Within forty years after Christopher Columbus discovered the American continent, the Pacific waters were invaded by Portuguese craft. It is said that Spanish navigator, Juan Gaetano landed upon the Hawaiian Islands in 1555. Some scholars defend he was Portuguese. Captain James Cook is credited with the discovery.
Up to 1853 there were 86 Portuguese in these islands. They came originally from Fayal, Graciosa, Sao Jorge and the Cape Verde Islands, mostly as sailors in whaling ships that frequently visited Hawaiian islands.
The Portuguese were present in the Hawaiian Islands as early as 1794. They came to Hawaii as whalers. One of the earliest identified Portuguese in Hawaii was João Elliot de Castro. He served as physician on the personal staff of King Kamehameha the Great in 1814.
They were mostly from the Madeira and Azores Islands. They sailed southwest across the Atlantic Ocean to Cape Town, and then northwest across half of the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii. It’s a story of epic proportions, more than twenty thousand people, across two oceans.
On the last day of September, 1878, the Priscilla arrived in Honolulu harbor bearing one hundred and twenty portuguese men, women and children. These trips could take up to 6 months!
During thirty-five years Portuguese people emigrated to Hawaii, about 25.000 Portuguese men, women and children left their native land to come to live in the Big Island, Oahu, Maui and Kauai.
Some early comers, began their work on plantations as field laborers, at the monthly rate of $10, for men, and 8$, for women.
In Honolulu there are almost as many Portuguese residents as there are in Funchal, Madeira. They came to Hawaii to stay and not “to make a pile and go back home”.
In (1881), King Kalakaua made his trip around the world, accompanied by William N. Armstrong as commissioner of immigration. They visited Portugal, where Kalakaua received a royal welcome
Jason Perry Portuguese Consul to Hawaii, suggested in 1876 to plantation owners of the Planters’ Society that the Madeira and Azores Islands of Portugal might be ideal sources of reliable workers. A “provisional convention” between the two kingdoms was signed in Lisbon in 1882 and many of the 700 Portuguese families came to work in the sugar cane plantations in Hawaii.
Many Portuguese left Hawaii for California and other states looking for new opportunities. Still many more moved to Honolulu to pursue other kinds of trades and occupations.
The early Portuguese became recognized for their hard work and skills they brought from their homelands. They generally purchased land. Some became cattle ranchers and dairymen, and others engaged in various agricultural pursuits or became Luna’s.
The portuguese contributed with thrift, stability, honesty, industriousness and progressiveness into the agricultural, political and educational life in Hawaii.
The Sovereign nation of Hawaii became the 5oth state of the United States. The Hawaiian islands lie in a 1.500 mile chain diagonally across the Pacific. The main group are all encompassed in a chain of about 400 miles from Kauai to Hawaii with a combined área of about 6.400 square miles.
The Portuguese are mostly in the Island of Hawaii, Oahu, Maui and Kauai.
Oahu is the Third largest island of Hawaian group, Honolulu is the capital and the county has a population of close to 1 million.
Wakiki, the beach district, is the center of activities for visitiors and travelers.
When their contracts expired at the plantations, they moved to town concentrating in the Punchbowl and Pauoa districts. Here street names today commemorate the Portuguese: Azores, Madeira Lusitana.
The center for Portuguese Geneology in Honolulu Oahu provides one of the best sources information in America for those looking for their roots.
On the morning of December 7 1941 Japanese militar planes bombed the United States Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the US Navy requisitioned Tuna vessels from San Diego California for military service.
Some 600 fishermen of Portuguese descent volunteered.
A total of 47 tuna boats were mobilized. Many Portuguese in Hawaii experienced the attack.
Maui, which also embraces the island of Lanai is the second largest island and its called the Valley Island. Maui is home to the crater of Haleakala – the largest extinct volcano in the world, Known as “the house of the sun”. Currently, Maui is home to the only Portuguese hall in Hawaii.
Big Island Description
Hawaii known as the big island is the largest island and it names the archipelago. Just like the Azores its know for beautiful sunsets and oceans views and the volcanic activity earthquakes and tsunamis.
Hilo, Kona and Honoka are a few of the main historic centers of the Portuguese community in hawaii.
Another popular Portuguese tradition in Hawaii is the Holy Spirit Festival (Festa do Espírito Santo), which since 1901 is celebrated each May with a parade and feast. This three-day event is not an official church holiday, but a traditional observance that began in the 18th century with the Cult of the Holy Spirit in the Azores.
At least 29 different ships from 1878 to 1913 brought almost 25,000 Portuguese immigrants to Hawaii. Although mainly from Madeira and the Azores, there were also contingents from the eastern United States, mainland Portugal. A lot of them settled in the big island purchased property and raised cattle in large ranches.
