When I tell people that I am working in Hawaii, I brace myself for the responses. And by responses, I mean deeply romantic stereotypes.
Chances are you might be dreaming of coming to Hawaii for a vacation or honeymoon in the future – and lucky you! Hawaii is amazing.
But Hawaii is also home for many and that’s a very different lifestyle than being here as a tourist. Please, let me tell you a little of what I’ve learned about Hawaii.
You may think you’re suffering allergies and respiratory problems, when it’s really a reaction to the VOG. VOG is a smog or haze containing volcanic dust and gases. VOG is a form of air pollution that results when gases and particle emitted by the volcano react with moisture in the air and is a combination of the words volcanic, smog and fog.
It may sound silly, but you might be surprised to find most Hawaiians are Asian. No one told me and I expected Native Hawaiians. I was very naive. There is a confusion that exists here between Asian culture and Native Hawaiian culture going back to the early 19th century when Asians were brought to this land to work the sugar cane and pineapple plantations. I’ve paid more attention to media and Blue Hawaii used Asians as Hawaiians and the non-white actors in Hawaii Five-O are Korean, not Native Hawaiian. By the time, Pearl Harbor was bombed the population was 40% Japanese, 20% Chinese and only 25% Native Hawaiian and then mostly on the other islands. Sadly, the Native Hawaiian identity has been disappearing as the Asians increase.
Today Native Hawaiians make up a meager 10% of the population and 1/3 are homeless. No romantic grass skirts and ukuleles. What happened to them? Historians estimate that almost 80% of the original Native Hawaiian population died after coming in contact with European diseases. With the dwindling population Hawaiians lost more and more control over their lands and Asians were brought in to work the fields.
In 1893, the Hawaiian Kingdom was overthrown, the Queen imprisoned in her palace. In 1921, Congress passed the “Hawaiian Homes Commission Act” designed to rehabilitate their population with the land by setting aside 3% of the total land for people who are 50% Native Hawaiians.
If you meet a Hawaiian, you’ll notice the Native Hawaiians are relentlessly friendly and really live the aloha spirit. It seems deeply engrained in them as a value in their native culture. This “Aloha”was eventually turned into a marketing slogan to drive tourism. Hawaii became this mystical, magical and hospitable place packaged to Mainlanders. The place dreams are made of.
It was smart. It’s worked better than they ever imagined. Hawaii has become a fantasy for vacationers and honeymooners to visit rather than a place to live. Please enjoy Hawaii, it’s an amazing place. But just be aware of your role as a tourist that you outnumber Native Hawaiians 30 to 1.
I urge anyone visiting the Aloha State to leave the beach to visit cultural sites like Hawaiian Plantation Village where you can learn how the Pidgin language was developed and how different cultures learned to live together. Hawaii may be officially part of the United States, but I’ve learned in no way are the people sovereign. http://hawaiiplantationvillage.org/
Hawaii is very beautiful, complex and its history rich. Look for it when you visit.