Rue Saint-Laurent, which is home to a number of Spanish associations, as well as to the Librería Espa ñola (just as much a food store as a bookstore) does provide something of a focal point. Toronto, whose Spanish population in 1991 was almost twice that of Montreal, does not even have an equivalent to the Rue Saint-Laurent, although a couple of Spanish stores and a medical centre run by Spanish-Canadian doctors can be found in the largely Portuguese area along College Street.
Spaniards have also established a reasonably large set of associations dedicated to educational, cultural, leisure, and welfare activities. Most of them were created in the 1960s or early 1970s, following the increase in immigration, but some date from earlier. Perhaps the first was the Association Cervantes-Camoens of Quebec City, which was started in 1945. Other early organizations include the Círculo Hispánico of Toronto, which had been founded by Professor Juan Cano and was in existence by 1951, and the Centre Espagnol of Quebec City, founded in 1957.
The Club Hispano of Toronto is a good representative of these newer organizations. The catalyst for the club was the serious illness of one immigrant and the response of other Spaniards in Toronto to raise money and arrange to send him back to Spain. The club was founded shortly afterwards, in late 1964. Its mandate is “to bring together Spaniards, Spanish-speaking people and all residents of Canada interested in Hispanic culture to ... create educational and recreational programs, promote Hispanic culture and provide social assistance to members and beneficiaries.” The club has a wide range of activities: sports such as soccer and bowling, cultural activities such as music and art classes, recitals, lectures, dance groups and theatre, a library, and social activities such as dinners and the celebration of Spanish holidays, among them “Hispanic Day” (October 12). The Club Hispano has also supported a number of Spanish film festivals held in Toronto and for almost every year since 1972 it has sponsored the Seville pavilion in the city’s multi-cultural Caravan.
Not all Spanish organizations were devoted solely or primarily to social and recreational activities. The Centre d’Information pour Espagnols (CIPE) was founded in Montreal in 1974 to provide services to immigrants from Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries and to otherwise help them adapt to life in Canada. The centre provides information, translation, counselling, and assistance in finding work. It also offers courses in French and English for all.
Perhaps the most striking initiative undertaken by any Spanish organization in the country was the decision in 1982 of the Hispano-Canadian Association of Kitchener-Waterloo (Ontario) to create HISLACAN HOMES to build two housing developments. The first, named “Príncipe de Asturias” (the title of the heir to the Spanish throne), was inaugurated in 1983. The fifty townhouses in the development were open to lower-income Spaniards and to non-Spaniards.
In 1993 there were nineteen social and recreational centres, eleven cultural associations, including three theatre groups and one dance troupe, and five schools across the country. Ontario and Quebec had the largest number, with fifteen and twelve respectively, but there were also three organizations in British Columbia, one in Alberta, one in Saskatchewan, two in Manitoba, and one in Nova Scotia. The range of activities carried on in each organization can be quite varied, although in general they try to serve as a point of contact for the community and as a centre of diffusion of Spanish language and culture. The Spanish embassy and the consulates in Toronto and Montreal maintain contact with these organizations and provide them with information and materials, such as films.
Most of these organizations include people from all parts of Spain but some have a marked regional character, appealing to immigrants from one specific area of the country, usually Galicia, Asturias, the Basque provinces, or Catalonia. The Centro Asturiano of Toronto, which was created in 1985, is mostly devoted to social activities such as dinners, dances, picnics and soccer games. The Centre Gallego de Montreal, which was founded in 1969 and which had 300 members in 1985, engaged in similar activities. The Catalonian centres in Montreal and Toronto receive financial support from the autonomous regional government of Catalonia, the Generalitat and the Spanish government. Some immigrants from Catalonia and the Basque Provinces refuse to call themselves Spaniards or to associate with people from outside their region.
The number of people who participate in the activities of the organizations is usually much smaller than the nominal membership. Outside of special events such as festivals, concerts, or plays, relatively few members spend much time there. There is also a striking class difference: Spaniards of more modest social standing are most likely to belong to and participate in these organizations while professionals tend to distance themselves from the community and have more extensive contacts with the rest of Canadian society.
This latter group is more fully integrated and has less need of community ties and cultural reinforcement that the associations provide. In addition, they share few values and interests with their country people. This pattern was clear among Spaniards in Toronto in the mid1980s in a study which revealed that 42 percent had social relations with both Spaniards and Canadians, 23 percent with Canadians only, and 35 percent with Spaniards only. Those in the first two groups had higher levels of education and were often married to non-Spaniards.
