Newly Discovered Documents Shed Light on the Saga of Spaniards in Hawaii

We are pleased to translate these two documents we discovered and transcribed today (19 December 2017) at the Archivo General de la Administración in Alcalá de Henares, Spain. [Transcripción del original al final]

Mr. Plenipotentiary Minister [Spain’s “ambassador” in Washington, DC]

hawaicartel

Original of the poster used to recruit Spanish immigrants to Hawaii.  Courtesy of Fraser Ottanelli and White Stone Ridge Productions.

We the undersigned are Juan Rodriguez, Manuel Puertas, Enrique García, Antonio Muñoz, Silvestre Rando, Antonio Guerrero, Francisco Campos, Francisco Sánchez. We live and work at the Papaikou Plantation on the Island of Hawaii, where we were assigned after arriving to Honolulu aboard the steamship Eliopolis [sic]. We accepted the concessions and benefits that were guaranteed to us by the United States government, and we continue working and following whatever orders they give us, so that after three years they would transfer to us as absolute property and without any kind of lien, the house we had been living in, valued at 500 gold pesos, as well as an acre of land. Now that the contract is ending, the boss wants to force us to move our homes to these deserted and isolated fields, that have impractical roads, and our kids are obliged to go to school. It is a shame that even though we followed all of their rules, they now want to take away our house and home which we have earned by working in torrential rains for entire months.

We bring this to your attention so that, as a representative of Spain, you can give us some advice about what to do should they commit such abuses against eight heads of families at the Papaikou Plantation on the Island of Hawaii.

May God keep you for many years for the sake of your fellow citizens.

Papaikou, 13 November 1909

Signed by

Juan Rodriguez, Manuel Puertas, Enrique García, Antonio Muñoz, Silvestre Rando, Antonio Guerrero, Francisco Campos, Francisco Sánchez.

hawaii-plantation-museum.jpg

The Hawaiian Plantation Museum is located on the site of the former Paipakou Plantation referenced in these documents from 1909.

The rather devastating response from the Spanish authorities arrived just a little over a month later:

Papaikou Plantation. Hawaii

17 December 1909

My Dear Sir: I have received your letter dated 13 November, that is signed by seven other Spanish subjects living at this plantation, in which you tell me that after having gone to this island with the promise that, after a fixed amount of work in certain circumstances and territories, you would be given certain plots of land, free of all liens, and that now that you have fulfilled the stipulated conditions, they are refusing to live up to what they had offered. His Majesty’s government has repeatedly tried to make it clear that certain Emigration Agents use evil techniques in Spain, to lure entire families out of their homes, with false promises of land grants and benefits that are rarely honored. Our fellow countrymen, however, pay no attention to the advice and warnings of our national authorities, and they put more trust in the perfidy of those who only deal with shipping companies, and are only concerned about the percent that will get payed for each passenger they secure. And it is only when they are in a case like the one you are in, that they even remember that they are Spaniards, and then they expect impossible wrongs to be righted. Because in the present case, for you to obtain those lands in Hawaii, you would first have to renounce your Spanish citizenship; and that would entail no longer being subjects of His Majesty. The representative of Spain can in no way help you sever yourselves from the country you should have never left in the first place.

I am your loyal servant, and I kiss you hands,

The Minister of Spain

Transcripción de los documentos

Sr. Ministro Plenipotenciario de España

Los que suscriben son Juan Rodríguez, Manuel Puertas, Enrique García, Antonio Muñoz, Silvestre Rando, Antonio Guerrero, Francisco Campos, Francisco Sánchez con residencia en la Isla de Haway y domiciliado y trabajador en la plantación Papaikou donde nos destinaron a la llegada a Honolulu en la emigración del vapor Eliopolis [sic] donde nos acogimos a las concesiones y beneficios que nos garantizaba el gobierno norteamericano donde continuamos trabajando y cumpliendo las ordenanzas según nos impusieron para que a los tres años de trabajo se nos dieran en propiedad absoluta y sin gravamen la casa donde vinieramos abitando [sic] valuada en 500 pesos oro y además una fanega de tierra. Bencida [sic] que va la contrata el patrón de la plantación quiere forzosamente que mudemos de domicilio a campos desiertos donde no hay comunicación con nadie y caminos intransitables, teniendo los niños que ir forzosamente a la Escuela y habiendo cumplido nosotros con sus ordenanzas es lastima que nos despojen de la vivienda y hogar que hemos ganado trabajando debajo una lluvia torrencial meses enteros.

Ponemos esto en conocimiento de VS que que VS como representante de España nos dé algunos detalles que hacer si cometen semejantes abusos a ocho padres de familia en la plantación de Papaikou, Isla de Haway.

Dios guarde a VS muchos años para vien [sic] de sus conciudadanos

Papaikou y Noviembre 13 de 1909

Firman los interesados

***

Respuesta:

Papaikou Plantation. Hawaii

17 de diciembre 1909

Muy Señor Mío: He recibido la comunicación que con fecha de 13 de noviembre próximo pasado me dirije, suscrita por otros siete súbditos españoles residentes en ese plantío, manifestándome que después de haber ido a esa Isla bajo promesas de que cumplido un plazo prefijado de trabajo en determinadas circunstancias y territorios, les serían otorgadas ciertas parcelas de tierra, libres de todo gravamen, y que después de haber cumplido por su parte lo estipulado, se niegan ahí a cumplir lo ofrecido. El Gobierno de SM ha, repetidamente, tratado de poner de manifiesto las malas artes de que ciertos Agentes de Emigración se valen en España para sacar de sus hogares a familias enteras con decantadas promesas de cesiones de tierra y beneficios, que raramente se realizan. Nuestros nacionales, sin embargo, desoyen los consejos y las amonestaciones de las Autoridades nacionales y se fían más de la perfidia de los que no tratan otra cosa que cobrar el tanto por ciento que las empresas navieras extrangeras les pagan por cada pasaje; y cuando llega el caso en que se encuentra Uds, es cuando se acuerdan de que son españoles y desean que se deshagan entuertos imposibles; porque en el caso presente ustedes tienen que renunciar primero a la nacionalidad de españoles para obtener esas tierras de ahí, y esto implicaría el dejar de ser súbditos de Su Majestad, y no puede ser el Representante de España quien ayude a ustedes para separarse de su Patria que nunca debieron abandonar.

Queda de ustedes en S.S., q. b. s. m.

El Ministro de España

 

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