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Spanish immigration to Hawaii

Spanish immigration to Hawaii began in 1907 when the Hawaiian government and the Hawaiian Sugar Planters' Association (HSPA) decided to supplement their ongoing importation of Portuguese workers to Hawaii with workers recruited from Spain. Importation of Spanish laborers, along with their families, continued until 1913, at which time more than 9,000 Spanish immigrants had been brought in, most recruited to work primarily on the Hawaiian sugarcane plantations.

Spanish Immigrants to Hawaii
Flag of Spain.svg
The flag of Spain
caption goes here
Spanish immigrants crowd the deck of the SS Heliopolis in 1907 on their way to Hawaii.[1]
Spanish, English
Roman Catholic
The SS Heliopolis in 1907 was the first ship to bring Spanish immigrants to Hawaii.
Spanish children from the SS Heliopolis after arriving in Hawaii.

Early immigrationEdit

Perhaps the first Spanish immigrant to take up residence in Hawaii was Francisco de Paula Marín (1774-1837), a self-promoting adventurer who knew several languages, and served King Kamehameha I as an interpreter and military advisor.[2] Later Marin may have advised Kamehameha's son Kauikeaouli (Kamehameha III) on Hawaii's fledgling cattle industry, as Marin had spent time in Spanish California, and Kauikeaouli visited there in 1832 to observe the California cattle industry first-hand. Kauikeaouli was greatly impressed with the horsemanship and cattle handling skills of the Spanish vaqueros of California, and he invited several of them to Hawaii to teach those skills to his own people. The native Hawaiians these vaqueros trained became the "Paniolo", or "Hawaiian cowboys", who carry on a tradition of horsemanship and cattle ranching to the present day.[3] There were no doubt other Spanish adventurers who arrived throughout the mid-19th century on whaling ships, but their numbers would have been few. Spanish immigrants to Hawaii in fact were so few prior to 1900 that they were counted only as "Other Foreigners" in the Hawaiian census returns.[4]

Immigration of 1907 to 1913Edit

The rise in the late 1800s of the sugar industry in the Hawaiian Islands created a huge demand for laborers to work on the sugarcane plantations. The Hawaiian government, with the support of the plantation owners, initially brought in contract laborers from China to fill this need, but public sentiment gradually turned against continued importation of the Chinese, and Portuguese workers were recruited to take their place.[5] However, the high cost associated with shipping Portuguese laborers and their families to Hawaii, and the reality that many Portuguese remained on the plantations only long enough to fulfill their contractual obligations, led the Hawaiian Sugar Planters' Association (HSPA) to encourage the government to consider alternate sources of labor. Spain in particular was felt to be a viable source of contract workers, who were culturally more acceptable than many of the other ethnic groups that had already been brought in.[6][7]

The importation of Spanish laborers to Hawaii began in 1907, when the British steamship SS Heliopolis arrived in Honolulu Harbor with 2,246 immigrants from the Málaga province of Spain.[8] However, rumored poor accommodations and food on the voyage created political complications that delayed the next Spanish importation until 1911, when the SS Orteric arrived with a mixed contingent of 960 Spanish and 565 Portuguese immigrants, the Spanish having boarded at Gibraltar, and the Portuguese at Oporto and Lisbon. However, the two groups argued and fought with each other during the long voyage, "so much so that they had to be separated. The women . . . went as far as hair pulling."[9][10] Although Portuguese immigration to Hawaii effectively ended after the arrival of the Orteric, the importation of Spanish laborers and their families continued until 1913, ultimately bringing to Hawaii a total of 9,262 Spanish immigrants.[11]

Despite hopes that the Spanish immigrants who came to Hawaii would stay and continue to work on the sugarcane plantations, most emigrated to the mainland United States, generally California, as soon as they could in search of greater opportunity.[7] So much so that the U.S. census for 1930 listed only 1,219 residents (0.3% of the population) of Spanish ancestry still remaining in Hawaii. Although the Spanish tended to move on, they were quickly supplanted by Spanish-speaking immigrants from the Philippines and Puerto Rico, who by 1930 made up, respectively, 17.1% and 1.8% of the population. By comparison, residents of Portuguese ancestry in 1930 made up 7.5% of the population.[12]

How they came to HawaiiEdit

Six ships between 1907 and 1913 brought over 9,000 Spanish immigrants from the Spanish mainland to Hawaii. Although many of the Portuguese immigrants who preceded them to Hawaii arrived on small wooden sailing ships of less than a thousand gross tonnage capacity, all of the ships involved in the Spanish immigration were large, steel-hulled, passenger steamships.