Before the radical change in values in Spain caused by the industrialization, urbanization, and spread of education during the 1960s and 1970s, the Spanish family was characterized by strong internal cohesion and sharply defined gender and age roles. The father was the supreme authority, a position that was recognized in Spanish law, and the breadwinner. The wife’s activities were centred on the home and children and the ideal was that she would not work outside the home. (Of course, economic realities often prevented working-class Spaniards from realizing this ideal, especially in the hard times of the 1940s and 1950s.) The children normally lived at home until they married and, until the 1960s, the average age at first marriage was high by European standards. Some remained at home after they married, saving money to purchase their own dwelling.
This is the type of family which the Spaniards who came to Canada after 1957 knew. About half the male immigrants were able to bring their families with them. Many of these married women had to find paid employment in Canada to supplement their husband’s earnings. The work they found, in domestic service or in manufacturing, was less stable and less well paid than that of their husbands.
Family networks were important for the immigrants. Once the first members of a family or the first people from a village had become established, they were followed by siblings and cousins or former neighbours drawn by the relative affluence the immigrants enjoyed. This led to the creation of networks of kin and acquaintances that could be of importance to later arrivals.
These types of relationships changed rapidly with the immigrants’ Canadian-born children. Although they probably put a high value on the family they are not prepared to accept traditional definitions of behaviour. Marriage or the formation of a family is no longer the fundamental goal of their lives, especially for women. Nor is marriage necessarily the moment at which children leave the parental home: the demands of education and career are just as likely to be the reasons for leaving. Relations between the sexes are not governed by the same strict rules as when their parents were young. Also, the immigrants’ children do not have the same degree of identification with their Spanish origin as do their parents. They may define themselves as ethnically Spanish but they are also likely to consider themselves Canadian above all else. Kin and ethnic loyalties have been replaced by other, more personal ties.
These changes in outlook and behaviour have generated conflicts between the generations but the parents have generally resigned themselves to the inevitability of such change. Even so, it would be a mistake to say that the Spanish family has dissolved; rather it has been transformed as one pattern of family relations has been replaced by another.
The culture of the Spanish community is affected by the social and geographic origins of the immigrants. With regard to social characteristics, there is a big difference between those who have had higher levels of education, many of whom happen to be medical doctors, and the bulk of the community, who have much less formal education. We have already noted the different ways in which each group participates in community life and in community cultural activities, those with a lesser education being much more involved. This difference is determined, above all, by their lesser integration into Canadian society. Differing geographic origins within Spain powerfully condition the cultural activities of the Spanish community, which vary greatly in a number of respects, such as folklore, food, and even mother tongue.
Spanish folklore is very rich and reflects the agrarian origins, both recent and distant, of the various peoples of Spain as well as the diverse and complex contributions of the numerous civilizations that have passed through the Iberian Peninsula. Without a doubt, however, the best-known of Spain’s varied folklore, and the one that is frequently mistaken for being all of Spanish folklore, is flamenco, which comes from Andalusia. The rich and varied flamenco tradition combines a multitude of styles of dance and song: fandangos, sevillanas, seguidillas, tarantas, and so on, which bring together elements of Arab and Gypsy cultures and mixes them with the harsh experience of Andalusian labourers in the fields of the great estates and in the mines.
The dances of Galicia, known as mu ñeiras, and the use of the bagpipe (gaita) both have Celtic origins. (Some writers believe that the Gallegos were originally Celts.) Galicia has also been characterized by an intense division of landholdings and the isolation of its interior in contrast to the Atlantic coastal zone. These contrasts have given rise to a rich oral tradition that mixes the magical with the mundane: belief in witches is still strong in some parts of Galicia. In Catalonia, the dance known as the sardana, which originated in the medieval period, has become a symbol of Catalan cultural nationalism. The Basques too have brought to Canada dances of very remote – possibly Iberian – origin, with the accompaniment of wind instruments, especially the traditional txistu.
Curiously, the body of folklore that is most widespread in Spain is the least known outside the country. This is the jota, the traditional dance of village and community festivals, which can be found in variants from Castile, Aragón, Extremadura, Murcia, and Navarre. The lyrics of the songs combine advice for daily life, comments on relations between the sexes, and criticisms of customs which local morality judges negatively, all flavoured with irony and humour.
