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Why Did They Leave?
Part 1: Reasons for Azorean and Madeiran Migration to Hawaii

By Melody Lassalle

It's difficult to know the exact reason each Azorean and Madeiran ancestor immigrated to Hawaii. By researching history and culture at the time of emigration, it's possible determine what factors played into their decision to leave.

Difficulties of Everyday Life

Imagine for a moment the migration your ancestors undertook. They left the home of their ancestors, their loved ones, and everything familiar for a place called "the Sandwich Islands" (a.k.a. Hawaii). They'd never heard of the islands before. All they knew was the islands offered hope.

With that in mind, it's easy to see that life in the Azores and Madeira was difficult. The people were illiterate and poor. Most people eked out a meager existence working someone else's land. They had no chance for advancement, nor did their children. Their children would never get an education and would end repeating the same cycle.

In the 1830s, famine hit the islands when potato and grape crops were ruined. This left little work and food for too many people.

Political Tension

Tension existed between Portugal and Portuguese islands. While those with power and money enjoyed a good life, the majority of people had no voice. The Portuguese government pretty much ignored the needs of the Azoreans and Madeirans. This didn't stop the Portuguese government from taking what it wanted.

While ignoring the complaints and needs of the people, Portugal enforced mandatory conscription in the islands. Males were required to serve in the Portuguese military. They were usually sent to Portugal to serve. This caused a great deal of anger amongst the people. They needed young men to help work the fields and support families. Those who left were often not seen for years.

The Portuguese government was against most forms of immigration. The government tried to thwart illegal emigration by levying heavy fines against individuals if caught. This meant very little to people who had nothing. They were probably too poor to pay the fines.

People found ways to circumvent anti-immigration and conscription laws. Rather than see their loved ones leave for military service, families did whatever they could to help them escape. Many young males left on whaling ships. Others were smuggled aboard ships in the dead of night. Their parents would pay the ship's captain a fee for safe passage. They would most likely never see their loved ones again.

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