Ships that brought Spanish immigrants to Hawaii from 1907-1913[11]
Ship Name Type of Vessel Flag Arrival Date Port of Origin Days at Sea Men Women Children Total
Heliopolis Steamship British 26 April 1907 Málaga (Spain)
    by way of the Azores
47 days 608 554 1084 2246
Orteric (Osteric) Steamship British 13 April 1911 Oporto & Lisbon (Portugal)
    and Gibraltar
48 days
547 373 531 1451
Willesden Steamship British 13 December 1911 Gibraltar 52 days 639 400 758 1797
Harpalion Steamship British 16 April 1912 Gibraltar 51 days 496 496 626 1618
Willesden Steamship British 30 March 1913 Gibraltar 49 days 491 377 490 1358
Ascot Steamship British 4 June 1913 Cardiff (Spain) 60 days 424 327 532 1283
2,994 2,527 4,021
Total 9,753
Because 491 of the immigrants on the SS Orteric were Portuguese,[9][10] there was a net importation of 9,262 Spanish immigrants.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Emigration from the Port of Malaga" (PDF). ABC (newspaper). Madrid, Spain. March 11, 1907. ano 111, num. 646, p. 1.
  2. ^ Cutter, Donald (1980). "The Spanish in Hawaii: Gaytan to Marin" (PDF). Hawaiian Journal of History. Honolulu, Hawaii: Hawaii Historical Society: v. 14, p. 20–25. Retrieved 6 November 2013.
  3. ^ Mills, Peter R., White, Carolyn and Barna, Benjamin (2013). "The Paradox of the Paniolo: An Archaeological Perspective of Hawaiian Ranching". Historical Archaeology: v. 47, n. 2, p. 117–139. Retrieved 5 November 2013.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ Hawaiian census returns for the years 1872, 1878, 1884, 1890, 1896 and 1900 recognized a number of different ethnic groups, including Portuguese, who generally accounted for about 10% of the population during those years. However, none of these returns separated Spanish residents into a separate category, their numbers being too few to make such a distinction. For a tabulation of Hawaiian population statistics for 1872-1900, please see Thrum, Thomas G., compiler (1903). "Comparative table of Nationality of population of Hawaiian Islands at various census periods since 1872". Hawaiian Almanac for 1903. Thos. G. Thrum: 34.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ Coman, Katharine (1903). "Opposition to the Chinese". The History of Contract Labor in the Hawaiian Islands. New York: American Economic Association with The MacMillan Company: 35–42.
  6. ^ Wright, Carroll D. (1903). "Present plantation labor supply". Report of the Commissioner of Labor on Hawaii. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office: 20–55.
  7. ^ a b Lozano, Beverly (1984). "The Andalucia-Hawaii-California migration: A study in macrostructure and microhistory". Comparative Studies in Society and History. Cambridge University Press. 26 (2): 305–324. doi:10.1017/S0010417500010926. JSTOR 178613.
  8. ^ Fernández, James D. & Argeo, Luis (2012-12-07). "Archive / Archivo: Heliópolis". Spanish Immigrants in the United States (website). Retrieved 5 November 2013.
  9. ^ a b "Orteric". Pacific Commercial Advertiser (newspaper). Honolulu Hawaii. April 14, 1911. Retrieved 5 November 2013.. Extracted from the State of Hawaii Library on microfilm, State of Hawaii Archives.
  10. ^ a b "Orteric arrives with many laborers". The Hawaiian Gazette. Honolulu, Hawaii. April 14, 1911. pp. 1, 8.
  11. ^ a b Fernández, James D. & Argeo, Luis (2012-12-05). "Chart of Spanish Immigrant ships to Hawaii". Spanish Immigrants in the United States (website). Retrieved 5 November 2013. This is a list of ships and passenger records compiled from the Harbor Master's Records in the State Archives of Hawaii. Additional information on these ships was obtained from articles on individual ship arrivals published in three Honolulu, Hawaii newspapers - the Pacific Commercial Advertiser, the Hawaiian Gazette, and the Hawaiian Star - most issues of which are available at the Chronicling America website of the Library of Congress.
  12. ^ United States Bureau of the Census (1932). Fifteenth census of the United States: 1930. Outlying territories and possessions. Number and distribution of inhabitants. Composition and characteristics of the population. Occupations, Unemployment and Agriculture. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office. p. 48.

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