HONOLULU (KHON2) — The impacts of Hispanic peoples on Hawaiʻi is rather significant.
From cowboys to agriculture to music, peoples from across the Hispanic world have been coming to Hawaiʻi and integrating into its culture.
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For Hispanic Heritage Month, KHON2.com decided to explore some of the more significant impacts from Hispanic influence.
The first Hispanic in Hawaiʻi
The very first person with Hispanic descent to step foot on Hawaiʻi land was Francisco de Paula Marín.
He came to Hawaiʻi in 1794 when he was 20 years old and ended up becoming a business advisor, bookkeeper, sometime-physician and interpreter for King Kamehameha I.
This allowed him to gain access to land of his own and wealth; and within two years of his arrival in the islands, he was married and had children.
He is also the person responsible for planting the first fruits trees and plants in Hawaiʻi, including the pineapple in 1813.
Marín’s impact on Hawaiʻi’s economy has lasted for centuries and is responsible for many of the foods that Hawaiʻi is famous for, including pineapple, coffee, mango, avocado, guava, papaya and cocoa.
But he was also the first to plant onion, horseradish, cabbage, asparagus, corn, chili pepper, lime, lemon, orange, carrot, plum, fig, lettuce, olive, prickly pear cactus, parsley, pea, apricot, peach, pear, apple, eggplant, potato, tea and cotton.
He was also known for his elaborate and lush gardens which inspired future botanical gardens.
“His gardens attracted the attention of tourists and botanists alike; and it is fortunate that these visitors often wrote of his plants because the diary which he kept, although a valuable source of information, is incomplete,” wrote Kenneth Nagata in a 1985 article entitled Early Plant Introductions in Hawaiʻi.
Marin even introduced a vineyard, creating the first wine grown, harvested and produced in Hawaiʻi. This is why we have a Vineyard Boulevard in Honolulu; the road cut through Marin’s orchard.
Hispanics and Hawaiʻi’s paniolo
Cattle arrived in Hawaiʻi in 1793 when British Captain George Vancouver gifted them to King Kamehameha I.
But it wasn’t until the early 19th century that some kanaka maoli began to evolve their skills a paniolo. The destruction of the cows on Hawaiʻi’s ecosystem forced King Kamehameha III to request assistance from Mexico’s fabled cowboys.
In Mexico, cowboys are known as vaqueros; and some vaqueros came to Hawaiʻi to teach kanaka maoli how to ride horses and herd cattle. They taught them how to rope cattle, but kanaka maoli made cowboying their own since a tropical landscape is very different, eventually developing the paniolo.
It is said that kanaka maoli came up with the word paniolo because they could not correctly pronounce español.
The famous song Adios Ke Aloha was created by kanaka maoli paniolo Clyde “Kindy” Sproat. He infused newly developed Hawaiian guitar music with traditional cowboy themes.
This collaboration led to the first group migration of Hispanics to Hawaiʻi.
Commerce and the arrival Hispanic workers
With all this activity taking place around ranching and agriculture, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that large migration occurred.
In 1878, the first Portuguese laborers arrived in Hawaiʻi at the urging of Jason Perry who convinced Hawaiʻi’s plantation owners that workers from Portugal was a good way of staffing their sugar plantation workforces. But long before this, Portuguese whalers — also known as Baleeiros — were frequent visitors of Lāhainā’s whaling port for decades.
In1899, there were two hurricanes that devastated the island of Puerto Rico. The storm brought 28 days of non-stop rain that wreaked havoc on agricultural commerce from the island.
The damage from the storm devastated the agricultural industry and left over 3,000 people dead and thousands more without shelter, food or work. Since most of the world’s sugar was coming from Puerto Rico, this caused a global shortage of sugar in the aftermath of the two hurricanes.
Hence, Hawaiʻi was primed to take a significant spot in the world’s sugar production system. So, in 1900, Hawaiʻi’s plantation owners started up a campaign to entice Puerto Rican laborers to their workforces.
The first group to arrive were 54 men who made the long and grueling journey from Puerto Rico to Hawaiʻi. They finally arrived in Hawaiʻi in 1901. Today, there is a monument on Hawaiʻi Island that commemorates their arrival.
Between 1907 and 1913, there were 9,000 Hispanic immigrants on six vessels shipped to Hawaiʻi to work on plantations. This included more Portuguese migrants. However, most of these migrants ended up leaving for California.
The introduction of the ukulele to Hawaiʻi
Although the ukulele was not invented in Hawai’i or by kanaka maoli, it has been embraced by local populations and is the most recognized instrument in Hawaiian music. The ukulele was originally called a machête.
It was invented in Madeira, a Portuguese volcanic archipelago, and introduced to Hawai’i by Madeiran slaves and indentured servants who were brought to Hawai’i to work on sugar plantations beginning in 1876.
The ukulele is the most significant instrument introduced to kanaka maoli and has been cemented as an essential component of Hawaiian music is.
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So, that’s the long and the short of it. Hispanics have a significant and deep impact on the places they choose to settle. They have brought with them a great deal of gifts that continue to give back to Hawaiʻi.