Archive References

Emmigrant Poster 16_20 frm_WEB

Poster used to recruit Spanish workers to Hawaii/ Cartel para reclutar a obreros españoles a las Islas Hawai, c. 1907.

Between 1907 and 1913, some 8,000 Spaniards emigrated to the Hawaiian Islands, in one of the most interesting and least known chapters of the story of the Spanish diaspora in the US.  The owners of the sugar cane plantations in Hawaii (recently annexed by the US) sought to “whiten” and stabilize the work force of this newly acquired territory in the Pacific, and so they looked to places where sugarcane was being cultivated by folk of European extraction:  the Azores, Madeira, Puerto Rico, and southern Spain (primarily the provinces of Málaga and Granada).  They implemented a vast recruitment campaign which ended up attracting emigrants from all over the peninsula, not just Andalucía.  And in the span of just six years (1907-1913), they organized 7 trips to transport Spaniards across the Atlantic, around Cape Horn (the Panama Canal was still under construction at the time), into the Pacific, and on to the Hawaiian Islands.  The sea voyage typically lasted around 50 days.

In the early 1980s, Anne Aguilar Santucci, a descendant of Spaniards who had re-emigrated from Hawaii to California,  corresponded with the Hawaii State Archivist, and obtained from that office a memo with the following figures for this diaspora:



A handwritten note at the bottom of the memo reads:  8,000+ Spanish immigrants/ 2,000+ Portuguese immigrants.

This massive recruitment and displacement of labor from the other side of the planet generated a great deal of international controversy.  For many people in Spain, still smarting from the loss of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines in the Spanish-Cuban-American War (1898), the flight of thousands of peasants to a US controlled territory in the Pacific was yet another humiliating  sign that Spain had become a failed state.  In the US, the discussion focused on the need to “whiten” a predominantly Asian workforce on the Hawaiian Islands, and on the legality of recruitment projects such as this one.

The international newspaper coverage of the voyage of the first ship, the Heliopolis, which left Málaga, Spain in March of 1907, brings into sharp focus the complexities of these processes playing themselves out in the space opened up by the end of the Spanish empire, and the beginning of a US empire.


Entre 1907 y 1912, unos 8,000 españoles emigraron a las Islas de Hawái, en uno de los capítulos más fascinantes y menos conocidos de la historia de la diáspora española en EEUU.  Los dueños de las plantaciones de caña de azúcar de Hawái (recién anexionado por EEUU) pretendían “blanquear” y estabilizar la fuerza laboral de este recién adquirido territorio en el Pacífico.  Con esos objetivos, volvieron la vista a aquellos lugares donde gentes de extracción europea cultivaban la caña de azúcar: las Azores, Madeira, Puerto Rico y el sur de España –en particular las provincias de Málaga y Granada.  Pero la campaña de reclutamiento acabó atrayendo a emigrantes de toda la península, no sólo de Andalucía.  En un lapso de sólo seis años (1907-1913), se organizaron 7 viajes para transportar españoles a través del Atlántico, pasando por Cabo de Hornos (el canal de Panamá se encontraba aún en construcción) y hasta las islas hawaianas. El viaje por mar usualmente duraba 50 días.

A principios de los 80´s,  Anne Aguilar Santucci, una descendiente de españoles que habían re emigrado de Hawái a California, se pondría en contacto con el archivista oficial del estado de Hawái, obteniendo de la oficina un memo con las siguientes figuras de esta diáspora (imagen 1.2). En la parte de abajo del documento, se encuentra una nota hecha a mano que dice: 8,000+ inmigrantes españoles/2,000 + inmigrantes portugueses.

El reclutamiento masivo y el desplazamiento de mano de obra desde la otra parte del mundo, generaron controversia internacional. Para muchas personas en España, aún dolidas por las pérdidas de Cuba, Puerto Rico y Filipinas en la Guerra Hispano-Cubano-Norteamericana (1898), el vuelo de miles de campesinos a un controlado territorio estadounidense, fue otro signo humillante de que España se había convertido en un estado fallido. En EEUU, la discusión se centraba en la necesidad de “blanquear” a una fuerza laboral primordialmente asiática en las islas de Hawái, y en la legalidad de proyectos como éste. 

La cobertura internacional del primer viaje en el barco llamado Heliópolis, que zarpó de Málaga, España en marzo de 1907, muestra la complejidad de estos procesos actuando abiertamente al final del imperio español y al comienzo del imperio estadounidense.

La gran mayoría de los españoles que emigraron a Hawái acabaría re-emigrando a California.  Mediante la lectura de una serie de recortes de prensa de periódicos internacionales de la época, nos podemos acercar al fascinante drama humano y político detrás del primer viaje del vapor Heliópolis. 


Archivo:  Heliópolis

Bibliografía mínima/further reading

3 Responses to HI

  1. This is amazing and would have been a wonderful springboard to my very naive beginning to find my ancestors when I started learning how to navigate the Internet from my first family history class at the Christopher Wren U at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA just 5 years ago. We all need to know where to begin and the steps to find the tools to begin our adventure!! Your information is grand and I will never forget the first time I put my hands on the poster you show at the beginning of your article nor the great feelings I have enjoyed sharing it over and over again with others through my Spanish Pearl’s blog!

  2. Karen Shade says:

    Dear Mr. Fernandez,
    I attended you documentary, along with my father. He was in the picture, in his mothers arms at two years old. My grandfather, great grandfather, and great aunt were in the picture as well.
    My grandfather came from the Basque Country and came over through Ellis Island. He was a commercial fisherman, and spoke Basque ans Spanish.
    My grandmother was born in Elko NV. and raised in Maripossa Ca. Her parents came from the Basque Country.
    I have been very blessed to be raised in a house hold with so much tradition, incredible food, family stories and an endless amount of love. Plus a few Basque picnics in LosBanos.
    We are leaving in 4 weeks for the Basque Country, with my 78 yr old father, my husband and two college age children. My father has never been to Spain, and his first language was Spanish. He has always worked very hard and still does. This was my dream to share Spain with my father and my children.
    If or when you do more resurch on the Basque, my family has a wealth of information.
    Thank you so much for bringing to lite such a wonderful group of people in our small town, Monterey.
    Sincerely. Karen Astuy Shade

    • ISABEL says:

      Querida Patricia: No sé ingles.Pero hace tiempo que ando buscando a los antepasados de mi marido que fueron a Ultramar. No sé concreto donde. Soy vasca.Se que hacia 1877 uno volvió pero el otro se quedó. No sé donde. Sus apellidos eran; NICOLAS MUÑOA GALFARSORO. (SU MADRE INDICABA ESTE APELLIDO CON F NO CON P). Mi e-mail isabelelorza0@hotmail.com., no sé como funciona esto, pero tal vez sepas algo más que yo. Me gustaría me contestases, por favor. Un abrazo. Isabel.

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