The Hawaiian Connection

The great migration of 25,000 Portuguese from Madeira, the Azores, and mainland Portugal to Hawaii was financed by sugar plantations seeking laborers. Large-scale production of sugar required many workers, and the Hawaiian population that had been decimated by western diseases couldn't provide enough workers. The plantations brought in Chinese men in the 1860s and 1870s, but they didn’t bring their families. When the men completed their contracts, many left the islands for California, returned home, or moved to Honolulu.

By 1870, there were already approximately 400 Portuguese in Hawaii who had left whaling ships to start lives in agriculture. One of them, Jacinto Pereira, a well-respected owner of a dry goods store, recommended that the Hawaiian government bring Portuguese workers and their families from Madeira. At that time, a Dr. Hildebrand, citizen of Germany and former resident of Hawaii, was living in Madeira and was contacted for his opinion. Dr. Hildebrand agreed to recruit workers and arrange for their transportation and Jacinto Pereira agreed to represent the Portuguese when they landed in Hawaii.

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The Hawaiian Connection

Portuguese immigration to Hawaii began in 1878 when Portuguese residents made up less than 1% of the island population. However, the migration that began that year of laborers from Madeira and the Azores to work in the sugar cane plantations rapidly increased the Portuguese presence

Portuguese Emigration to Hawaii

Poor economic conditions forced emigration from the Azores and Madeira

The Long Voyage to Hawaii

From 1878 through 1913, Portuguese emigrants voyaged to Hawaii in search of a better life.

The Journey of the Thomas Bell, Part 1

João Baptista d’Oliveira chronicled his voyage on the Thomas Bell. Part 1

The Journey of the Thomas Bell, Part 2

João Baptista d’Oliveira chronicled his voyage on the Thomas Bell. Part 2

The Journey of the Thomas Bell, Part 3

João Baptista d’Oliveira chronicled his voyage on the Thomas Bell. Part 3

Life on a Hawaiian Plantation

Working on a plantation was difficult and demanding, with conditions varying from one plantation to another.

Becoming Portuguese-Hawaiian

To further their assimilation, the Portuguese set aside the language and culture of Portugal.

The da Gama Family Voyage to Hawaii

After fifty-seven days, the da Gama and Berenguer families arrived in Honolulu, without little 1 1/2 year-old Maria, who died of smallpox the day before.

Birth of the Ukulele

Madeiran Immigrants created the ukulele from the "braguinha".

Impact of the Ukulele on Hawaiian and American Culture

The rapid acceptance of the ukulele was due to the patronage of King Kalakaua and his brother Prince Leleiohoku, and sisters Princess Likelike and the future Queen Lili’uokalani.

From Hawaii to California

Through communication with Portuguese in California, many of the original immigrants to Hawaii became convinced that there were better economic opportunities in California.