Why don't Hawaiians look like Americans

120 years agoWhen Hawaii became American

Hawaii's last queen was under house arrest. Did she look out that day, from the high windows of her rooms in the Iolani Palace?

Six minutes to twelve. The Hawaiian flag is raised in front of Liliuokalani's residence, then the stars and stripes are hoisted. It is Friday, August 12th, 1898 and Hawaii is now formally United States territory.

James Cook arouses desires

1778: James Cook lands in Hawaii. The news of an earthly paradise in the South Seas reaches Europe, desires are aroused. In 1816 the Russians stop by, then missionaries from New England, and in 1839 a French fleet. Finally, the United States is also showing an interest in the Pacific archipelago. Volker Depkat, Americanist from the University of Regensburg.

"A very important date is the end of the civil war in 1865, which coincides with the beginning of massive industrialization."

Soon the United States is producing more than it can consume at home. The American economy dreams of expanding into East Asia.

Makapuu Beach Park near Honolulu on the island of Oahu on May 28, 2014 (dpa / picture alliance / Uwe Anspach)

"Above all, China was a legendary market here, and on the way to East Asia you will just pass Hawaii. In this respect, Hawaii has long been a strategic outpost that enabled American merchant ships to have safe accommodation and a safe stopover."

A second point of interest: sugar cane plants. Sugar cane mills have been around in Hawaii since the 1830s. But it was only after the conclusion of the Hawaiian-American trade treaty of 1875 that production was carried out on a large scale, by American sugar barons.

Economically, Hawaii has been under American control since the trade treaty. The many US citizens who now live here would also like to politically install the American model in Hawaii. But they encounter a long monarchical tradition. After all, the royal house opens up to the idea of ​​a constitutional monarchy, the sugar barons enforce a constitution. But:

"In 1893, Queen Liliuokalani tried to turn back the islanders' rights to political participation."

There is a calculation behind this.

"It was about strengthening monarchical power at the expense of democratic participation, in order to maintain the country's independence from the USA, but also to other colonial powers, and to regain more room for maneuver."

It doesn't work out

Liliuokalani's calculation doesn't work out. A republican uprising breaks out and the Queen lacks the military means to put it down. She must abdicate.

The insurgents are demanding that Washington now completely annex Hawaii.

"But then the US rejects that."

They shy away from direct colonial rule.

"Because they say that we ourselves are a country that came into being through a revolution against a colonial power, we cannot afford to have colonies in order to survive before ourselves."

Five years later, in 1898, all concerns are thrown overboard. The US wins the Spanish-American war and is on the rise to Pacific power. Now they are annexing Hawaii - and almost at the same time the Philippines.

Ethnically colorful like no other US state

In 1959 Hawaii became the 50th US state and today is ethnically colorful like no other. Descendants of the Polynesian natives, Japanese, Koreans, Chinese and Vietnamese, African American and whites, many Portuguese, all ethnicities are present, but no group is in the majority. Ex-President Barack Obama grew up here.

"So that he always had a completely different view of the racial situation in the USA and just didn't allow himself to be squeezed into this black and white scheme, because that doesn't quite fit in Hawaii either."

Hawaii's last queen has never lived to see any of this. Liliuokalani died in 1917. At the end of her life she had found herself in her fate. When the Hawaiians fell in World War I, she herself hoisted the flag over the Iolani Palace at half mast. Not the Hawaiian, but the stars and stripes.