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The Plantation Era

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Why is Hawaii's culture and racial mix different from the rest of the U.S.?

The Plantation Era

Sugar cane, pineapple, coffee and macadamia nuts were discovered to be viable agricultural crops in Hawaii by western landowners. Underpaid and sometimes unpaid labor was brought to Hawaii in the form of foreign immigrants to further this goal. To complement the first Chinese who jumped off a trade ship in 1789, more were induced in 1852 to come to Hawaii to seek a better life.

Following the Chinese came the Japanese in 1868, also induced by the opportunities the employment contracts held. Plantation owners used the strategy of limiting immigrants from any one country to limit civil unrest or revolution. Portuguese immigrants were now brought to oversee operations primarily with lower level labor being brought from Puerto Rico, Korea, Spain and the Philippines, respectively.

Plantation workers in Hawaii were slaves to their respective employers. Working from sunup to sundown, they ate minimally, were barely able to communicate with each other and working conditions were near unbearable. It was not uncommon for a worker to make a maximum of 35 cents per payday.

An estimated near 350,000 immigrants in total were brought to Hawaii to add labor to the native population.

Born of the mixture of ethnic diversity were cultural tolerance and the sharing of ideas, a shared common plantation slang language called "pidgin" english and a shared common identity among the immigrants which developed into what is called "local" culture now.

"Pidgin" english evolved from the need of plantation workers to talk to one another. Numerous foreign words from all immigrant cultures and native Hawaiian make up "pidgin". Though the general grammatical structure follows the Hawaiian language the majority of vocabulary comes from English.

With the unification of cultures and heavy immigrant population, Caucasians now became a minority. Immigrants began to form unions, buy freedom, their own land and became a force to be reckoned with. The feeling of unity among cultures arose and with external support grew into the Democratic party unique to Hawaii.

Democracy in Hawaii differs from other states in the U.S. as it arose from necessity versus choice. John Burns' legacy , (founder of the democratic party in Hawaii) from his original term of 1962-1974, was ended only in 2002 with the election of the first Jewish female Republican governor in the U.S., Linda Lingle.



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