The Immigration History of the Anaya Family


Tim Anaya wrote this splendid account of the Anayas’ journey from Spain to the United States.

The history of the Anaya family, and our journey from Spain to United States of America in the early years of the 20th Century is a story of hard-working people desirous of starting a new life in America, “the land of opportunity.” This paper will focus on the experiences of my paternal grandfather’s parents in their journey from their native Spain to Hawaii, and eventually the United States. Though, considerable attention will be devoted to the experiences of my paternal grandmother’s parents, since their experiences are so strikingly similar, despite different starting points and times. All four of my paternal grandparents emigrated from Spain to Hawaii between 1907 and 1911. Works on the subject of Spanish immigration to the United States at the turn of the century have stated that “Spanish immigration was small in numbers when contrasted with the movements of many other European countries… (with only) 196,972 Spanish immigrants com(ing) to the United States (between 1820 and 1965)” (Cordasco 684). Historians attribute to small number of Spanish immigrants to United States to the attractiveness of relatively close, and tight-knit Spanish colonies in Africa, and the desire by many Spanish to migrate to former Spanish Latin American colonies (Cordasco 684). Yet, all four of my grandparents emigrated during the highest period of Spanish immigration, from 1910 to 1920, when over 65,000 Spanish emigrated to the United States (Cordasco 685).

Our family’s immigration history really began back in Benagalbon, Malaga, Spain, in September of 1891, when my grandfather’s father, Joseph Anaya, Sr. was born. Living with my great-grandfather were his father, José Anaya, also known as Papa Pepe; and his mother, Mama Maria Anaya. Desiring to avoid fighting in the Spanish Civil War and make a decent living, Papa Pepe decided to make a fresh start, and move his family to the United States. My great-grandfather’s family departed from Malaga on March 10, 1907, aboard the S.S. Heliopolis, on a six-week journey to Hawaii. Upon departing from Malaga, my great-great-grandfather Papa Pepe apparently reached into his pocket, and threw away all of his money into the wind. My great-grandfather told my grandfather that Papa Pepe declared that “(he) was leaving (his) homeland because it was impossible to make a living, and that (he was) also leaving without a cent to (his) name.” Coincidentally, my grandmother’s father, Louis Figuera, who was born in Almeria, Spain in 1895, was also departing for Hawaii on the same vessel. Unlike Joseph Anaya, Louis settled in La Haina, Maui for his work commitment.

My grandfather’s mother, Encarnation Lorente Escos was born in Aldeire, Granada, Spain on January 12, 1900. In Aldeire, my great-grandmother lived with her father, Mateo Lorente; her mother, Dolores Lorente; and her grandmother, Josephine Molina Escos. My great-grandmother’s father, Mateo, was in the Spanish-American War, fighting for the Spanish in Cuba. He was discharged when he was stricken with Malaria. Poor economic conditions, and the desire for new opportunities also led my great-grandmother’s family to emigrate to the United States, also through an indentured servitude program in Hawaii. My great-grandmother’s family departed from Gibraltar aboard the vessel Orteric on February 24, 1911. In a repeat of history, both of my great-grandfathers, both my grandmother’s mother and grandfather’s mother were on the same ship to Hawaii. My grandmother’s mother, Carmen Velasquez, was born in April of 1900 in Sevilla, Spain.

Transportation from Spain to Hawaii was extremely long, and a very grueling trip, as illustrated by my great-grandmother Carrie’s trip. During her long voyage from Spain in 1911, the entire family was quartered in the steerage of the ship. Several aunts, uncles, and siblings also made the trip to Hawaii along with my great-grandmother. Interesting, they brought along my great-great-grandmother’s half brother along with them because he was 17 years old, and was about to be drafted into the army. Army life was extremely rough in Spain, and the family did not want to see him get drafted. A great majority of the passengers were very sick, with many deaths on this journey. In addition, there was a flu epidemic aboard the ship, making conditions considerably worse. On the trip, all passengers had. to take a special communal bath or shower together, with all experiencing an “embarrassing occasion.” The family finally reached Hawaii on April 14 of 1911.

In exchange for their passage to Hawaii, all passengers were required to sign an agreement to work for a period of time to pay off their travel debts. Since many Europeans could not afford the tremendous expense associated with traveling to the United States, they often were forced to work as indentured servants in Hawaii for a period of time to pay off their travel debts. My great-grandfather Joseph would work chopping sugar canes in the C+H Sugar Company fields in the Honolulu area. My great-grandmother Carrie’s family had to sign papers to stay and work in Hawaii for five years. My great-great-grandfather Mateo did not want to be in bondage for five years, so he somehow raised the money and paid the fare to the mainland early. My great-grandmother Carrie’s family settled on the Island of Maui, in the town of “Sprecklesville,” named for the predominant industry in town: sugar.

