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The Happy Melting Pot of Hawaii

The Happy Melting Pot of Hawaii

Once a week when you walk by Macdonald’s inside the Kona Walmart you can hear sweet Hawaiian songs being sung by tutus (grandmothers). They are dressed in colorful mumus, happily strumming their ukuleles and singing their Island songs.

Hawaiian songs and hula define being Hawaiian. The ultimate example of Hawaiian Culture is the Merry Monarch Festival, happening in Hilo every April.

A humble ambassador of the friendly Hawaiian culture – the shaka sign – is known in all corners of the world.

Shaka sign - the local style!

In Hawaii there are many  races, Hawaiians, whites, Japanese and Chinese Americans and more. Each race and culture adds their own ingredient to the mix of the melting pot. So who are these people living in this Land of Aloha?

As of this year there are a little over 1,400,000, almost a million and half people, living in Hawaii. Here is a quick look at the races. Excuse me if I miss a few of you, but we know you’re here. So are you ready?

Hawaiians number 80,000 in all the islands. Asians, including Japanese, Chinese, Filipino and Korean- Americans are 198,000. 120,000 Hispanics. There are 310,000 White people, call them Caucasians or Haoles. There are Russians, Germans, Irish, English and Portuguese. Now you know all the different flowers in the big bouquet of Hawaii.

We know the Hawaiians with their luaus, outrigger canoes and hula, and their long history here, about 1000 years. So who are the others who leave their slippers at the door of this Aloha State?

There are the Japanese-Americans. They first arrived  in the early 1800s coming to pick sugar cane. As a rule they are conservative and have many of the food markets in Hawaii. There are mom and pop stores like Matsuyamas and the giant chain stores of KTA. Their special gift to the islands is their celebration of ancestors called the Bon Dance.

From June to August, on various weekends, the Japanese dress in traditional costumes and march down streets in a colorful parade. They clack sticks together and shuffle along charmingly remembering their ancestors, accompanied by vibrant paper lanterns and cheerful music. Review 2018 Bon Dance Schedule and Locations for your island.

Japanese Bon Dance celebration in Hawaii
Preparation for Bon Dance celebration

Then come the Chinese-Americans, they are a lot wilder. When they throw a party for Chinese New Year there are deafening drums and smoke-breathing dragons charging down the street. People rush out and put money in the paper-mache dragon’s mouth for good luck. It’s good luck for the guy inside the dragon suit anyway.

Their events are filled with passion, the main color in the parade is bright red, and they swing along holding long sticks with strings of fireworks blowing off all the way through town. Their New Year back in China starts on our February 16 and they have  festivals till March 2nd.   In China, each new year has a name of an animal, 2018 is the Year of the Dog, symbolizing seriousness and hard work. That leaves me out.  And you guessed it, at all the events they serve Chinese Food.

Mark your calendars:
Chinese New Year 2020 — Saturday, January 25
Chinese New Year 2021 — Friday, February 12
Chinese New Year 2022 — Tuesday, February 1

Celebration of Chinese New Year in Hawaii; Dragon Dance
Dragon Dance during the Chinese New Year celebration in Hawaii

The  next  race looks like Hawaiians, they are the Mexicans. Hispanic is the overall name for those south of the border. Mexicans and Hispanics have rich cultures and make up a large percentage of Hawaii. Those on the mainland  know all about Mexicans, their food and music, fiestas and siestas.

In Hawaii Mexicans show off their culture best at Cinco de Mayo, the fifth of May. It’s a wild fiesta that erupts all over Hawaii and across America, and of course Mexico. It can best be seen at the annual Cinco de Mayo Block Party where Mexicans show their stuff in dance, music, food and drink.

An Instagram post for Cinco de Mayo at Buho Cantina

Contrary to the belief of some partyers, May 5th is not Mexico’s Independence Day, that is September 16th.  On that day in 1810 a priest named Father Hidalgo ran out of his church and riled up the peasants and started a revolution against the Spanish.

Cinco de Mayo is about the Battle of Puebla in Mexico in 1864. Mexicans, who were vastly outnumbered, fought the French and won. They’ve been partying ever since.

There are many more cultures in the islands, African-Americans, Filipinos, Koreans, Portuguese, affectionately called “Portagees”. There are Russians, Germans, Irish and Native Americans, all are Americans and everyone is important. There’s only enough room to mention a few.

The English have a special place in Hawaii’s history. They were the best and the worst of people. One of the worst might be Captain James Cook, who sailed into Kealakekua (kay ala’ kay kua) Bay in 1778. The Hawaiians thought he was their god Lono but soon found out differently. Cook and his crew stayed for 2 months eating all the food, and  generally being real bad guests.

They sailed away and to the grumbling of Hawaiians returned a few days later. A Hawaiian stole one of the lifeboats, maybe payment for eating all their food. The Captain and a few crew members went ashore to get the boat back. After a brief skirmish it was all over for Captain Cook.

Another bad Englishman was Captain George Paulet. In 1843 he sailed in and took over the  Kingdom of Hawaii. He shot cannons at the town of Honolulu and terrorized Hawaii for 6 months until The good Englishman, Captain Richard Thomas sailed in and saved the Kingdom.

The English generally respected and protected Hawaii, so in honor of that the Hawaiians  put the Union Jack British Flag in their Hawaiian Flag and it still flies today.

Now comes the Caucasians or white Americans. Along with anyone with white skin, in Hawaii they are called Haoles (howl’ eez). Contrary to a few politically correct people, Haole is not derogatory, it is only a description. When telling a story and you want to distinguish between locals and white people you say Haole, that’s all.

The  history of  white Americans in Hawaii is so complicated it can only be discussed briefly. How they came as missionaries, whalers, soldiers and businessman was mostly negative. American businessmen took over the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893 and dethroned Queen Liliuokalani.  But years later things turned out for the best.

Hawaii now has jobs,  freedom, hotels, hotdogs, hamburgers, malls, an  American Flag, Fourth of July and a president. Being a state in America is not so bad, it was mostly white Americans that started this.

All kidding aside, that’s how the races get along- by kidding. Instead of quarreling over the different races, they joke about it, this jovial attitude runs through most everyone in the islands.

Skin color is no big deal of course, but when people in other places haven’t learned that, they should come to Hawaii where skin color is pretty much ignored.  Living on a remote island together, joined with being polite, creates a sweet outlook called Aloha, a light version of love. If you dream of coming to live in this happy land, check out How to Freelance in Hawaii.

Aloha is the main ingredient in this unique and happy melting pot called Hawaii.

The End.

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