Established in 1982, the HIPCC saw the need to form a 501(c)3 to build a center as they saw their culture being lost at an alarming rate. By 2006, founding member Frank DeLuz III had donated an acre of land in Hilo for the Center’s location. A Building Committee was formed and by 2015 a vision of what major components would comprise the center and initial clearing of the land occurred. In November of 2015, Marlene Hapai HIPCC President and a seasoned grant writer, began gathering together background information to write a grant-in-aid to the State of Hawaii to seek some funding. A major contribution and component of the grant was the pro bono architectural work done by Fred Erskine Architects providing a rendering of the proposed center to gain support. The grant proposal was submitted in January of 2016 prior to the opening of the Legislature. By February, Senator Kai Kahele had become the champion for the center which would be located in his district and by March close to 1,000 signatures and over 500 letters had been sent to the Legislature from the Big Island community in support of the Center. On April 28th, as the Legislative session approached adjournment, the Senate Ways and Means and House Finance Committees announced their grant-in-aid funding with the Center receiving a $1 million award.
First and foremost, the center will be a repository for archiving the rich history and legacy of the Portuguese in Hawaii. A preservation effort is needed now, before historic photos and documents are lost to ever changing societal and family priorities. Invaluable works such as “Portuguese Hawaiian Memories” by J.F. Freitas, originally published in 1930 and reprinted in 1992, and other historical documents must be preserved for future generations.
The second aim of the project is to create a place for fellowship and sharing, a sense of community, a hallmark of Portuguese values and tradition. The center will comprise a main hall for cultural events and large gatherings, a certified kitchen, an archives room, traditional verandas, a stone oven, and one or two office rentals to generate income for center operations. Portuguese architecture will add to the cultural flavor of the facility. The HIPCC has shown its sincerity in sharing the Portuguese culture by hosting Portuguese Day in the Park each year in Hilo for the past 20 years. Annually the event provides Portuguese Bean Soup and milk bread fresh from the stone oven to all as a gift from the Chamber to the community. A home of its own will enable it to offer so much more to the public instead of operating in a weather-dependent venue. $94,000 has also been provided to students to further their educations through the Chamber’s scholarships.
Finally, the humorous and gregarious nature of the Portuguese should not be allowed to overshadow their deep pride and dignity as a people. When the original Portuguese immigrants left their homeland, it was never to return. They left behind family and friends to find a new life. In their assimilation most did not pass on their language and it is said that when a language dies so does its culture. This center will enable language classes and cultural experiences to share what was brought with the original Portuguese that came to Hawaii and let them interact with the new generations of families and friends left behind via today’s technology. These “Electronic Family Reunion” experiences will be available to everyone using the facility.
The exhibits will showcase the Exploration, Emigration and Assimilation of the Portuguese from the Age of Discovery of the 14th and 15th centuries, to the emigration of the Portuguese from mainland Portugal, the Azores and Madeira Islands in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s to the Kingdom of Hawaii. The assimilation of the Portuguese from that time to today, as a major contributor to Hawaii’s melting pot of people, to its food, music, paniolo heritage, the establishment of the Big Island’s historic towns as original founders and business owners and the impact of those of Portuguese ancestry today making a difference in our community through business, educational, cultural and other endeavors will also be highlighted.
Ideally HIPCC would like to see the Center opened in September of 2018 to commemorate the 140th anniversary of the arrival of Hawaii’s first Portuguese immigrants. However, there is still much fundraising to do and we are asking the community, both local and global to lend their financial support to make this center a reality. Presently donations can be mailed to: (with the memo line stating Cultural and Educational Center): HIPCC P.O. Box 1839 Hilo, HI 96721 and through this Chamber website (www.hipcc.org). All donations are tax deductible.
Cultural Center Donations
There are multiple ways to donate.
If you would like to print a form and mail a donation such as a check, please use this form.
If you would like to make a donation online via PayPal, please use the button below. This will redirect you to PayPal where you complete your donation.
All donations are 100% tax deductible.
On behalf of the Hawaii Island Portuguese Chamber of Commerce (HIPCC), our ancestors who came before us, and those who want to share the rich history and culture of Portugal and its people that emigrated to Hawaii, we ask for your support to help fund the building of a Portuguese Cultural and Educational Center in Hilo, Hawaii.
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Written By: HIPCC Webmaster
Last updated: March 31, 2017