Hawaii's Plantation Village

By Preeda Kodani and Desiree Miguel

Imagine Hawaii in the late 19th century. A place filled with a many people of different ethnic backgrounds--each sharing their traditions, customs, and the spirit of Aloha with their fellow neighbors. Now, imagine all of these diverse races working and living together harmoniously in numerous plantation communities throughout the islands. Hard to imagine? Well, next time you're in Waipahu stop by Hawaii's Plantation Village, and take a tour into the old Hawaii, for this may be a experience you'll never forget.

To visit a part of old Hawaii from Waikiki take the H1 freeway, or the interstate 78 and head west until you reach exit 8B (Waipahu offramp). Then, continue on Farrington Highway for approximately two miles. Next, turn right at Waipahu Depot Road (the fourth traffic light). Straight ahead will be the large smoke stack of the recently closed Waipahu Sugar Mill. Finally, turn left onto Waipahu Street. Shortly thereafter, you'll see the sign of King Kamehameha (denoting a historical point of interest) posted into the earth.

Nestled directly below the busy back street, sits the Waipahu Cultural Garden and Plantation Village. The Waipahu Culture Garden was built in 1984, on fifty acres of flood plains located in the heart of historic Waipahu town by "The Friends of Waipahu Cultural Park," a non-profit group consisting of many business people and local community residents. The initial plan was to have actual homes with families living in them. The front portion of each home was to be authentically duplicated while the back portions (unseen by the visitors) were to have modern amenities. Unfortunately, the group did not have sufficient funds to begin construction immediately; therefore it delayed construction of the village until 1990. The plantation village took two years to complete and was dedicated to sharing the experience, lifestyles and contributions of Hawaii's plantation workers.

The tour will take guests from the year 1850 through 1930, and may take between one and two hours to complete. So, make sure you wear comfortable clothing and shoes. Guests may also want to bring an umbrella if they're planning to visit between December and May. Visitors are also encouraged to bring their cameras into this journey back into time.

Your tour will begin with a cheerful greeting and friendly smile from a volunteer escort, wearing a blue and white palaka (pronounced pah-lah-kah) shirt (Hawaiian term for plaid). Inside the educational center visitors can view pictures and old artifacts from the plantation era. The tour then proceeds outside where visitors are able to pick up macadamia nuts, which have fallen from the huge macadamia nut tree. The last stop before entering the "Time Tunnel" is the large hand-chiseled stone memorial where the escort tells guests an interesting story of the monument's history. Upon exiting the tunnel visitors are placed into the late 19th century.

Guests to the village are taken into thirty authentically duplicated, fully refurbished homes that were occupied by the Hawaiians, Chinese, Portuguese, Puerto Ricans, Japanese, Filipinos, Koreans, and Okinawans who lived in these villages. Guests will also tour an array of buildings that were commonly seen in any plantation village throughout the islands. Visitors can wander through a plantation store with an old-fashioned shave ice machine and a hand-pumped gas machine or visit an infirmary that would make anyone from the 20th century cringe with fear. Even take a peek into a garage equipped with an antique car.

As visitors tour each ethnic home, a complete history of the plantation workers' arrival and what they brought with them are given. Guests are told stories that are enlightening as well as educational. Some stories will take guests back to when life was simple. Through these lively stories visitors are able to visualize the workers' living conditions, how they prepared meals, bathed, and relaxed while living in these plantation villages.

By the end of the tour visitors would be able to understand how many of the 400,000 hard working immigrants who came from distant lands with nothing but dreams and hopes for a better life created a lively and prosperous multiethnic society. A society which continues to share the traditions, customs and the spirit of ALOHA.

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