New York is one of the most multicultural cities in the world. Over the years, many different nationalities have gathered in specific neighbourhoods, such as Little Italy or Chinatown, in the centre of Manhattan. What many people do not know is that Spain also had its own neighbourhood: Little Spain, a district where Spanish was spoken, Spanish food was cooked and Spanish holidays were celebrated.
In the second half of the 19th century, Galicia and Asturias suffered a serious industrial crisis, which forced many of their inhabitants to pack up and seek their fortune on the other side of the Atlantic. Most of them ended up in Chile, Argentina, Mexico or Uruguay, but there were also those who tried their luck in Manhattan. It was the first major wave of migration to the United States of America, followed by those resulting from the loss of the Cuban War in 1898 and those of 1936-39, during the Spanish Civil War and the post-war period.
It is estimated that between 25,000 and 30,000 Spaniards lived in New York in the 1940s. They settled near the port areas where they worked. Restaurants, shops and entertainment centres proliferated; Little Spain emerged, a Spanish colony amid New York’s enormous skyscrapers.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Little Spain, on 14th Street, was home to many textile shops, bookstores and Spanish restaurants. Grocers such as Casa Moneo imported Spanish products like cod or chorizo to make the homesickness more bearable. La Iberia sold top quality Spanish clothing while El Faro or El Coruña cooked Spanish specialities and La Bilbaína or Mesón Flamenco promoted Spanish traditions by organising events.
For almost 50 years, from 1898 to 1945, Spanish culture was one of the dominant cultures in the city. In Little Spain, Spanish was the language of instruction, national holidays and traditions such as St. James the Greater were celebrated. Even the cinemas showed films in Spanish. But after the Great Depression, the neighbourhood began to fall apart. Many Hispanics had to move to cheaper areas of the city, such as Queens or the Bronx, and the community suffered from several internal drug-related brawls. There is not much left of 14th Street today, but it is still possible to visit Our Lady of Guadalupe Church (the first parish in Manhattan to offer Mass in both Spanish and Latin) and La Nacional.
Mercado Little Spain
Mercado Little Spain is also a must-see. Spanish chef José Andrés, along with fellow chefs Albert and Ferran Adrià, launched the Mercado Little Spain project in Hudson Yards, a new Manhattan neighbourhood, as a modern avant-garde version of the traditional Spanish market. This culinary excursion is a tribute to the culture and cuisine of Spain. Mercado Little Spain has more than 3,200 m2 of space divided between different restaurants and rooms with different styles, tastes and designs. Spanish culture is present not only in the cuisine, but also in the design and decoration of the market. Mercado Little Spain is an eatery that will satisfy your hunger for Spanish food – or introduce you to delicious new tastes if you have never tried Spanish food before. Located on the ground floor of the Hudson Yards shopping centre in New York City, it also offers a welcome place to unwind after climbing The Vessel or strolling along the High Lane. From paella to patatas bravas, sangría ice creams to piña borracha, it’s all there!
Chef José Andrés was inspired to create this temple of Spanish food by the many markets in his native Spain, which are so much more than just a place to shop. There are coffee shops, food stalls, bars and more. It is both a place to shop and a place to socialise.
ESTA to visit Little Spain
In order to experience Little Spain in the United States of America for yourself, an ESTA must be applied for. Travellers can easily apply for the ESTA by using the online application form. Once the ESTA has been approved by the US Immigration Service, it will be sent by email. The travel authorisation is then valid for two years. During this period, an unlimited number of trips (each of a maximum of 90 days) can be made to America. The ESTA visa is linked to the passport, so if the passport expires before the expiration date the ESTA will lose its validity.
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