I thought I had a pretty darn good idea of the process Portuguese immigrants went through during the sugar plantation era.
- They signed a contact to work on a plantation while still at home.
- The applied for a passport.
- They got on the ship and were listed on the ship manifest.
- They arrived in Honolulu and were processed by the Portuguese consulate.
- They were assigned to a sugar plantation and when they fulfilled their contract, it was signed by someone at the plantation and dated.
But, I did not know that they had to pay into a relief fund upon arrival.
This snippet comes for the 4 Oct 1883, Daily Bulletin newspaper published in Hawaii. Questions were raised about why the Portuguese immigrants had to pay a $1.10 fee upon arrival in Hawaii. After all, their passage was already paid for.
After being assigned to a sugar plantation, they had to get a special certificate that proved their nationality from the Portuguese Consulate. This certificate gave them access to a relief fund. It could be used after they completed their sugar plantation contract in case they were ill or injured. The article infers that only men had to pay the fee, but I’m uncertain how to interpret that. Women sign plantation contracts, too. Their husband or sons might gave paid the fee on their behalf.
It states that the money was fronted by the planter who took their contract, but ultimately the laborer had to pay it back. I looked up the amount $1.10 to see what it was worth in 1883. A calculator says that’s equal to about $31 today’s dollars.
These folks, most of them poor, already found themselves $31 dollars in debt immediately after they got off the ship. Money which was then taken directly from their wages.
What more can we learn about their immigrants from these old newspapers? Stay tuned!