The work commitment of each of my great-grandparents lasted anywhere from four to seven years. While repaying their debts, each of the workers associated with one another in their own tightly-knit community. Since not many spoke much English, it was important for them to remain with members of their home country. Yet, each of the families managed to maintain some resemblance of normal family life. My great-grandmother Carrie’s family even expanded while in Hawaii, welcoming twins Cecilia and Joe, along with Ralph and Dolores. Another important result of the work commitments in Hawaii was the development of a strong self-reliance and stability in each of my great-grandparents. When they left Spain, they varied in ages from eleven to early twenties. Coming to a strange new land to begin a new life helps one to mature very quickly.

After a period of time varying from four to seven years, each of my great-grandparents made the long voyage to the mainland of the United States. The specific destination was the Port of San Francisco. The San Francisco Bay Area in the 1910s and 1920s was rich with agricultural work. Many orchards and canneries lined to newly-developing cities of the Bay Area. Since agricultural-related work was something with which many of these immigrants had a great deal of experience, the Bay Area was a major attraction. Several of these immigrants had grown up on farms, orchards, or vineyards in Italy, Spain, or Portugal, and most had just spent several years in Hawaii performing similar agricultural work. My great-grandparents were no exception, with all of them eventually working in an agricultural-related industry at some point in their lives. The first of my great-grandparents to leave for the mainland was my Great-Grandfather Joseph, who left Honolulu after a six-year work commitment on May 13, 1913 for San Francisco, arriving four days later. He immediately went to work in the orchards at the site of the present-day De Anza College in Cupertino. My great-grandfather Louis came to the mainland at an unknown date, and settled in Santa Rosa, CA, working in the orchards. My great-grandmother Carmen and her family moved to Green Street in San Francisco in 1914, moving to Santa Rosa two years later, in 1916.

Unlike my other great-grandparents, my great-grandmother Carrie and her family already had friends in California, easing the transition to life on the mainland. One of the main reasons that my great-grandmother’s family left for the mainland was the health of her father, Mateo. He suffered from terrible asthma, and the authorities desired to place him in an “incurable institution.” When the family heard of this, their plans to move to the mainland were moved up. The family left Hawaii for San Francisco in February of 1918. Paying their own way from Hawaii to California, they arrived in San Francisco four days later. When they debarked in San Francisco, they rode the train to Santa Clara, where they were met by friends Brihido and Tina Roman. Carrie’s mother had met the Romans while in Hawaii, and they encouraged the Lorentes to come to Santa Clara when they emigrated to the mainland. The Lorentes and the Romans became life-long friends. At the station, the Romans had a team of horses and a buck board with them. The entire family climbed aboard and rode to the Romans’ home on the 300 block of Madison Avenue in Santa Clara, where they remained for about three months. They rented a house in Santa Clara for three years, before purchasing a home at 610 Madison Street in 1921. The family would own this house until my great-grandmother’s mother passed away in 1961.

At this point in the early 1920s, the United States was experiencing a tremendous period of economic expansion and prosperity, leading to better opportunities for all. After they arrived on the United States mainland, each of them had gone to work in some form of agricultural work to provide a firm foundation for their futures. While the work was difficult, with long days and grueling, repetitive work, the pay was adequate, and the jobs were steady work. Working in the fields, orchards, and canneries was not easy work, or low-end work. Knowledge of farming, growing, pollination, and pruning was vital in this industry, and both of my great-grandfathers had a tremendous amount of experience in this field. While living during this period as a single, working men, both of my great-grandfathers lived in boarding houses, or shared apartments with other single working men. My great-grandmothers generally worked shorter hours in the many canneries in Northern California, living with their families. All of my great-grandparents’ steady employment in this ever-expanding market led to the firm financial foundation necessary for their next important task: marriage.

By the time each of my great-grandparents began to think about marriage, they were well in their early twenties or thirties. My great-grandfather Joe met my great-grandmother Carrie in 1919, and after a short courtship, they were married on December 27, 1919. Unlike their parents’ generation, who generally had over five children in their families, the couples of this generation generally had far fewer children. After they were married, the Anayas settled in a new home on Waverly Street in Sunnyvale to begin their wedded bliss together. Great-grandfather Joseph continued his work in the numerous fruit orchards in Cupertino, becoming an expert in farming and in the the pruning of fruit trees. With Great-Grandfather Joseph providing for the family rather nicely during this period, the Anayas eventually produced four children: my grandfather Joseph, Jr., as well as Tony, Carrie, and Dolores. My great-grandfather Luis met my great-grandmother Carmen while they were living and working in Santa Rosa in 1919, and were married on November 5, 1919. Living and working in Santa Rosa for five additional years, they eventually moved with their new family to Sunnyvale, CA in 1924. Two children were produced in this marriage, my grandmother Frances, and her brother Fermin. Both Carmen and Luis worked in Libby’s Cannery in Sunnyvale for a lengthy period of time. My great-grandmother worked there for nineteen years, retiring in 1945, and my great-grandfather worked in the cannery for over 30 years, retiring at the age of 65 in 1960.

