Pa-a ia me o-e
Ko a-lo-ha ma-ka-mea e i-po
Ka-‘u ia e le-i a-e ne-i la.
Now that we are one
Clouds won’t hide the sun
Blue skies of Hawaii smile.
"Hawaiian Wedding Song," by Elvis Presley
I recently went to the Kona Living History Coffee Farm on the big island of Hawaii. While on tour, I was fascinated to find out that Puerto Ricans came to the Hilo side of the island in the late 1800’s to work the sugar plantations.
They were under a contract that was in reality, slavery in disguise. All of their food and goods had to be bought at the plantation at a high price. The low wages they earned all went back to the sugar plantation owner's pocket. There was no way to better themselves and to escape their harsh conditions.
When coffee became big business on the Kona side of the island, Puerto Ricans, like the Japanese and the other workers, saw their way out of slavery. By seeking refuge on the coffee plantations, they were able to escape their contracts, lease land and find freedom.
Being here in the "Aloha State," it was great to hear of the history of Kona coffee and see the connection between Boricuas and Hawaiians. It’s great to know we are sisters and brothers in this beautiful circle of life and friendship.