From Hawaii to California

Drawn to the West Coast

Through communication with Portuguese in California, many of the original immigrants to Hawaii became convinced that there were better economic opportunities in California. In addition, steamship companies for commercial routes to San Francisco wanting to fill their ships with passengers made false claims about jobs in Oakland and San Leandro.

Years:  1890 — 1910

After arriving from Hawaii, one group took the train to a location in San Leandro that was supposed to have jobs. They found only fields. Eventually they found work elsewhere. It has been estimated that one quarter of the original immigrants to Hawaii went to California. Some of those arriving had a difficult time economically and went back and forth as the economy in both areas changed.

After the U.S. annexation of Hawaii in the early 1900s, Portuguese immigrants were no longer obligated for the cost of the passage to Hawaii or to work on the plantation when they arrived. Some with friends in California traveled free to Hawaii only to get to California for a cheaper cost. Some of those who initially did not have money for the passage to California worked only long enough to save for the passage. Most who went to California settled on the east side of the San Francisco Bay. In later years, descendants traveled to California for the excellent educational institutions and stayed because of better job opportunities.

The Portuguese who came from Hawaii settled mainly in the area of Oakland called Jingletown, so named because of the coins heard jingling in the workers' pockets. Many of the immigrants worked in the factories of Oakland that were called Portuguese universities.

One interesting aspect of the Hawaiian–California connection is the construction of the Mary Help of Christians Church in Oakland. The church design copies churches found in Hawaii, and those in Hawaii copied the design of New England Protestant missionary churches.

The Portuguese from Hawaii have maintained a "Hawaii-ness". They have joined with other Hawaiian and ethnic groups to create a unique Hawaiian–California community. This Hawaiian–California community celebrates its history and culture by participating in activities such as outrigger canoe clubs, ukulele groups, hula dancing, festivals, and luaus.

Images  (click on image to view full size)