While Spanish galleons on route to either Mexico or the Philippines might have stumbled on Hawai’i prior to the 18th century, the first undisputed documented presence of Spaniard in the Hawaiian Islands was of Don Francisco de Paula Marin. He deserted a Spanish naval ship and became a resident of Honolulu around 1793 or 1794. Marin was originally from Jerez de la Frontera in Cadiz, Spain, and impressed into naval service as a seaman. Jerez de la Frontera was well known for its agriculture and that seems to have been where Marin’s passion lay. Marin had knowledge of skills involving medicinal herbs, wine making, and wheat production. He also spent a great deal of time in Mexico and the Pacific Northwest so he was familiar also with many of crops from the Americas. He arrived in Hawai’i as King Kamehameha I was unifying the Hawaiian Kingdom. He quickly impressed King Kamehameha I and the king incorporated him into his court. Eventually Marin served in various capacities including accountant, business adviser, interpreter, herbalist and agricultural adviser. Despite being a Roman Catholic, Marin lived in accordance to Hawaiian customs and had three conjugal unions with chiefly women which produced numerous children. Through his service to King Kamehameha I and his business acumen, Marin acquired large land leases and wealth. He also introduced a number of plants to Hawai’i including: apples, apricots, asparagus, avocados, cabbage, carrots, chile pepper, a variety of coffee, eggplant, lemons, limes, macadamia, nectarines, nuts, olives, onions, oranges, parsley, peas, peaches, pears, a variety of pineapple, Irish potatoes, rice, tea, tobacco, and tomatoes.
Marin, in his role as interpreter, also helped to broker a treaty between King Kamehameha I and Captain Hipólito Bouchard in 1818. This Treaty of Friendship between the Hawaiian Kingdom and the United Provinces of Rio de la Plata (now called Argentina) is considered the first international recognition of the independence of Argentina by an outside power. Calle Hawai in Buenos Aires is named after this event and King Kamehameha I was made a Lt Colonel in the Argentine army. This treaty also marked the first treaty that the Hawaiian Kingdom made as an independent power and reaffirms that Kamehameha I saw himself as an equal ruler and not a vassal of some other power like Great Britain, the US, France or Spain. It also reaffirms Kamehameha I’s foresightedness that the Spanish Empire in the Americas was collapsing and Hawai’i needed to open new channels of friendship, trades and diplomacy to these emerging Latin American nations.
It is also interesting to note that around the same time as Marin arriving in Hawai’i, developments were occurring with Spanish Captain Estevan Jose Martinez, who was key in the Spanish exploration of the Pacific Northwest. In 1789, Martinez had captured British corvette under the command of Captain James Colnett in Nootka Sound which almost triggered a war between Spain and Great Britain. The Viceroy of New Spain, based in Mexico City and uncle to Martinez, had ordered Spanish vessels to stop Russian and British ships from colonizing the Pacific Northwest. Among the crew of Colnett, there happened to have been Hawaiians in particular a chief named Ka’iana or Tiana, Tajana or Tayana in Spanish. Ka’iana was the half- brother or cousin (depending on the account) of King Kaumuali’i and the first Hawaiian documented to have visited China, the Philippines, Java, California, Mexico, Alaska, British Colombia, Oregon and Washington. Martinez treated Ka’iana well due to his travel experience and rank as a chief. Before being released from Spanish custody, Ka’iana and his fellow Hawaiian crewmates helped Martinez and the Franciscan Father Lorenzo Socies to compile a 200 word Spanish-Hawaiian vocabulary which was published through the Colegio de San Fernando in Mexico City and given to the Viceroy. This was the first time a Hawaiian vocabulary list outside of English speakers had been compiled and the first time Hawaiian was compared to Nootka, Nahuatl, Spanish, and Philippine languages. The purpose of the vocabulary list was to help induce the Spanish government in Mexico City to sent a Roman Catholic Mission to Hawai’i, which would not happen due to the outbreak of the Mexican War for Independence. But Ka’iana and his crew’s presence that early on shows that while we may remember people such Marin coming to Hawai’i, Hawaiian sailors and adventurers were also going around Latin America and the world. The interaction and exchanges between Hawai’i, Spain and Latin America was going two ways,
