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Hawaii Guide

Italians - When they settled in Hawaii
Written by Irma Scenna.

To speak the word Italian is to conjure images - images that coalesce, forming a collage of appealing sensations. delighting our senses. And it is delight whether from present-day experiences with Italian cuisine or from awareness and appreciation of the Italian contribution to human achievement on the timeline of history.

For Hawai'i, that contribution is made more immediate by both past and present ltalian/Hawaiian inter-minglings, and although Italians have never been numerous in Hawai'i, some visiting but briefly, others have come to stay.

Among the first Italians to visit Hawai'i was Paolo Emilio Botta, who came in 1828 aboard the French ship Heros for a two month stay. The son of Carlo Botta. an Italian author, Paolo Botta's observations of sympathetic interest regarding Hawai'i were included by his father in the 1841 Italian edition of a book recounting his voyage to and experiences in Hawai'i.

Some years later, Captain John Dominis, an American of Italian ancestry, sailed into Honolulu, bringing with him his New England wife and small son. An affluent sea-captain, Dominis built the finest residence in Honolulu. but on a voyage to China in 1846 to obtain furniture for his home, he disappeared at sea. His son John Owen Dominis grew up in the elegant home his father had built and took his bride, Princess Lili'uokalani, there to live. It was her personal home for the rest of her life. and after her death it was purchased by the Territory of Hawai'i as the governor's mansion.

The home still contains many articles associated with Lili'uokalani and the Dominis family. Located on Beretania Street near the Capitol and E'lolani Palace, it bears the name of Washington Place.

John Owen Dominis, a businessman of prominence, received King Kalakaua's appointment as governor of the island of 0'ahu, and then, upon his wife's ascension to the throne, became Prince Consort of the Kingdom of Hawai'i. He was a quiet man, living comfortably in the shadow of his royal wife, who relied heavily upon his vase counsel. He is one of the few non-Hawaiians to be buried in the Royal Mausoleum in Nu'uanu Valley.

In the 20th Century, Italians in Hawai'i have continued their traditional contributions to the varied pleasures of their fellows. A fledgling business in Hawai'i in 1913 affected by the Italian genius of Henry Ginaca was the pineapple industry. Ginaca, company engineer for The Hawaiian Pineapple Company, invented a machine for peeling and coring the pineapple, thus facilitating the canning process, and making that delicious fruit not only a wonderful source of trade and revenue to the Hawaiian people but a gift to the world in general.

Adding that special Italian touch of hospitality offered to tourist guests of Hawai'i, Arthur Benagha, brought here from Milan in 1927, became managing director of the Territorial Hotels Co., in charge of the Royal Hawaiian, the Moana and the Seaside Hote Is, and the Wai'alae Golf Club.

Another Italian, Domenico Moro, bom in Sicily, was leader of the Royal Hawaiian Band from 1941 to 1955, gladdening the hearts and ears of music lovers in Hawai'i.

That "Italiana" is here is obvious to one waiting through Hawai'i avenues lined with tempting eating places. Dozens of pizza parfors and spaghetti houses, large and small, waft spicy aromas on Hawaiian b reezes. while gourmet Italian restaurants of worldwide fame do a thriving business pleasing discriminating tastebuds. And those discerning people who search beneath the-observable surface discover other images of ltaliana also thriving. Permeating and enriching all strata of this Hawaiian fife-style, the vivifying Italian spirit continues to impart the good and the beautiful to us all.

Reprinted from Paradise News

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