On days that usually coincide with regional festivals or with saints’ days, the immigrants’ organizations have celebrations at which many of the styles of songs and dances mentioned above, and especially flamenco and the sardana, have a prominent place. In some cases these celebrations are also intended to attract new members to the Spanish community. In Montreal, an organization called Alegría de España (Joy of Spain) was created in 1970 to offer courses in Spanish dance; every year it puts on a show. There are about fifty members, most of whom are the children of the immigrants, although some of the immigrants themselves also take part. Montreal also has an establishment called “La Chacone,” which puts on shows of flamenco and classical Spanish dance, directed by a Québécoise, two evenings per week. In Toronto, the Paula Moreno Spanish Dance Company has been very successful and was the subject of a CBC television documentary.
Another great wealth of popular culture is food. Most of the necessary ingredients are readily available in Canada because of the presence of large communities of Italians, Portuguese, and Latin Americans, who also use them. More specifically Spanish items can be found in Toronto at the Sol de España and in Montreal at the Librería Española. Spanish restaurants also reflect the regional diversity of Spain, and restaurants that provide most of the regional varieties of Spanish cooking, as well as the popular snack foods called tapas, can be found in Toronto and Montreal.
Theatre groups have a special prominence. In 1981 the Alianza Cultural Hispano-Canadiense put on La Revoltosa, one of the most famous examples of the popular musical theatre form called the zarzuela, which can best be described as a cross between European operetta and North American musical theatre. The following year, this group won a number of awards from the Ontario Multicultural Theatre Association for its production of Federico García Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba. The Alianza has also organized concerts by pianists, guitarists, and orchestras, art exhibitions as well as concerts by Spanish-Canadian and Spanish artists. In this it has had assistance from the Spanish embassy and the departments of Spanish of some of the province’s universities.
In Montreal, the Valle Inclán theatre group, named for one of Spain’s most famous early–twentieth-century writers, has carried on activities of a high artistic calibre. The late Spanish-born sculptor Jordi Bonet is very well known in the province of Quebec and one of his pieces stands at the entrance to Montreal’s Museum of Modern Art. There have also been a number of exhibitions of Spanish paintings in major Canadian cities. Since 1980, painter Angel Gómez-Miguelánez, who was born in Segovia, has lived and worked in Fredericton, New Brunswick. An exhibition of his work was shown in Toronto in 1972, before he came to Canada, and he has also had a number of exhibitions throughout New Brunswick. Although not an artist in the usual sense of the word, graphic designer Francisco Belsué , who came to Canada from Zaragoza in 1968, has made a major contribution to Canadian popular culture. It was Belsué who designed the logo for the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team.
There are a number of small magazines and weeklies with limited circulation, many of which are basically newsletters of immigrant associations. They include Hispano (Toronto), published by the Club Hispano, and La Flama (The Flame; Toronto), published by the Catalan association, Casal dels Països Catalans. The first Spanish periodical was the weekly Correo Hispano-americano (Hispanic-American Post; Toronto, 1969– ). El Popular (Of the People; Toronto, 1970– ), appears twice weekly, and the magazine Mundo Ilustrado (Illustrated World; Toronto 1975– ) every second month. There was also the Quincenario Hispaño (Spanish Quincentenary; Vancouver, 1968–77) and the Correo espanol de Québec (Montreal, 1980). Spanish Canadians also have the magazine Dialogo (Dialogue; Montreal, 1980– ), which is a continuation of the defunct Tarsis (Montreal, 1975–80) and Correo espanol. Catalans produce a quarterly magazine entitled Anxaneta (Montreal).
The main sources for news of Spain are the weekly international editions of newspapers such as ABC and El País from Madrid and the world service of Radio Exterior de España, which has programs directed to Spaniards abroad.
There are a number of Spanish writers in Canada but the most of their work is written in Spanish, rather than in French or English, and published in Spain. A large number work in universities, usually in Spanish departments, and many remain connected to literary and academic circles in Spain.
