That’s Old News: The Portuguese Praised in Hawaii

In searching the Hawaiian Gazette newspaper, I found several references to the Portuguese immigrants in it’s pages.  This is an article from 7 Sep 1881.  The author praises the Portuguese who have recently come to Hawaii to work the sugar plantations.

I found this article interesting because it gives a glimpse of the views held at the time.  The Portuguese were seen as a way to lessen the Asian population in Hawaii (which White businessmen had begun to fear).  This is one of the reasons the Portuguese were contracted as families rather than individuals.  The hope was that their children would stay and have families.  And, this would balance out what the business owners saw as a growing racial imbalance.

There was also the view that Chinese and Japanese laborers did not stick around.  When their contracts were up, they either returned home or sought other work.  The Portuguese, for whatever reason, were seen as a stable labor force that would be loyal to the plantations.

This held true for several decades.   Though many left for California after 1900, you could still see many of the same families working either on the sugar plantation or within that community into the 1930s and 1940s.

I think alot of that is due to the poverty of the immigrants who came from the Azores and Madeira and the distance.  Those immigrants traveled quite a distance to get to Hawaii.  They left with entire families.  I think they had an inkling that when they left those islands they would never return.  Though it was common to find travel back and forth between the East Coast of the US and the Azores and Madeira, it was very rare that a Portuguese immigrant to Hawaii ever returned home.

I think it’s good to read these old articles.  We can better understand what our ancestors might have experienced, what views might have influenced their lives.


If the print is difficult to read, please visit the Chronicling America website, The Hawaiian Gazette - 7 Sep 1881, page 3, column 3, to read this article.

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