New York City, and by extension the US, were the focus of great attention by Spanish travel writers at the beginning of the twentieth century, and one of the recurrent themes of their works was the presence of African Americans in this city. In tune with similar discourses both in America and Europe and influenced by racialist ideology, blacks were often portrayed as a ‘problem’ by these writers, whereas at the same time they exerted on them a fascination catalysed by the combination of ‘primitivism’ and modernity encapsulated in jazz music (Miranda-Barreiro 2013 & 2014). The interest in this city did not fade away in the decades following the Spanish Civil War and still remains strong today, producing a wealth of literary texts in different genres (travel writing, novel, short stories, poetry). In travel books, references to African Americans reflect how views on black people have evolved in Spanish society in the twentieth and twenty first centuries. In the 1940s, the so-called ‘black problem’ is still present in travelogues such as Joaquín Calvo Sotelo’s Nueva York en retales (1946). Other travel books provide a more positive account, as in Agustín del Saz’s Nueva York (1947), Diego Hidalgo’s Nueva York. Impresiones de un español que no sabe inglés (1949) and José Blanco Amor’s Reportaje a Nueva York (1950). Racial stereotypes related to the alleged primitivism of blacks persist in some of these texts, and often become present in the description of jazz music and jazz clubs. The racialism prevalent in the West before World War II is however less pronounced in this period, and it takes the shape of class discrimination, as the emphasis is often placed on African American’s assumed suitability for low paid jobs. By taking the aforementioned texts as case studies and using postcolonial studies as a theoretical framework, this chapter sets out to examine the evolution of the views that Spanish travel writers have had on African Americans during the Francoist dictatorship.

Keywords

  • African Americans, United States, Otherness, Francoist Dictatorship, Spain, Travel writing
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBlack USA and Spain
Subtitle of host publicationShared Memories in 20th Century Spain
PublisherRoutledge
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Mar 2019

Publication series

NameRoutledge Studies in Twentieth-Century Literature
View graph of relations