The most significant is probably Manuel Betanzos Santos, who came to Canada in 1959 at the age of twenty-six. He taught Spanish, first at Lower Canada College and then at the Université de Québec in Montreal. In addition to his own poetry, most of which has been published in Spain, Betanzos Santos was the editor of an occasional literary review, Boreal: Poesía Española en Canadá (Montreal, 1965–76), which became Boreal Internacional(Montreal, 1976– ). The review published the works of Spanish and other Hispanic poets living in Canada, as well as poetry from across the Spanish-speaking world, and Spanish translations of Canadian poetry written in French and English. Two other significant figures are the poet and translator José María Valverde, who lived in exile in Canada, teaching at Trent and McMaster universities between 1968 and 1977, and Jesú López Pacheco, a novelist and poet who teaches at the University of Western Ontario.
The Alianza Cultural Hispano-Canadiense has also contributed to the development of writing by Spaniards and Hispanics in Canada. In 1981–82 it sponsored a literary competition that led to the publication of Literatura Hispano-Canadiense (1984), a collection of stories, poetry, and plays edited by Diego Marín, a professor and in the Department of Spanish at the University of Toronto.
A small number of Spanish authors do write in French or English. Jacques Folch-Ribas has produced five novels in French, some published in Montreal, the others in Paris. His novel Une Aurore Boreale (1974) won the Prix France-Canada and was translated in English as Northlight, Twilight (1976). Jerónimo Pablo González Martín, a professor of Spanish at Trent university, has published collections of poetry and works of literary criticism in Spain, but he also writes in English under the pseudonym Blair McGregor.
The Spaniards who came to Canada after World War II had little formal education. The one significant exception were political refugees. In terms of regional origins, the Catalans had the highest levels of education, although the actual difference between them and the rest of the immigrants was slight. The low educational levels of the bulk of the Spanish immigrants began to change in the 1960s, as economic development in Spain permitted the extension of public education. At the same time, both the high schools and the universities were transformed from highly elitist institutions into relatively open ones. Even so, the majority of the Spaniards who arrived in Canada in the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s had moderate or low levels of education. Thus, the community as a whole was divided between the vast majority, which had limited academic training, and a highly qualified and educated minority.
Of those immigrants who arrived between 1962 and 1970, 71 percent expected to find work which required little or no formal qualifications, for instance in construction, agriculture, manufacturing, and the service sector. Only 10 percent of the immigrants had the qualifications to allow them to aspire to white-collar work. There was also, however, a large minority, some 24 percent, who had high levels of academic or technical training and who hoped to work as professionals or skilled technicians or in education. In general, this cohort of immigrants lacked adequate knowledge of either official language, and domestic responsibilities made it difficult for all but a few to attain a high school education.
The educational development of the children of these immigrants has been most interesting. The creation of numerous theatre groups and the number and range of cultural activities in which they have been involved suggests the strength of their intellectual life. Not having to endure the language barriers that faced their parents, young Spanish Canadians have been able to move smoothly into the Canadian school system. In the mid1980s, nearly 62 percent of Spaniards in Toronto said they had a strong command of English; 36 percent a reasonable command, and only 2 percent a minimal command. There were, however, no clear patterns to determine their linguistic preferences. Before the government of Quebec passed Bill 101, most children of Spanish origin studied in English. In 1962–63, for example, fully 77 percent of the children of Spanish immigrants attended English-language schools. In contrast, in the 1980s many of the Spaniards who lived in Ottawa sent their children to francophone schools.
The educational levels of Spaniards in Toronto in the mid-1980s reflect these changing patterns. The largest group, 42 percent, had a secondary education, while 27 percent had studied at a post-secondary level. And almost as many, 13 percent, had post-graduate studies as had attended only elementary school, 17 percent.
Spanish Canadians have been concerned to preserve the Spanish language. While Spanish-English or Spanish-French bilingualism is the norm, especially in families in which both parents are Spanish, it is hard for many to maintain their mother tongue with fluency.
Montreal has been the centre of Spanish education and culture in Canada. Since 1964 the Cervantes Academy has offered primary-level courses in Spanish language, which follow the official guidelines of the provincial Ministry of Education. The Centro de Estudios Españoles was founded in 1972 by the Spanish government. It offers accredited courses in Spanish geography, history, and literature to hundreds of young people. During the 1980s its range of activities expanded to include university-level courses.
The educational efforts of the Toronto community have been less successful than in Montreal, but then there has been less official support. In the 1970s the Club Hispano was instrumental in convincing the Spanish government to authorize and then fund the Spanish Complementary School. This school was incorporated into the public schools’ heritage language program in the 1980s.
The Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Toronto deserves special mention. For many years it was considered one of the best departments in the world and Diego Marín, a professor who as a young man was part of the “La Barraca” travelling theatre troupe organized by the great Spanish writer Federico García Lorca, has been prominent as an organizer in the city’s Spanish community. In 1981 the department also hosted an international conference on Catalan.
It is widely held that the Spaniards are a very religious people. This is debatable, if by religious one means the continuous and formal adherence to the dictates of the Roman Catholic Church. Although the vast majority say that they are Roman Catholics and Catholicism was the official religion of the state until 1978, few regularly attend Mass and receive the sacraments, especially in the south, east, and central regions of the country. These regions have a long tradition of anti-clericalism which has not always been contained. The historic identification between the church and the status quo led to the killing of almost 7,000 members of the clergy during the Spanish Civil War. For its part, the church strongly supported the Nationalists without condemning the extensive repression and terror they used.
In the northern parts of the country, the influence of the church is much greater. In both the Basque provinces and Catalonia the clergy was so closely integrated into local life that it played a significant role in the development of the nationalist movements there. In the 1960s, with the coincidence of the rapid secularization of Spanish society and changes in the Church deriving from the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic hierarchy began to move away from its support of the Franco regime and to advocate national reconciliation.
The majority of the Spanish immigrants in Canada share many of these historic and cultural contradictions. They and their families take part in marriage, baptism, first communion, and last rites within the church. But most of them do not attend Mass except on those occasions and on others that are more social than strictly religious in nature. Weekly attendance at Mass is low: according to one study of Spaniards in Ottawa only 10 percent and sometimes even less. Only 3 percent of the Spaniards in Winnipeg participate actively in religious groups or events. In most cases, participation in religious activities is much less than in cultural ones.
On some occasions, such as on the days commemorating local, regional, or national saints and virgins – Montserrat, Guadalupe, Lourdes, Covadonga, and Fatima – Canadian Spaniards do organize activities, often together with the Portuguese or Latin American communities. Such events include a Mass, at which attendance is usually greater than the norm, although less than at the non-religious part of the celebration. The festival of San Fermín in early July, which has become world famous for the running of the bulls through the streets of the city of Pamplona, is celebrated in Toronto with singing and dancing. There are also some religious activities on 12 October, which is celebrated in Spain as the “Day of the Virgin of the Pillar” (el día del Pilar) as well as a national holiday celebrating Columbus’s arrival in America. In any case, it is clear that these are events in which it is impossible to separate the religious from the national, ethnic, and cultural.
For its part, the Roman Catholic Church has never paid the Spanish community particular attention. Spanish immigrants share services with other Latin Catholics, primarily Italians, Portuguese, and francophones. Quebec was a special case, and one that gave rise to some particular cultural conflicts. The Spaniards who settled in Montreal in the 1950s found that the Québécois priests enjoyed considerable prestige and power within the community and conducted themselves in ways to which many Spaniards were unaccustomed. The interference by the priests in people’s daily lives came as a shock because they were accustomed to a clergy in Spain that recognized the difference between respect for religious forms and customs and everyday life. In an attempt to resolve these problems, the Church of Santa Teresa of Avila, which had a Spanish priest, opened in Montreal in 1965. Toronto, the other city with a significant Spanish population, does not have an exclusively Spanish parish.
Although the immigrants’ children have been educated as Roman Catholics, there is a clear decline in religious observance, even compared with the rather tenuous formal religious practice of their parents.
The political activity of the Spanish community has generally been limited. The low level of education of the first immigrants and their problems in adapting because of their lack of knowledge of French or English prevented them from playing much of a role, either individually or collectively. In addition, they had very little experience of democracy before they arrived in Canada since for decades the Franco dictatorship used both terror and propaganda to convince Spaniards that the best thing was not to become involved in politics. Social relations between the political refugees of the 1940s and those who emigrated later for economic reasons were often marked by tension and suspicion. The political inexperience of the immigrants and their caution around politics were only confirmed by the actions of Canadian immigration officials, who, at the height of the anti-Communist scare, refused admission to some Spaniards who were considered politically radical or subversive.
The most significant political activity dealing with the situation in Spain was the Canadian Committee for a Democratic Spain, which was founded in Toronto in 1971 following a notorious political trial in Spain in 1970; it survived until 1975. This organization was composed of a small number of university professors, artists, and professionals from the Spanish community as well as a much larger number of Canadians connected with the labour movement and the cultural world. The committee’s goal was to make the Canadian public and the Canadian government more aware of the repression that was taking place in Spain. In addition to publishing a newsletter between 1972 and 1975, the committee organized a number of events across the country, such as the Conference for Amnesty in Spain, which attracted participants from outside the country. However, with the exception of the elite group that helped organize it, the committee appears to have had little impact on the mass of the Spanish population in Canada.