The Great Depression was a period of terrible economic hardships on the entire nation, and on my great-grandparents. Yet, despite the hardships, the community pulled together more strongly that at any other point in recent memory. All of the children helped the families through the Depression, working part-time in one of the many canneries in Sunnyvale, especially Shuckles Cannery. My great-grandfather Joseph was especially popular in the area during this time. He produced a large supply of bathtub gin and other liquor during the Prohibition era. Many, many neighbors were recipients of the spirits produced in the backyard still and the bathtub, and all were always grateful for my great-grandfather’s talents. Despite the fact that they were extremely poor, they never forgot those in worse shape than they were, and always had an extra place at the dinner table for those who came in need. Their always helping those in need, or those desirous of liquor during Prohibition was never forgotten by their friends and neighbors. Until their deaths in the 1980s, neighbors and friends always brought over pies, meats, food, and other goodies for my great-grandparents out of gratitude for their kindness in this period.

From the decades of the 1940s through the 1980s, each of my great-grandparents aged into their twilight years, and their children began to strive on their own. One important aspect of their twilight years was their desire to become American citizens. Unlike the patterns of present-day immigration, with most immigrants retaining strong ties to their native roots even after many years in the United States and not assimilating into the dominant culture, the immigrants of this generation believed that they left their old culture in their native land and that they were now Americans. Each of my great-grandparents became United States citizens, after a tough question and answer session before a U.S. Federal Court judge. Their native Spanish language was not spoken in the home, with English as the language of the Anayas and the Figueras. All of my great-grandparents felt that assimilating into the dominant society was far more important for their own and their family’s future and happiness in the United States than retaining their old culture, customs, and language. Outside of the traditional family recipes, they retained very little from their childhood in their native Spain.

The generation of the children of these afore-mentioned immigrants, my grandfather’s generation, was really the first generation born completely in the United States. Despite their Spanish background, they were considered Americans from their dates of birth. My great-grandparents insisted that my grandparents, and their brothers and sisters assimilate into the dominant American culture, including learning English and the customs and traditions of the United States. Very common for members of this generation was a language gap at home and at school. Yet, despite not knowing much English at all when they entered grammar school, all of my grandparents and their siblings learned English quickly, and their learning of the English language spread home, as well. By the time they were in the second grade, everyone in my family spoke fluent English. This generation was a generation that transcended national origins or ethnic backgrounds. My grandfather was the first in his family to attend college, graduating with an AA degree in Aeronautics from San Jose State University. Serving their country in the Armed Forces was another characteristic of this generation, with both my grandfather and my grandmother’s brother serving as highly decorated soldiers in World War II. My grandfather worked for over 30 years as a research aircraft inspector at NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, working on the flying saucer, the Kuiper Airborne Observatory, and the Flying Laboratory.

In the short span of fifty years, a generation of brave young individuals, who came to a strange and foreign land with fear and hope in their hearts, saw their future families lose almost all of their native customs and traditions and perfectly assimilate into the dominant American society. Their perfect assimilation was due partly to their closeness to the American society of the day, as well as the desire by the original immigrant generation to fit into the dominant society, and begin a fresh life in a new land.

A Note on the Sources

Gathering information for my family’s immigration history was certainly not much of a challenge. With a large number of close family and extended relatives living in the Bay Area, tracing back family history and finding information was not very difficult. The major source of my information in this report was provided by my paternal grandfather, Joseph Anaya, Jr. Noting that a project like this was something he should have undertaken several years ago, he helped me pour through countless family documents and photographs, many of them originals. Documents found in our search included: the original manifest from the ship upon which my great-great-grandfather sailed from Spain to Hawaii; the certificates of Spanish nationality from the Spanish consulate upon their arrival; their alien registration forms; U.S. naturalization certificates; and the original baptism papers from Spain. Several early family photographs were also uncovered. The personal recollections of my grandfather comprises the bulk of my family history, including the intricacies of our family tree, and early settlement in the Santa Clara valley. My own personal recollections from our yearly family reunions were also invaluable in the writing of this paper. There were not really any problems in our search for information, other than trying to figure out who was who in old photographs, or resolving historical conflicts between family members. Others interviewed for this paper include: my grandfather’s aunt, Dolores Glandt, and her brother Ralph Lorente; cousin Tony Ponce; and my great-uncle Fermin Figuera.

The greatest amount of difficulty I found in the writing of this paper occurred when finding information on the Spanish emigrating to the United States in this period. Enormous amounts of information was available regarding the Spanish conquests in North America in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth centuries, and the resulting immigration, as well as on the Mexican and Latin American immigration to the United States. Very little was to be found on Spanish immigration to the United States, largely due to the fact that the numbers from Spain were miniscule when compared to those from Italy, Germany, Ireland, and Poland. The most invaluable source of information on Spanish immigration to the United States was Francisco Cordasco’s Dictionary of American Immigration History (Scarecrow Press: 1990).Though not really that helpful in putting my own family’s history into a larger context, it did help to explain the general patterns of settlement of Spanish immigrants, and their reasons for coming to the United States.

One Comment

Lynn Burnham Barlow, MD

Thank you

With admiration of your work in your family's history, I say thank you. My wife's family originated in Wales and came to Utah as coal miners, later moving to Oregon with the same occupations. It was an arduous task as there were some "myths" associated with origins and immigration. I thank you again

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