During the reign of King Kamehameha III another event would help to shape Hawai’i’s ties to Latin America. In 1793 British Captain George Vancouver gave King Kamehameha I five head of black longhorn cattle as well as a herd of sheep. In 1803, Vancouver also gave Kamehameha horses. Kamehameha set them all free to roam the plains of the Big Island of Hawai’i where they multiplied and became a nuisance. As they were technically the cattle, sheep and horses of the king and therefore his property and was under kapu, people could do very little. King Kamehameha III, seeing the problem, wrote to Mexico in 1832 asking for vaqueros(professional herders or “cowboys”) to deal with the cattle and to train Hawaiians in ranching. In 1836, Mexico sent about 200 vaqueros from its region of Alta California (California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas were still all part of Mexico). Since these vaqueros spoke Español or Spanish, Hawaiians called them paniolo. These paniolo introduced the ranching, dive pit herding, the Mexican saddle, the guitar, and the cowboy hat. Eventually many of vaqueros returned to Mexico, but their legacies live on through the Hawaiian paniolo traditions and Parker Ranch. Also from this cultural exchange, a distinctive Hawaiian type of music emerged–kī hōʻalu—that blended vaquero guitar music with Hawaiian rhythms and expressions. Another important aspect is that the Hawaiian paniolo traditions are older than American cowboy traditions by some 30 years. As a side note, one of the promoters of paniolo traditions was Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole, who admired the paniolos.
Another important tie between Hawai’i and Latin America was the arrival of the first Puertorriqueños or Puerto Ricans in 1900. In August of 1899, San Ciriaco, a huge hurricane, punished Puerto Rico for two days with winds of 110mph – 150mph. It left the island completely devastated with thousands of agriculture workers unemployed. The Hawai’i Sugar Planters Association (HSPA) was looking for experienced workers for their plantations and saw the potential of Filipino and Puerto Rican workers. The Philippines and Puerto Rico had just been “acquired” by the United States in 1898 and due to colonial politics, Filipinos and Puerto Ricans were considered US nationals rather than aliens (unllike the Japanese and Chinese) and therefore would be exempted from alien exclusion acts. When the HSPA found out about the hurricane, they saw it as an advantage and quickly started recruiting desperate workers from Puerto Rico. Between 1900 and 1901, the HSPA brought 5,000 Puerto Ricans workers to toil on Hawai’i’s plantations. As a result of this migration and with many local Puerto Ricans no longer speaking Spanish, some Puerto Rican traditions and foods were adapted. The traditional “arroz con gandules” became “gandule rice” and “pasteles” become “pateles.”
Around the same time in 1907, the HSPA also began to recruit Spanish workers mainly from Málaga. These Spanish workers were mainly recruited to replace the local Portuguese, who were increasingly leaving the plantations for other employment opportunities. This importation of Spanish workers continued for ten years but by 1930, over 95% of these Spanish workers either left for the continental US or went back to Spain as they found plantation conditions unbearable.
1. Nathaniel Portlock, A Voyage Round the World . . . in 1785, 1786, 1787, and 1788 (1789; New York: Da Capo Press, 1968)
2. John Meares, Voyages Made in the Tears 1788 and 1789 from China to the North West Coast of America . . . (1790; New York: Da Capo Press, 1967)
3. Ralph S. Kuykendall, The Hawaiian Kingdom, vol. 1, 1778-1854 Foundation and Transformation (Honolulu: U P of Hawai’i, 1938) 429-30.
4. Samuel M. Kamakau, Ruling Chiefs of Hawaii (Honolulu: Kamehameha Schools Press, 1961) 5. David Samwell, “Journal,” The Journals of Captain Cook . . ., by John C. Beaglehole (Cambridge: Cambridge U P, 1967).
5. George Dixon, A Voyage Round the World . . . (1789; New York: Da Capo Press, 1968)