Portuguese Migration to Hawaii: The Multitude of Nations in Hawaii
The main idea of this essay is to find out more about one of my other ethnicities that are not Hawaiian. This event allows personal growth in my identity as an individual along with growth in personality. As a student at Kamehameha Schools Hawaii Campus, from sixth grade until junior year this year all our essays about our identity were about our Hawaiian identity. As a person who lives on Hawaii island, I felt more obligated to know more about my Hawaiian side than any of my other ethnicities; this event prevented me from wanting to learn about my other ethnicities such as my Portuguese side. Another factor that contributed to choosing the Portuguese migration to Hawaii was that my family came from the Azores and Madeira Islands and traveled to New York and then to Hawaii and I wanted to know more about why they moved and what happened once they got to Hawaii. The Portuguese migrated to several places before finally landing in Hawaii; this was due to harsh conditions in Portugal which left many Portuguese wanting to move which resulted in many changes in the Portuguese culture.
The first main reason the Portuguese left Portugal was poor economic conditions. The 19th century was a rough time economically for Portugal and many left their home country looking for better futures in Brazil, New York, California, and Hawai’i. In the 1850s, conditions worsened when a fungus blight hit the vineyards of Madeira. The Portuguese people migrated here from Portugal due to the inconvenient living conditions. The main motive for emigration was economic due to the poor economy within Portugal during the 19th to 20th century, but other factors such as natural disasters and disease played a role in the emigration. According to the New York Times, ‘the trouble is economic’ which was started by an Azorean Socialist deputy, Jaime Gama; that refers to the growing economic issue in Portugal (Howe).
The majority of the immigrants came to the United States seeking a higher standard of living; they were not drawn by educational opportunity or political or religious freedom. Besides wanting to escape poverty, high taxes, and the lack of economic advancement at home, many males emigrated to avoid eight years of service in Portugal’s army. Natural disasters also stimulated many to seek opportunities to live and work elsewhere. The drought in the Cape Verde Islands in 1904 and volcanic eruptions and earthquakes in the Azores in 1958 sent waves of people abroad. Most of the early Portuguese immigrants to the United States were from the Azores; continental Portuguese did not start arriving in large numbers until the beginning of this century.
Due to the poor economic issues, the Portuguese migrated to the United States first in which most of them traveled to New York. A factor that contributed to the Portuguese wanting to migrate to New York was “The Homestead Act encouraged some Portuguese to go west to obtain ownership of land. Those who settled on the East Coast also spread into Connecticut and New Jersey, and most recent immigrants find homes in Connecticut, New York, or New Jersey. The number of Portuguese immigrants now settling in California or Hawaii has been greatly reduced. Because so many Portuguese arrived without skills or education, they tended to remain for a long time in the lower middle class or middle class unless they attained the background necessary for advancement”(Norden).
Then some Portuguese migrated to Hawaii from New York due to Hawaii being more like the Portugal islands such as the Azores and Madeira islands. “The greatest numbers of immigrants to Hawai’i originated from Madeira and the Azores, Portuguese islands that boasted terrain and climate somewhat similar to Hawaii’s and where agriculture was the main industry. Most immigrants to Hawai’i had been farmers and nearly 100 percent of them were Catholic” (Schmitt, Silva). According to HawaiiHistory.com,
The Portuguese were treated differently than Asian workers – they were offered an acre of land, a house, and improved working conditions – but remained below haole owners in the plantation hierarchy. As Europeans, they became eligible for U.S. citizenship after Hawai’i became a U.S. Territory, unlike Chinese and Japanese laborers. Portuguese were often employed as middlemen between owners and Asian workers, becoming lunas or supervisors. They also worked as strikebreakers during labor disputes. While Portuguese proved themselves, good workers, few renewed their contracts, preferring instead to buy their own land and work their own farms. Due to their lighter complexion the Portuguese better working conditions and often serving as luna, or supervisors. They were also offered American citizenship when Hawaii became a territory of the U.S. in 1898. Upon completing their labor contracts, many Portuguese started their own businesses or farms.
