S.S.Heliopolis-Controversial Journey Malaga to Hawaii-1907

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BENIDORM
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S.S.Heliopolis-Controversial Journey Malaga to Hawaii-1907

Postby BENIDORM » Wed Jun 13, 2018 4:11 pm

For quite a long time now I've been researching Spanish social history and thought this story might be of interest to some forum members.

In 1907 many people from Andalucia and some other parts of Spain were recruited to go with their families to Hawaii to work in the sugar cane industry and they were promised high earnings and a plot of land in return for giving their dedicated service to the sugar plantation owners.
Most of the people who 'signed up' were very poor and they came from many small villages in Andalucia and this seemed a Golden Opportunity to better their lives, however it turned very sour--very quickly.
The S.S.Heliopolis docked at Malaga, it was operating under the British flag , but was owned by an American company, it was really a cargo ship but had been adapted to carry passengers, and when the emigrants got on board they found very poor conditions and many left before the ship sailed, some even losing their personal possessions which had been loaded in the hold.
The ship eventually set sail after being delayed several times and the voyage took 2 months during which time some children died of measles and several babies were born on board.
Most of the workers had been recruited because they had worked in the Spanish sugar cane industry, which was in serious decline and it was also noted that the US Government was trying to recruit people from Europe to stem the flow of Japanese arriving in Hawaii, however my own opinion is that it was just another cheap way of replacing former African slaves who had many years before worked on the sugar cane plantations throughout the 'New World'.
The promises of riches soon fell flat and many of the Spanish emigrants then made their way to California where some prospered and their descendants still live there and many are still in touch with their relatives in Spain.
And now for a little twist in this story...my Grandfather worked for 7 years on ships sailing from San Francisco-Hawaii..carrying sugar from Hawaii and other goods the other way ,and from the stories passed down I was told that although the ships were cargo ships they did carry some passengers including many of the families who had set off from Malaga , so for me quite fascinating that my Grandfather had been involved.
My Grandmother owned a gold Crucifix that my Grandfather had purchased from one of the Spanish families, they sold off a lot of their valuables to fund their new life in California, my Grandfather, a staunch Catholic, felt sorry for the families and paid as much as he could for numerous items, in fact because of this he had to work an extra year in the US before returning to Liverpool.

Very recently I organised the itinerary for a visit by 50 Spanish pensioners and ourselves to visit the Sugar Cane Museum in Motril, certainly a very interesting museum and we made a 'day' of it by also visiting the Rum Distillery , in Motril and then a meal in Salobrena, if you haven't been then I recommend it..!!! ( if you need further info. ..please contact me by pm.)

I hope that you enjoy reading this little bit of Andalucian history and if you get chance please chat with your local Spanish friends and ask them about this subject, I'm sure that they will know about it and I'd be grateful if you could let me know of any little 'snippets' that you find...

Regards,
Gordon.
Last edited by BENIDORM on Wed Jun 13, 2018 4:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

gavilan
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Re: S.S.Heliopolis-Controversial Journey Malaga to Hawaii-1907

Postby gavilan » Wed Jun 13, 2018 4:37 pm

I would add that another reason for families going to Hawaii was that the phyloxera disease had devasted the grapevines upon which many people relied ... when I was researching the history of the Axarquia I came across a small museum in Benagalbon which had an old poster advertising free passage to Hawaii for those who might work in that sugar cane fields ...

BENIDORM
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Re: S.S.Heliopolis-Controversial Journey Malaga to Hawaii-1907

Postby BENIDORM » Wed Jun 13, 2018 5:09 pm

Gavilan,
Thank you for the input and that is exactly the type of information that I find useful and I will try to visit the museum. :thumbup:

It's quite sad when you realise how many families had to 'uproot' and travel to the other side of the world to basically survive , and quite brave when you know that most of the families had never travelled more than 20 kilometres from where they were born.

And even the UK didn't escape hardship caused by crop failures, a very famous time was when Ireland was hit by the potato blight in the 19th century and 1000's of very poor families arrived in UK looking for work, and my Great-Grandfather actually employed a number of Irish workers, men working on the fields and the women as cooks and maids/harvesting.etc.
( I really don't mind if anyone comes slightly off topic when relating information of similar incidents wherever..it's all basically related to poverty ).

I forgot to mention in my first post that many of the families on the SS Heliopolis really were near starving, having to rely on hand-outs from the local Church etc.
Regards,
Gordon..

olive
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Re: S.S.Heliopolis-Controversial Journey Malaga to Hawaii-1907

Postby olive » Thu Jun 14, 2018 2:38 pm

interesting item as usual Gordon. Thanks.

I have been interested (because of family involvement) in the Barr settlers in Canada. Migration has been around for a long time.

BENIDORM
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Re: S.S.Heliopolis-Controversial Journey Malaga to Hawaii-1907

Postby BENIDORM » Fri Jun 15, 2018 7:25 am

Thank You Olive and good to know that you found the article interesting, I've found that studying local history really does help with understanding how the locals 'tick' and enables an 'outsider' to fit in and integrate better.

I've noticed a short presentation on You tube regarding the SS Heliopolis story, part of it in English and it shows one of the descendants returning to Spain and talking about her parents and grandparents....Look at...... 1907-Hawai O Miseria...
There are numerous 'cabinet' style photographs of some of the families who made the journey and rather fascinating to see the attire worn by them..'Sunday Best', however it can tend to give a distorted vision making them look as if they are quite well off and well heeled.

I understand 'body language' and note that they look very uncomfortable wearing clothing normally only worn on their church visits, they also seem to be wearing jewellery, most I know probably quite antique and having been inherited, and quite sad to think that they only parted with their heirlooms as a last desperate measure to put food on their tables.
There is also a copy of the poster advertising the 'Golden Opportunity', as mentioned earlier by Gavilan.

I was talking yesterday with a local farmer and he mentioned how many people left our village in the 1950's-60's to work in France, Germany,,Austria and Switzerland and of course to Catalonia because of the dire lack of work and many of the families settled in these areas, not as epic a journey as to the US, but still quite a brave decision to overcome poverty by leaving their homeland.
Regards,
Gordon


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