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November 28, 2014

Manhattanʼs \’Little Spain\’ comes to big screen, documenting Hispanic immigration in New York City

Manhattanʼs ‘Little Spain’ comes to big screen, documenting Hispanic immigration in New York City

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Friday, November 28, 2014

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Art cover of 2014 DVD edition of the film Little Spain.

The Spanish Benevolent Society announced on Tuesday a DVD edition of the film Little Spain, directed by Artur Balder, is now available on their official website. The film, which summarizes a part of Hispanic immigration in the United States displaying the history of New York City (NYC), is based upon a set of old photographs and testimonies showing a neighborhood called Little Spain in Manhattan, situated at the West End of 14th Street, in the time when it was densely populated by Spaniards and Hispanic immigrants.

File photo of 14th Street from the northeast corner of Fifth Avenue looking west. New York City.
Image: Leif Knutsen.

According to the film’s content and press release, Little Spain was populated by Spaniards, Puerto Ricans, and other Hispanic immigrants, located in south Chelsea and West Village, around the west end of 14th Street. The Spaniards tended to live in close proximity to one another; and, in many cases, in close proximity to Spanish-speakers from countries other than Spain — such as Puerto Ricans in New York.

In the film, the Spanish-American director and journalist Artur Balder traces the journey of those who left Spain and South America in search of a better life in the United States, describing the story of its most important entrance port, New York City, and the formation of the Little Spain community.

The 60 minute, feature-length, documentary looks back at the founding of La Nacional in 1868 and the uptick in migration from Spain following its loss of Cuba in 1898; continuing through to the Hispanic apex in the area, after the Spanish Civil War of 1936–1939, finally charting the community’s sharp decline in the 1970s and 1980s.

Well into the 1960s Spanish was still commonly spoken on 14th Street. The film also displays footage of the Santiago Apóstol festival, or St. James Day festival, which died out in the early 1990s as the remnants of the Hispanic community left that part of the city.

Artur Balder worked closely with New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and with the Film Society of the Lincoln Center in order to show the film in NYC. He is currently preparing two new projects: The Reality of the Imaginary, with Nobel prize-winner Mario Vargas Llosa, Cervantes literature award recipient José Manuel Caballero Bonald, and artist Joan Castejón, expected to premier at the MoMA in 2015. The second project being with Armenian–American painter Tigran Tsitoghdzyan and renowned art critic Donald Kuspit.

The film shows how Spain contributed to the vast wave of emigration of Europeans to the Americas which, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, transformed the three continents. The Spaniards were a very small proportion of US immigration compared to some of the other national or ethnic groups of immigrants that came to the United States, such as Italian, Irish, and Polish.



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Finland passes law allowing same-sex marriage

Finland passes law allowing same-sex marriage

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Prime Minister Alexander Stubb welcomed the vote.
Image: Frankie Fouganthin.

The Parliament of Finland has voted 105 to 92 today to approve a citizen’s initiative to legalise same-sex marriage. The law now makes marriage gender-neutral and extends adoption rights and the right to use the same surname to same-sex couples.

Prime Minister Alexander Stubb supported the change to the law. Before the vote, he wrote: “Finland should strive to become a society where discrimination does not exist, human rights are respected and two adults can marry regardless of their sexual orientation.” Following the vote, Stubb said he was “sincerely happy that marriage equality, gender equality and human rights prevailed in this issue.”

Stubb also noted the citizen’s initiative process that led to the law being considered by Parliament is “important” and “a demonstration of civic activism.”

Timo Soini from the nationalist opposition Finns Party commented: “For me marriage will remain a union between a man and a woman. I will not change my position. […] This will be the first time we make it normal for children to be removed from their biological roots.” Soini suggested that if his party were to form the next government, it is unlikely they would make same-sex marriage a priority. “I would say that in government formation talks we would focus on the Finnish economy and employment. These kinds of issues would hardly be on the table,” said Soini.

Mika Niikko from the Finns Party said, “This is a question of the future of our children and the whole society, and such changes should not be made without thorough evaluation of their impact.”

Interior Minister Päivi Räsänen from the Christian Democrats Party said the vote represented a “deep question of principle” and “in the future a large group of Finns will continue to consider marriage to be a bond between a man and a woman, and that they will not consider relationships between people of the same gender to be marriages.”

In contrast, Archbishop Kari Mäkinen from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland welcomed the change: “I know how much this day means to the rainbow community, their loved ones and many others. I rejoice with my whole heart for them and with them.”

Archbishop Mäkinen had previously stated: “If the initiative is passed, no one’s marriage will lose any of its value, nor will the position of a single child be endangered. If the initiative is not passed, the recognition of and improvements in the status of sexual minorities will not stop here. Changes in attitudes have taken place and continue to take place.” The future treatment of weddings by the Evangelical Lutheran Church has not yet been determined.

Outside of the Parliament, supporters of same-sex marriage and opponents both turned up to demonstrate, although the former outnumbered the latter. Finland now becomes the 12th country in Europe to allow same-sex marriages, although the law is not going to take effect immediately. The country has had a registered partnerships law for same-sex couples since 2002.



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