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Hawai’i Puerto Ricans

Puerto Rican Migration To The Hawaiian Islands

Sugar Plantations

Puerto Rican Sugar Plantation Workers In Hawai’i

In August of 1899 the island of Puerto Rico was devastated by two strong hurricanes. On August 8th a category 4 hurricane flattened Puerto Rico, then on August 22nd a category 2 storm hit. The devastation caused the sugar industry to plummet which caused a worldwide shortage in sugar and a huge demand for the product from Hawai’i.

Hawai’i sugarcane plantation owners started recruiting the experienced laborers from Puerto Rico. The first wave of Puerto Rican migrants consisted of 56 men who started their journey to Hawai’i on November 22, 1900 and arriving on December 23, 1900. They were assigned to work at the Pioneer Mill Company in Lahaina, Maui.

By October 1901, 5,000 Puerto Rican men, women and children called Hawai’i their home living in plantation camps on Maui, Hawai’i Island, O’ahu, and Kaua’i. Like other plantation worker immigrants, Puerto Ricans shared their culture, their foods, and music with Hawai’i.

The most popular foods introduced are the pastele, comparable to a tamale, pastele stew, gandule rice (hunto rice), a flavorful Caribbean rice, carne guisada stew and bacalao salad, dry salted codfish. Puerto Ricans also brought their rums and piña coladas.

The Puerto Rican camps would be filled with parties and celebrations during the weekends. Sometimes their loud music and rum-filled festivities would end with a knife fight. The Japanese camp neighbors thought the music sounded “scratchy” and would call it “cutche cutche” (katche). That’s how Hawai’i Puerto Rican music was named Cachi-Cachi (Katchi Katchi), unique to Hawai’i.



*Puerto Rican Stone Monument photo credit to Darde Gamayo.
*Monument located near Puakea, North Kohala, Hawai’i Island.

Little Grass Shack WTF?! (What The Fact):

In the late 1990’s, the thumbnail sized coqui frog endemic to Puerto Rico, became established in Hawaii, as stowaways in potted plant shipments. All of Puerto Rico and native Puerto Ricans love the sounds of the frogs loud mating call. In Hawai’i it is considered an annoyance reaching a higher population density than Puerto Rico itself. It is a highly invasive species that threatens the endemic Hawaiian natural ecosystem. There are ongoing efforts to exterminate the infestation.

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