The Weight of Remembering is the third in a series of documentaries being produced by Luis Argeo and James D. Fernández about the history of Spanish immigrants in the United States. Fernández and Argeo are creating a massive digital archive that will document the small but significant Spanish diaspora in the US, and they consider the films to be organic offshoots of the larger archival project. Together they have also produced a book which features more than 300 photographs scanned from family albums of Spaniards in the US: Invisible Immigrants: Spaniards in the US (1868-1945).
Their first film “La paella de Daniel Albert/ Dan Albert’s Paella” focuses on Spanish immigrants on California’s Monterey peninsula, many of whom had originally emigrated to the Territory of Hawaii, where they were promised work and a bright future on the islands’ sugar cane plantations.
Their second and third films explore the Spanish immigrant history of Tampa, Florida. Tampa’s cigar industry –which played a crucial role in the development of this major southeastern city– was brought to the area from Cuba and Key West starting in 1886 by a group of enterprising Spaniards. When, in that year, Vicente Martínez Ybor and Ignacio Haya cleared land to build their factories and workers’ homes in what we now call Ybor City, Tampa had roughly 700 inhabitants. By 1930, Tampa had become a major manufacturing center –the cigar capital of the world– and was home to more than 100,000 people, including thousands of Spaniards and children of Spaniards.
Argeo and Fernandez traveled to Tampa on several occasions between 2012 and 2016 to conduct fieldwork; scanning family archives, and filming interviews with, and scenes in the lives of, a wide range of descendants of Tampa’s original immigrants from Spain.
A Legacy of Smoke/ Un legado de humo poetically juxtaposes the scale and intensity of the Spanish presence in Tampa in its early years –still clearly visible in the city’s built environment, in its monuments, cigar factories, social clubs and cemeteries, for example– with the precarious legacy so lovingly preserved in the hearts, minds and albums of the descendants of the immigrants.
The Weight of Remembering/ La plomada uses a fictionalized voice-over –loosely based on some autobiographical elements in the life of James D. Fernández– with the goal of immersing the spectator in the memories, voices and sensations of a world about to disappear.
The Weight of Remembering/ La plomada is a co-production of Whitestoneridge Productions and the Centro Español de Tampa.