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Islanders in the Empire

Islanders in the Empire: Filipino and Puerto Rican Laborers in Hawai‘i

JOANNA POBLETE
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 248
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/j.ctt7zw5q3
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  • Book Info
    Islanders in the Empire
    Book Description:

    In the early 1900s, workers from newly instated U.S. colonies in the Philippines and Puerto Rico held unusual legal status. Denied citizenship, they nonetheless had the right to move freely in and out of U.S. jurisdiction. As a result, Filipinos and Puerto Ricans could seek jobs in the United States and its territories despite the anti-immigration policies in place at the time. JoAnna Poblete's Islanders in the Empire: Filipino and Puerto Rican Laborers in Hawai'i takes an in-depth look at how the two groups fared in a third new colony, Hawai'i. Using plantation documents, missionary records, government documents, and oral histories, Poblete analyzes how workers interacted with Hawaiian government structures and businesses, how U.S. policies for colonial workers differed from those for citizens or foreigners, and how the policies served corporate and imperial aims. As Poblete shows, the workers' advantages came with significant drawbacks. Unlike foreign nationals, Filipinos and Puerto Ricans lacked access to consular and other officials with the power to intercede on labor and other issues. Instead, workers often had to rely on unofficial community mediators who also served employers in positions of authority.A rare tandem study of two groups on foreign soil, Islanders in the Empire offers new views on American imperialism and labor issues of the era.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09647-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: Defining U.S. Colonial Experiences THE LONG HISTORY OF U.S. EXPANSIONISM
    (pp. 1-24)

    In 1901, Puerto Rican Alberto E. Minvielle played overlapping and contradictory roles as a hospital assistant, interpreter, and general helper for the Ola‘a plantation on the east side of the island of Hawai‘i while also unofficially leading Puerto Rican laborers at this location and contributing articles to the Puerto Rico–based Spanish-language newspaperLa Correspondencia. Two decades later, during the 1924–25 labor strike in the Hawaiian Islands, Flaviano M. Santa Ana spoke on behalf of Filipino laborers at the same plantation while simultaneously working as a member of the plantation special police, tasked with maintaining order during strike times....

  5. 1. Letters Home: THE FAILURE OF PUERTO RICAN RECRUITMENT
    (pp. 25-46)

    On August 7 and 8, 1899, the San Ciriaco hurricane swept through Puerto Rico with winds up to one hundred miles per hour. Twenty-eight days of torrential rain caused approximately thirty-four hundred fatalities, massive flooding, and at least $7 million dollars in agricultural damage. Tens of thousands of people lost their homes and means of livelihood. Not only was the 1899 coffee crop destroyed, but critical shade trees, coffee bushes, and topsoil were also blown away. It would take at least five years before coffee would be profitable again in Puerto Rico.

    Before the hurricane, the industry was already declining...

  6. 2. Flexible and Accommodating: SUCCESSFUL RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION OF FILIPINOS
    (pp. 47-74)

    On January 8, 1921, Matias Miguel arrived at the Port of Honolulu as a sugar plantation labor recruit from San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte, Philippines. In 1926, he returned to the Philippines to get married, then traveled back to the Hawaiian Islands with his wife Lorraine that same year. In 1930, Lorraine got sick and the Miguels returned to the Philippines. After she recovered, they went back to Hawai‘i again, in 1930. In 1950, the Miguels moved to San Nicolas with hopes to stay permanently. But Lorraine and the children had become accustomed to life in the U.S. territory and did...

  7. 3 Indefinite Dependence: U.S. CONTROL OVER PUERTO RICAN LABOR COMPLAINTS
    (pp. 75-94)

    In 1919, after eighteen years of difficult sugar plantation field work, Pedro Guzman signed a labor complaint with twenty-five other Puerto Ricans at the Honoka‘a plantation about twenty-eight miles up the coast from Hakalau on the island of Hawai‘i. During this era of growing immigration restrictions, the HSPA had an increased need for laborers and refocused their recruitment efforts on Puerto Rico. To prevent other Puerto Ricans from experiencing the same negative social and economic circumstances they faced as permanent settlers, these intra-colonial complainants protested in English: “Porto Ricans live in the worst houses . . . we live like...

  8. 4 Tensions of Colonial Cooperation: PHILIPPINE AUTHORITY OVER LABOR COMPLAINTS
    (pp. 95-120)

    When boiling tar accidentally fell on Victorino Laino’s leg while he worked at the Ola‘a plantation, Laino sent a complaint about his treatment to Cayetano Ligot. As the new Philippine resident labor commissioner living and working in Honolulu, Ligot read Laino’s letter in his Honolulu office in September 1923. Laino claimed that he received extremely poor-quality food during his recovery in the hospital. The worker also stated that he did not receive any salary for the days of work he missed. This Filipino intra-colonial felt such treatment for a work-related incident was unjust. Laino hoped Ligot would help him get...

  9. 5. Conflicting Convictions: FILIPINO ETHNIC MINISTER INTERACTIONS WITH THE PLANTATION COMMUNITY
    (pp. 121-138)

    In reaction to the low value of sugar in 1921, Hawai‘i sugar plantations cut worker wages up to 20 percent. Before such pay reductions, intra-colonial Filipino laborers already struggled to save enough of their salary to send monetary remittances to their loved ones in the Philippines. These workers became upset at the change in wage scale and went on strike from 1924 to 1925. This labor stoppage, known as the Filipino Piecemeal Sugar Strike, was one of the largest protests of Filipinos in Hawai‘i, as well as one of the most legally aggressive reactions by the HSPA during the first...

  10. 6 Limited Leadership: ROLES OF PUERTO RICAN LABOR AGENTS IN THE PLANTATION COMMUNITY
    (pp. 139-162)

    In 1901, many Puerto Ricans on the island of Hawai‘i approached Florentin Souza for help. He said, “Knowing their country, their habits and their language, the Porto Ricans have found their way to me, with a great variety of requests.”¹ As Spanish speakers in the English-speaking U.S. Territory of Hawai‘i, Puerto Ricans needed mediators to help them navigate local labor practices. As we have seen in chapters 4 and 5, having a local ethnic community leader in close contact with plantation leadership could result in regional improvements and immediate resolutions to worker issues. Like Filipinos, Puerto Rican intra-colonials did not...

  11. Conclusion: CURRENT STRUGGLES AGAINST U.S. COLONIALISM AND EMPIRE
    (pp. 163-172)

    Islanders in the Empirechallenges studies of U.S. history to move beyond the standard narrative that centers on the forty-eight contiguous states. Most people view the history of sugar plantation labor in Hawai‘i as an interesting sidebar to U.S. history. Such a marginalization of this chain of islands ignores the role of colonialism in the overall story of the nation. The practice of distinguishing sharply between continental versus overseas U.S. expansionism also shrouds early imperial histories. Some scholars claim that the expansion of a nation to contiguous continental areas made the takeover of American Indian, Mexican, as well as British,...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 173-198)
  13. SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 199-216)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 217-228)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 229-236)