Pinnick Kinnick Hill: An American Story
A first-person narrative written by the American-born son of an immigrant from Asturias, in the north of Spain, Pinnick Kinnick Hill is partly a memoir and partly fiction. It is the story of the Villanueva family and of their countrymen, and how they come to a small town in West Virginia at the beginning of the 20th century to take jobs as zinc smelters. The horrible working conditions, the discrimination they suffer, their spirited response (labor organizing) and their eventual assimilation make for an interesting tale.
Unfortunately, the book’s fictional façade crumbles quickly. At the end of the 19th century, over sixty percent of Spanish males and four-fifths of females were illiterate. Yet, Juan, the son of a fisherman, the book’s main character, is not only able to read and write in his native Spanish, but he speaks English fluently. The Villanuevas are so lucky that they travel across the Atlantic first class, and they breeze through Ellis Island. The book is on much firmer ground when the author describes the problems facing his community, and, especially, the grueling work at the furnace.
Although Pinnick Kinnick Hill was originally written in English, it is accompanied by a Spanish translation. In the foreword, the reader learns it has been translated into “the Spanish this Asturian community might have used.” And the translation is flawless. Only in the Spanish text there is not a shadow of Asturianu or Bable, or of Astur-Galician, the very distinct languages of that region of Spain. More puzzling yet are wrong usages and misspellings in the Spanish words sprinkled in the English text (“Hay!” instead of “¡Ay!” for example), misspellings that appear correctly written in the Spanish pages.
Of interest to local or labor history researchers, not for a general audience.