The small size of the community has prevented it from developing a national presence or even a presence in defence of a clearly defined neighbourhood or locality. Thus the political role of the immigrants has been small; those who have become citizens are voters, of course, but they have not attracted the attention of the political parties as other, larger communities have. The occasional Spanish Canadian seeks political office: Ricardo López, who came to Montreal in 1964, was elected as a federal Member of Parliament in 1988.
There have been no studies of the political preferences of Spanish Canadians, but it appears that they tend to favour the Liberal Party. (On the other hand, Ricardo López was elected as a Progressive Conservative.) In Quebec, the Spaniards are strongly federalist and reject the sovereigntist options. This has been a polemical issue and has given rise to debates within some regional communities. Some of the Catalans in Montreal suggested the similarities between the case of Quebec and that of their native region in Spain and voted for the Parti Québécois and the Bloc Québécois, but the majority of the community rejected this argument and has continued to hold to the federalist position.
Spaniards have created a number of organizations based on both national and regional identities; many have also belonged to more broadly based organizations aimed at all Spanish-speaking people. On occasions, however, their relations with other Hispanics have not been smooth. Some Spaniards have seen themselves as the true representatives of the Spanish-speaking population and Latin Americans have resented such assumptions of superiority. In both Toronto and Vancouver, Hispanic organizations split when recently arrived Latin Americans felt that Spanish leaders were not giving them the attention or standing they deserved.
The connections between Spaniards and other Hispanics have been strongest when based on political positions such as anti-imperialism and anti-Americanism rather than some sentimental connection based on a shared language. These relations have been more easily established by Spaniards who have lived also in Latin America.
In spite of the tensions, Spanish Canadians have been able to cooperate with other Spanish-speaking people and with the Portuguese. Together they celebrate important religious festivals. In recent years, both Toronto and Montreal have had Hispanic cultural festivals in which both Latin Americans and Spaniards have participated. Montreal’s Festival d’Espagne et d’Amerique Latine began in 1992; Toronto’s Semana de la Lengua Española in 1991. In recent years there has also been a Hispanic festival at Harbourfront in Toronto. In 1992 members of Toronto’s Spanish community formed part of the International Committee for the 500th Anniversary of the Discovery of America.
The first immigrants who arrived encountered a society, way of life, and physical climate very different from their own. Moreover, with the exception of those who came as part of the three organized expeditions, the vast majority found themselves alone. Their geographic isolation and the small number of Spaniards in the country permitted only sporadic occasions for solidarity, and these were different from what a larger community, with its own set of institutions, could offer. The sense of belonging to a distinct ethnic group resulted from the shock of dealing with Canadian society and homesickness for Spain or one’s own native region. These early and poorly documented years of the Spanish experience were characterized by the difficulties of assimilation, lack of knowledge of the official languages, and the rejection – blatant or more subtle – by a society that described itself as exclusively British or French.
In these circumstances, the maintenance of the group and its culture could take place only within the narrow confines of the family or a small group of friends and kin who lived and worked nearby. The family became the focal point for the maintenance of Spanish identity. More than half of the immigrants who came were married; others returned to Spain to find a wife; while still others found their spouse here among Spaniards, Latin Americans, or Canadians.
Although the increase of Spanish immigration in the 1960s and 1970s led to the creation of various associations and recreational groups, these organizations have remained secondary to family as the primary vehicle for group maintenance. This is one of the reasons for the low level of participation in the activities of these groups.
It is in the family where Spanish Canadians have preserved their language, their cuisine, and their particular and complex relationship to the Roman Catholic Church, as well as to their regional identities. At the same time, the family has produced two, or even three, generations who share many of these identities and loyalties but who also hold other, different ones. These Spanish Canadians have been able to respect their ethnic origins at the same time as they entered into the dominant society of the country and – with their parents’ help – seized the opportunities it offered.