In a book titled People and Cultures of Hawaii, Professor Fuchs who studies immigration patterns of the Portuguese says “ In Hawaii the inner Haole elite determined policy. The Portuguese supervised as luna on the plantations” (106). This caused Portuguese to have more status and authority over other minorities on the plantations and it gave the Portuguese special privileges so their life was different from other immigrants.
While in Hawaii there were many effects that the Portuguese created due to the plantation era. Some of these effects included cultural blending of food, traditions, and culture.
“Perhaps the most visible (and audible) Portuguese contribution is the ‘ukulele.” (Fox) Adapted from a Portuguese stringed instrument called the braguinha or cavaquinho the ‘ukulele was played by King Kalakaua and become an accompaniment for the hula. The first instruments arrived in 1879 with immigrants; by 1884 instrument makers opened their shops for business to meet musicians’ demands for ‘ukulele. While some Portuguese opened restaurants and bakeries while others became paniolo also known as cowboys or paniola being cowgirls, working the ranches on horseback.
Today, the Portuguese influence on Hawaii culture is found everywhere from restaurant menus featuring comfort food favorite Portuguese bean soup to the distinctive plucking of the Hawaiian steel guitar. Their customs added greatly to the rich diversity of 19th century Hawaii. With great savvy, they soon became While living in Hawaii the Portuguese had many effects that came from the immigration from Portugal. In an interview with Tina Ichaves she says “ When our ancestor Manoel cake from Portugal he was trying to say “my name is Manuel from the point of Roque (referring to the Roque islands in Portugal) but the Americans mistook it for him saying “I am Manuel Deponte Delaroque” (3:36-4:01). This is an example of how the language of the Portuguese people was lost through conversing with different people due to people misinterpreting the language. The language was also lost due to, “They didn’t speak to us in Portuguese they would speak certain words to us… (but) my grandparents would have full conversations in English” (Kihoi, 2:46-3:35). The Portuguese Language was lost due to misinterpretation by other people along with parents who didn’t speak Portuguese to their children.
Besides the Portuguese language, the Portuguese also brought many parts of their cultures, such as a strong family structure. “From the beginning of the immigration period, the Portuguese insisted that their families accompany them when they migrated to the islands. A better life and promises made by Hawaiian landowners exceeded the expectation of the Portuguese immigrants; life was good and the family unit would thrive in this new land” (Birkmire).
The Portuguese had a deep-rooted culture with many religious beliefs. “Perhaps some people don’t understand the procession. First, it means a lot. We are Catholics. We are Portuguese. We believe in Mary. These simply are our customs,” stated by Jose de Silva in an article written by Suzanne Dechillo. “The 16th-century poet is considered Portugal’s greatest poet. Closer to the present, Fernando Pessoa is one of the most influential literary figures of the 20th century, and in 1998, José Saramago was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. Portuguese traditions are very different from one another and are the result of many centuries of history and contact with the earth, sea, and other civilizations.
Over time, many Portuguese traditions disappeared while others started to emerge” (Newitt). Religious beliefs in an interview with Gail Kihoi (2) says “the Portuguese were mainly Catholic and your ancestors who came here were all Catholic” (3:42-4:01). Religion, particularly Catholicism, has played a significant role in social and political life throughout Portuguese history. Throughout most of Portugal’s history, few non-Catholics lived in the country. Restrictions and prohibitions on people’s freedom to practice their religion hampered those who did attempt to practice a non-Catholic religion.
In conclusion, many factors led to the Portuguese migration to numerous places before reaching the Hawaiian Islands, and once they arrived in Hawaii resulted in numerous effects and changes to the Portuguese culture. The Portuguese went though many struggles on their way to find a better life. Which resulted in a very diverse place I call home, Hawaii.
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