Background and acknowledgements

Background and acknowledgements

My gratitude goes first to our ancestors, that is to the parents, grandparents and great grandparents of la Marina Alta that emigrated from this Valencian county a century ago. It is they who can help us understand the situation of the people, of their times and of now, who have no other option than to migrate to improve the conditions of those who live in their lands.

This emigration phenomenon has fascinated me ever since I was a child in New York and in Orba (a town of the Valencian county of la Marina Alta in the province of Alicante, Spain) when I listened to the stories told by my parents and grandparents. However, it was not until the year 2000 when I started the study in which this book is based. It was then that the councilor of culture and the mayor of Orba, Joan Caravaca and Manuel Aranda, respectively, encouraged me to give a conference during the Cultural Week, and I began to gather data by interviewing the relatives and friends of the emigrants. Thus, I would like to thank them and all those who gave me information about this phenomenon. Among the informants I would especially like to thank my parents Claude Morell and Mercedes Moll; my mother-in-law, Elisa Sendra; Amparin Sendra, Rosa Mora and Manuel Zapata.

In 2005, I was nominated the academic coordinator of the University of Alicante Marina Alta branch which is located in Benissa, in the XIXth Century Palau de les Andreses, and, coincidentally, one of the buildings had been owned by Pere Ivars Sala, alias Pere Bigot, the famous legendary emigrant described by Bernat Capó in Viatges i aventures de Pere Bigot: De Berdica a Nava York (2008, in catalán translated from the 1978 Spanish version). In addition, Pere Ivars was the brother of Manuel Ivars, the co-owner of la Valenciana, the hotel in the Lower East Side, where nearly all the Valencian emigrants stayed when they first arrived in New York. This coincidence led me to continue researching on the emigrants, but in this case on those from Benissa. As a result, I published the article “Links between the towns of la Marina Alta: the emigration phenomenon of the people of Benissa (1913-1920). Shortly after, in Orba, I was invited to form part of a group that would edit the Memoirs of Juan Peris Alemany- Mis largos años de vida (My Long Years of Life), about an emigrant who recalls what the town was like at the beginning of the XXth Century and about his experiences in the United States. At the same time, my father, Claude Morell, began to write his autobiography that was published in 2008 as The Lower East Side Kid that Made it Good: The autobiography of Claude Morell. In his biography, my father wrote about the reasons for which his father (my grandfather), José Morell Sendra, emigrated from Orba to New York and about his work and experiences in that city and in Connecticut, Pennsylvannia and New Jersey. My father also wrote about how he and his mother, my grandmother, Teresa Sendra Torrens arrived in 1929 to stay in New York. Consequently, my deepest gratitude goes to the two writers that I admire most and that have served as essential references for this book: Bernat Capó and Claude Morell.

In 2008, I started in earnest to work on this book in part due to the influence of José Miguel Santacreu Soler, Associate professor of the Department of Contemporary History at the University of Alicante. He encouraged me to work with him to present the exhibit “Valencians to New York 1892-1932” and a conference “Migration to New York: the case of the Marinas and surrounding counties” (1892-1930). At the conference the following talks were given: “Emigration from the Marinas and surrounding counties at the beginning of the XXth Century: causes and destinations” by José Miguel Santacreu; “The voyage, Ellis Island and the life of the emigrants” and “Emigrants from Benissa in Ellis Island” by Teresa Morell; “The American adventure of emigrants from Pego: stories and memoirs” by Joan Miquel Almela Cots; and “The American bad dream: stories of the misfortunes of some emigrants” by Eladi Mainar Cabanes.
During that conference the participants helped me to gather the data found in the Ellis Island archives of more than two thousand emigrants from la Marina Alta that went to New York (1912-1920). The data that is found in the Appendix of this book was partially made possible by the hours of dedication of the following participants of that conference:

Patricia Aranda Barber
Creu Bordes Femenia
Jaume Buigues Vila
Araceli Buigues Soler
Pere Cabrera Ivars
Yolanda Carratalà
Irene Cortés Company
Josefa del Valle
José Miguel Font Prats
Josep Fornés Mut
Manuel Cervera Martínez
M. Pilar Moll Morell
Àngela Morell Moll
Jaume Noguera Mengual
M. José Nuñez Juan
Nuria Teresa Pascual Núñez
M. Isabel Pastor Ferrer
Àngel Prats Morell
Rafael Prats Morell
Elodia Delia Vila Pedro

In addition, some of the data was also found and contributed by my students of the subject “History and culture of English-speaking countries” of the English Studies Department at the University of Alicante during the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 academic years. Thus, my gratitude also goes to them.
Throughout the eleven years of this project, I collected the personal documents, letters, postcards and photos that appear in this book. And although the names of those who provided me with them is found at the base of each image, I would like to make mention of them here: Manuel Aranda, Victor Aranda, Juan Giner, Vicent Ortuño, and Manuel Zapata.

Among those who helped to gather the data of the emigrants, I especially would like to thank Pere Cabrera Ivars for his enthusiasm and for his many hours of dedication. It is also thanks to him and to Bernat Capó, who founded the literary and research prize “Premi 25 d’abril de la Vila de Benissa” that work like this about la Marina Alta comes to light year after year. I would also like to express my gratitude to the Townhall of Benissa and to its Council of Culture for promoting this grant, and to Teresa Ballester Artigues, Francesc Monjo Dalmau and Joan Ivars Cervera, the jury of the XXXIst research prize, for encouraging me to go further into the social, economic and anthropological aspects of the emigrants of la Marina Alta between 1912 and 1920. Thanks to them, I met Antoni Espinós Quero, who invited me to the CIRNE Foundation, where I was able to examine the press and other references of la Marina Alta during the years of this migration phenomenon.

Lastly, I would like to acknowledge the work of Dolors Pedrós, Pau Àlvarez and Maria Josep Escrivà, the editors of Edicions 96.