After at least two decades in Canada, Spanish immigrants have become integrated into Canadian society; that is, they are generally satisfied with their lives here and do not feel that they are materially disadvantaged in comparison to other Canadians. This was facilitated by the available language and training programs for immigrants. A study of Spaniards living in Toronto in the mid-1980s showed 78 percent had enrolled in such programs, 40 percent of whom were women. Marriage also contributed to assimilation. The same study indicated that one-third married Canadians of other ethnic backgrounds.
Overall, Spaniards express a high degree of satisfaction with their life in Canada and with their ability to integrate into Canadian society. This was the conclusion of a Toronto study and of a survey carried out in Ottawa in the 1980s. This showed that 83 percent (of a small population) were very satisfied with their life in Canada while none claimed to be extremely dissatisfied. It also showed that while their vision of Spain was sometimes coloured by a number of stereotypes or myths they generally saw the ancestral homeland as a country which closely resembles Canada, both in its standard of living and in the social problems it faces. Many would like to return and some plan to do so when they retire, but all know that this would pose a significant rupture in their lives, and especially in the lives of their children who, for all their pride in being Spaniards, consider themselves Canadian and want to live in Canada.
For a general overview of the history and culture of Spain, see Adrian Shubert, The Land and People of Spain (New York, 1992). The same author’s Social History of Modern Spain (London, 1990) is a more detailed study that effectively conveys the extent of the changes that Spain experienced during the 1960s and 1970s. The last years of the Franco regime and the transition to democracy are well recounted in Paul Preston, The Triumph of Democracy in Spain (London, 1986).
Some of the best works on Spaniards in Canada suffer from dealing with both Spaniards and other Hispanics without sufficient distinction between them. Grace Anderson, “Spanish and Portuguese Speaking Immigrants,” in Jean L. Elliot, ed., Two Nations: Many Cultures (Scarborough, Ont., 1979) and her unpublished studies, “Spanish-Speaking Immigrants in Selected Canadian Cosmopolitan Cities” (Simon Fraser University, Department of Sociology, 1977) and “Conflict, Cleavages and Consensus: Spanish-Speaking Immigrant Communities in Selected Canadian Metropolitan Areas” (Wilfrid Laurier University, n.d.), all deal with immigrants from Spain and Latin America with careful distinctions between Spaniards and other Spanish speakers.
Solange Hernando, This Side of Spain (Toronto, 1990) is a valuable source of information on the Spaniards in Ontario, although much of the book draws on anecdotal evidence. Two other brief articles are M. Fernández and A. Pérez, “The Spanish Iberian Community of Toronto,” Polyphony: The Bulletin of the Multicultural History Society of Ontario, vol.6, no.1 (1984), 152–53, and Adam Fuerstenberg, “The Sephardim of Toronto: A Minority within a Minority,” ibid., 159–61. Andrew Machalski’s otherwise good survey, Hispanic Writers in Canada: A Preliminary Survey (Ottawa, 1988), does not clearly distinguish between Spaniards and other Hispanics except for his lengthy appendix on individual writers where those from Spain are identified and their careers summarized. Some examples of writing by Spaniards in Canada can be found in Diego Martin, ed., Literatura Hispano-Canadiense (Toronto, 1984).
There is little in the way of primary sources on the Spaniards. The Multicultural History Society of Ontario has an important collection of material in its Latin American holdings which include a number of unpublished studies and reports that address the similarities, differences, and complex relations between Spaniards and other Spanish-speaking peoples. See, for example, Grace Anderson, “Spanish-Speaking Immigrants in Anglophone Cities” (1982); Hispanic Social Council, “Needs and Gaps of the Hispanic Community in Metropolitan Toronto” (1983); and Fernando Mata, “Immigrants from the Hispanic World in Canada: Demographic Profile and Social Adaptation” (York University, 1988).
Other works that deal with Spaniards in Canada include: María M. Martinez, “Locus of Control and the Integration of Spanish Immigrants in Toronto” (M.A. thesis, York University, 1987); J. Sacco, “Histoire de l’immigration des Espagnols au Canada et plus particulièrement dans le Qu ébec et ce qui characterise ce problème” (Ph.D. thesis, Université Laval, 1958); and Ana Isabel Guada Martínez, “The Process of Adaptation of an Ethnic Group: The Case of Spaniards in Ottawa” (Ph.D. thesis, Carleton University, 1987). Ronald Louis Fernández, “Ethnicity as a Social System: The Spaniards in Montreal” (Ph.D. thesis, McGill University, 1972), consists of a few interviews with Spaniards resident in Montreal.