General Miaja in Brooklyn

January 23, 2011
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In my family’s photo albums is this shot of General Miaja (seated with round spectacles) –leader of the defense of Madrid– in the living room of the Brooklyn home of my grandparents at some point during the Spanish Civil War.

My grandparents, José Fernández and Carmen Alonso emigrated to New York from Asturias, in northern Spain, in the early decades of the twentieth century.   José (to Miaja’s leftl) went first to Cuba, then to Tampa, before settling in New York and opening a small cigar shop.  Carmen (to Miaja’s right) emigrated directly from her village near Ribadesella (Sardéu) to New York, where she worked as a live-in maid in the home of Richard Medina, a coffee importer of Mexican origin.  Carmen and José met around 1920 at a picnic organized by the city’s Centro Asturiano.  The other people in the picture are two daughters and several friends of my grandparents.

By the time of the Spanish Civil War, José must have been a high-ranking official in the Centro Asturiano, which would help explain why he hosted this eminent guest –Miaja was also an “asturiano”– at his home on Stratford Road (between Beverley and Courtelyou) in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn.

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6 Responses to “ General Miaja in Brooklyn ”

  1. Tony Geist on January 24, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    Great photo, and great story, Jim!

  2. joseph fernandez on January 30, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    My parents also came from Asturias, Spain before the Spanish Civil War. Mom, Maria Gutierrez left Spain in 1935 after witnessing atrocities such as burning of churches, convents ,priests and people who went to mass torchered and murdered. Mom worked the land and was also a seamstess. Once approached by a group women who asked her :”why don’t we get that Marquesa in the house on the hill in Ribadesella and drag her down to be a fish monger?”. She said that lady was a good person and owed her nothing. Mom saw what was coming and soon left for the U.S. to join her sister and family.
    Once in this country she did well . Again, Red Spaniards here would acost her and call her fascista on her way to church on Sunday.
    These people were nothing but communists and wanted that system that ruined so many countries for Spain. Good thing they lost or Spain would have been like eastern Europe. I don’t blame Mrs. Moneo who surely knew who these people really were.
    Spain’s national treasure of gold ended up in the communist Soviet Union. I wonder why there
    and not in Switzterland or the US ?
    My mom was not a fascista or comunista. Just a hardworking person who wanted to be left alone.

  3. Jim on January 30, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    Dear Joseph,
    Thanks for the comment and the interest in my post. In addition to my family connection to this story, I’ve been researching the history of Spaniards in New York for the last several years. The more I look into it, the more complex the picture gets, and the more meaningless become terms like “reds” and “fascists.”. I’ve encountered many church-going Spanish supporters of the Republic in New York, particularly vascos, but also asturianos and gallegos among others.

    I’d love to learn more about your family history. If you’re interested, please zap me an e-mail:
    jf2@nyu.edu

    Best wishes,
    Jim

  4. Joseph fernandez (cookie) on February 2, 2011 at 11:20 am

    Hi Jim ,feb.2,2011
    Probably from the ridiculous nickname asigned to me and at my age,you know who I am. Yes I Knew Uelu and Carmen and had as close neighbors Salvador and Joaquina. Salvador visited daily for coffee ,he immensly liked my wife Mari ,loved to hear her talk with the Asturiano in every other word. He called her “Mari Cruz”. We played checkers,He always won. What great memories!
    You know jim, about the politica… like they say in Spain ,”cada uno habla de la fiesta como le fue en ella”. My mom Maria’s experiences in Asturias were not unique. People at that time seemed to have gone crazy. Her head going nuts just hearing el “Socialismo el socialismo” on and on. People swimming naked in the Sella in Arriondas in those days and things like that. What really got to her was when going to Sunday Mass in Brooklyn Heights (where I was born) a few Spaniards often would be arround to yell ” facistona” at her. She found out that these individuals lived de hotel en hotel here and in Mexico off what they stole at the end of the civil war.
    Now. My mother-in-law soon to be 90 recalls the most freighening days of her life in the town of Trubia,Asturias as the German bombers went after the fabrica de armas there.

    Savador and Maria were of different ideas of what happened. They got along beautifully. I worked in Manhattan so I missed alot.
    Maria , when not happy with me would call me names no longer heard in Asturias like: xiriguitu,carcuezu, morguizu or enclenque. Iknow you’re into these things I think thru your aunt Josie.

    I have many stories and old pics. My dad left a remote aldea in Asturias ,went to Argentina finally ending up in NY, with advntures as being pastry chef on the old Queen Mary a trade he learned by being put to work in ship kitchens on previous “endeavors”. He was cook on the US convoy ships that protected US cargo shipping during world one. Somehow ended up in an English prison where they thought he was a German spye or something because of his appearence.
    Maria died in 2000 since she was born in 1898 she lived in three centuries.
    I have to stop here. I love this stuff.
    Be well a say hello to your dad. He’s gone thru so much.
    Joe fernandez alias cookie.

  5. Miaja Isabelle on March 2, 2012 at 11:59 pm

    I am a Miaja and it is nice to see pics and know about my grand uncle! So little is found on him after he left for Mexico

  6. Rafael on February 25, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    Good evening sir.
    reading your post here and searching for my family history, I think your family is related to mine
    My grandfather is Jose Fernandez. hes father left Cuba and returned to spain my grandfather never spoke to him do to some argument. hes father was Ramon Fernandez Lopez from asturia, my grandfather had a brother and two sisters, hes brother bernardo stay in cuba as well but hes sisters move to the US and maried her names were Carmen and Hortencia were married in 1934 in tampa florida, my left me the pictures of them both, he was looking for them for many years and asked of me to full fill this for him. if you have any info please call me or email me

    Rafael E Arias Fernandez
    808 228 4180
    rfernandez52@yahoo.com

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