Sober, honest, industrious and peaceful, they combine all the qualities of a good settler. Their former ranch properties became major hotel and resort developments in the Kona Area.
Many claim Kauai to be the gem of the group. “The Garden Island” smallest of the four with an area of about 547 miles.
Portuguese immigration continued, and by the end of 1911 almost 16,000 Portuguese had arrived. Though many left to the United States mainland because of discrimination, many stayed and by 1910 Portuguese residents made up 11.6% of the population of Hawaii
Portuguese have made their presence known through positive achievements in business, government, the professions and in hawaian politics.
The Hawaiian census of 1878 showed that, out of a kingdom of 57,985 people, 438 residents were Portuguese. Most of these Portuguese residents had been born in either the Azores or Madeira Islands. One of the most famous and recognized descendents of Portuguese in the state is Comedian Frank de lima. He is considered the mot sought after comedian in the entire state of hawaii.
In Kalakaua’s day, old-timers report whole bands of Portuguese traveled from town to town, dancing and singing to brighten the monotony of walking. Music has been an integral part of the Portuguese vulture om hawaii. Glenn Alan Medeiros is an American singer and songwriter of Portuguese descent who achieved chart success in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He is best known on the national and international music scene for his 1987 global smash, “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love for You”.
Wayne Moniz is an award winning author of novels and short stories, play wright and poet from Maui.
Dr. Marlene Hapai is a entrepreneur, professor emeritus at university of hawaii,and the former Executive Director, Mauna Kea Astronomy Education Center, Imiloa.
The Portuguese have one of the highest out-marriage rates of any group in the islands. Mixture of blood and continued close association between groups. Elizabeth Nakamaru is the first generation in Hawaii.
McDonalds is known in Hawaii for Incorporating the Portuguese sausage. Danny Abreu has been for decades a high ranking professional at this franchise.
Leona Rocha Wilson known as the plantation princess, was the spokesperson for vogue, invented the fashion ruler and inspired a generation of Portuguese young women in hawaii.
Native Hawaiian speakers called the Portuguese immigrants who came to their country “Pukikī.” These newcomers were devout followers of the Roman Catholic faith with strong family ties. Most were short, with slender builds, and dark skin from long hours of working out under the sun in the cane fields. The need to integrate in American society had as a main consequence loosing the Portuguese language. The university of hawaii continues the effort to promote and teach the Portuguese culture and language.
Portuguese immigration to the islands slowed after 1887, which was the same year that King Kalākaua was stripped of power. Today very few Portuguese migrate to Hawai.
A few Portuguese in California and other western states chose Hawaii as their vacation home.
With almost 150 years of Portuguese presence the language is almost completely lost. Only a few words remain.
The Portuguese today have 10 generations in Hawai. The majority of intermarriages are with other catholics and Hawaiians. Its no surprise the Portuguese descendants are more fluent in English and the local native language.
One popular Portuguese tradition in Hawaii today is the making of malasadas, which are deep-fried pastries, similar to the beignet of New Orleans, that traditionally have no holes or fillings, but are coated in granulated cane sugar.
These pastries are an important part in Madeira and the Azores of the Carnaval that is the same holiday as “Fat Tuesday” or “Mardi Gras” elsewhere. This day in Hawaii is called “Malasada Day”, and it dates back to the time of the 19th-century sugarcane plantations.
“You Can Thank the Portuguese for Modernizing the Hula” , first appeared in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, July 14, 1954.
The best-known Portuguese contribution to Hawaiian culture is the ukulele, based on the traditional Portuguese braguinha (cavaquinho). The introduction of the ukulele is generally credited to Madeiran cabinet makers Manuel Nunes, Augusto Dias and José do Espírito Santo,
Recognized as the King’s favorite court musician, Dias taught Kalakaua to play the ukelele. The popularity of the ukulele increased when it proved to be a perfect accompaniment for the hula.
By 1878 the Portuguese population In Hawai was only 1 per cent. From 1878 to 1911 At least 24 ships from brought close to 20 thousand Portuguese. In the early 1900s the Portuguese were about 20 per cent of the population.
When the Ravenscrag ship reached port In hawaii with its load of immigrants in 1879 after 123 days at sea, three children had perished during the voyage. Today their descendants work daily to inspire the new generations and honor their ancestors sacrifice.
By 1878 a small group of Portuguese immigrants had settled in Hawaii in pursuit of a life on the sugar cane plantations. Nostalgia and “saudade” keeps them close to the ocean where they feel at home.
They were among the first in America and Today, the Portuguese remain one of the most successful and respected ethnic groups in Hawaii.
Masters of the sea, Portuguese immigrant Whalers and fisherman became Lunas and entrepreneurs in the sandwich islands. They faced the oceans for months looking for a better life in this new world. These are their stories.