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Beyond EthnicityNew Politics of Race in Hawai'i$
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Camilla Fojas, Rudy P. Guevarra, and Nitasha Tamar Sharma

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780824869885

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824869885.001.0001

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“Latino Threat in the 808?”

“Latino Threat in the 808?”

Mexican Migration and the Politics of Race in Hawai‘i

(p.152) Chapter 8 “Latino Threat in the 808?”
Beyond Ethnicity

Rudy P. Guevarra

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter examines the Latino population of Hawaiʻi, one of the oldest yet least explored settler groups to migrate to the islands. I begin by examining what I call the “Tam incident,” in which Local Chinese Hawai‘i councilman Rod Tam referred to Mexican workers in Hawai‘i as “wetbacks.” This incident reveals both the understudied history of Latinos in Hawai‘i as well as current racist stereotypes of Latinos on the islands, which I contend both illustrates the influence of continental U.S. racial thinking, as well as the limits of the “aloha spirit.” Utilizing Leo Chavez’s “Latino Threat” narrative, I demonstrate how Mexicans become racialized in Hawaiʻi and what this signifies within the larger narrative of citizenship and belonging in “the Aloha State.” Their racialization highlights the forms of marginalization, stereotypes, labor oppression, shifting hierarchies and social exclusion faced by Latinos in Hawai‘i. I argue that race, not ethnicity highlights structural and institutional processes that continue to reinforce the idea that Latinos do not exist in the islands, are newcomers, and take people’s jobs, rather than see them as one of the oldest settler communities that has contributed significantly to the economic, social and cultural fabric of Hawaiʻi.

Keywords:   Latino, Mexicans, Tam, local Chinese, “wetback”, aloha spirit, settler, economics

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