Puerto Rican immigration to Hawaii began when Puerto Rico’s sugar industry was devastated by two hurricanes in 1899. The devastation caused a world wide shortage in sugar and a huge demand for the product from Hawaii. Hawaiian sugar plantation owners began to recruit the jobless, but experienced, laborers in Puerto Rico.
On November 22, 1900, the first group of Puerto Ricans consisting of 56 men, began their long journey to Hawaii. After a long & rough journey, they arrived in Honolulu, on December 23, 1900, and were sent to work in one of the different plantations owned by the “Big Five” on four of Hawaii’s islands.
By October 17, 1901, 5,000 Puerto Rican men, women and children had made their new homes in the Hawaiian Islands. Records show that, in 1902, 34 plantations had 1,773 Puerto Ricans on their payrolls; 1,734 worked as field hands and another 39 were clerks and/or lunas (foremen).
Currently, there are over 30,000 Puerto Ricans or Hawaiian-Puerto Ricans living in Hawaii. Puerto Rican culture and traditions are still very strong in Hawaii.
Puerto Rican plantation immigrants brought to Hawaii the four-string guitar, cuatro. However, it eventually evolved into a ten stringed guitar in Hawaii. Puerto Ricans also brought the maracas & guiro to Hawaii. These instruments can be heard in Hawaiian Puerto Rican music katchi-katchi.
Like all other immigration groups, Pureto Ricans brought their foods to Hawaii. Two of the more popular items are pastele (~patele) and gandule rice. Broke da mout’!
Like it or not, during the late 20th century, the “coquí”, a thumbnail-sized tree frog endemic to Puerto Rico, became established in Hawaii, most likely as stowaways in shippings of potted plants. Its loud mating call, “music to the ears” of Puerto Ricans on their native highland, is considered an annoyance in Hawaii where this invasive species reaches much higher population densities.