Book Review: Indentured Immigrants

Philip L. Pasquini. Flypaper Press, Ignacio, CA, soft cover, $19.95

Philip has self-published his book which has nine fact filled chapters of his Jewish family’s odyssey from Madeira, which is about 400 miles east of Casablanca Morocco, to the Sandwich Islands in 1885 aboard the Stirlingshire, a three-masted sailing ship.

In the first three chapters, the family’s Jewish background and repressive economic conditions on Madeira are covered extensively. The reasons for the family leaving the small island were to find a better life, and the patriarch’s opposition to sending their sons to Africa to fight in the Portuguese army.

The ship left Funchal holding 451 Madeirans in steerage and a crew of 45 men. Included were the twenty-two members of the Pereira family who boarded with the other passengers on November 21, 1885. Tragically, on the forty-first day of the voyage, off the coast of Argentina near the Straits of La Marie, Maria de Freitas-Pereira, Phillip’s grandmother dies and is buried at sea. The grandparents many years later recalled that the sailing around Cape Horn in January was at the mercy of the ever-present wind and currents.

After a long and hard ninety-six days at sea the ship arrived at its destination, Honolulu on the evening of March 2, 1886. The ship was the fifteenth to arrive in Hawaii carrying Portuguese immigrants since the Portuguese exodus began in 1878. They are to appear before the Portuguese counsel and register before being given an assignment to work a sugar plantation.

The personal price the immigrants paid for a better life, after having crossed the ocean at great risk and then having to reestablish their humanity on the plantation was just another of the indignities they were forced to endure in order to realize their dreams of a better future. These families had been forced to give up their name, their religion, their homes and their possessions, and lastly their human dignity with their arrival on the plantation.

Next described is the family’s move in 1893 from the Hawaiian sugar plantations to Northern California. Chapters VII and IX describe the family’s arrival in California up to the present.

A glossary and extensive bibliography are found at the back of the book. The author has provided an abundance of photographs and diagrams although out the book and the information been thoroughly footnoted. He has also included an index at the end of the book.

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