Hawaii's Latinos Defy Stereotypes
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Hawaii’s Hispanic Population
After growing slower than the general population in Hawaii for 20 years, the number of local Hispanics increased three times as fast during the first decade of this century:
Source: U.S. Census
What Do We Mean by Hispanic?
People of Hispanic heritage trace their origin to Spain and areas dominated by the Spanish Empire in what is now called Latin America. The related term Latino refers specifically to people from Central and South America, which includes Brazil and its Portuguese-speaking people.
Most Spanish-speaking people with ancestry from Latin America use Hispanic and Latino interchangeably, a tendency also followed in this article.
The U.S. Census relies on people’s self-identification, so Hispanic can be viewed as a cultural marker attached to any race or ethnicity. Many Hispanics who also have European, African American or Native American heritage identify themselves in the Census as belonging to “two or more races” or “some other race.”
Increases in Different Ethnic Groups
Population increases or decreases in Hawaii by ethnicity from the 2000 Census to the 2010 Census:
Source: U.S. Census
Augie Rey Fernandez
Mari Roma Villa
Combined number of visitors from Brazil, Mexico and Argentina
Source: Hawaii Tourism Authority
Growing Markets for Tourism
Hawaii is becoming a more popular destination for tourists from Latin America. A record total of 25,593 visitors came to Hawaii last year from the well-populated nations of Brazil, Mexico and Argentina, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority. That’s a 15.7 percent increase over 2011, which itself enjoyed an 11.7 percent increase from 2010.
Long History in Hawaii
These tourists are affluent. HTA data shows that, on average, they spend more per trip than visitors from any other major market.The first Spanish speaker arrived in Hawaii in 1794, and Hispanics have lived here ever since.
The young sailor Francisco de Paula Marin, originally from southern Spain, arrived here just six years after Capt. James Cook’s first visit, and became an advisor and a physician to King Kamehameha I. Marin reportedly introduced grapes, pineapples, coffee and guava to Hawaii.
The first large group of Hispanics came in 1830, when Kamehameha III brought 200 cowboys from California, a part of Mexico at the time, to Hawaii Island. The Hawaiian word for cowboy, paniolo, was coined as either a local variation of the ethnonym Español or the Spanish word for neckerchief, pañuelo.
More significant to traditional Hispanic presence in Hawaii was the arrival of about 5,000 Puerto Ricans as plantation workers in 1900 and 1901. Many stayed and provided the foundation of Hawaii’s Puerto Rican community.
Delivered Fresh from Next Door
By Stacy Yuen
Photo: David Croxford
“We didn’t plan to be tortilla guys,” says Cuauhtemoc Macias of Sinaloa Hawaiian Tortillas, but his family has been making and selling them locally for 18 years. Now, the family has opened a retail shop next to their tortilla factory in the Honolulu Airport area to sell all kinds of Mexican and Latin American foods.
Cuauhtemoc Macias and his brother, Xicotencatl (their names are Nahuatl, the ancient Aztec language), run the day-to-day business of both the factory and the shop.
Patriarch Ysidro Macias and his wife, Veronica, started the family business with a restaurant in Hanapepe on Kauai.
The couple came with their five children on a Hawaii vacation in 1989 and loved it so much they moved to Kauai from Fresno, Calif. Ysidro Macias, a personal injury and workers’ compensation lawyer who represented migrant farm workers, had no experience in the restaurant business when he opened Sinaloa Mexican Restaurant.
The restaurant has since closed, but the tortilla company creates about 50,000 tortillas a day. The store, Sinaloa La Tiendita, opened on Dec. 13, but don’t expect a typical food-company thrift shop.
“We don’t sell day-old tortillas. It’s the freshest you can get since the production line is right here,” says Cuauhtemoc. “We carry things you can’t find in stores, like dry tortillas for frying your own chips. Fry these up and they’ll taste like the same chips at your favorite Mexican restaurant.”
Mexican cheeses, sodas, hot sauces and other Latin staples are shipped in regularly and you can also buy 12- and 13-inch tortillas that are hard to find elsewhere.
“The next step will be to carry fresh salsas and guacamole at the store,” says Cuauhtemoc. “But that will come in time.”
Sinaloa La Tiendita
3239 Koapaka St.
Open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Monday to Friday.
Closed Saturday and Sunday
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