Yes, I know this has absolutely nothing to do with photography, but hey, every once in a while, we need to inject a bit of culture:) I went recently to the Iolani Palace with my mother. What is very sad is that this was my first visit ever and I have lived here three years. My mother, who lives in Washington, DC, was already on her second trip to see it. She is in love with the Palace and its rich history and was so very eager to take me to see it.

Hawaii is like home for my mother. She was a refugee from Cuba at the tender age of 18. She left with my grandparents because, thankfully, my grandfather had the presence of mind and clarity to realize that life would never be the same under a communist dictatorship. Sadly, she can never go back to her own country. She cannot visit freely today her Cuba of yesteryear. It’s long gone. But, when she comes to Hawaii to visit us, she feels like she is home again. I see in her eyes the glimmer of happiness she must have felt when she was growing up in Cuba. She see things here which she had only seen previously in Cuba; everywhere we drive, she says, ‘oh we had these flowers and these plants in Cuba.’ I am so grateful for the opportunity to spend part of my life here and so grateful to see my mother’s eyes light up when she visits me here.

On my visit to the Iolani Palace, I learned a lot about the history of the Hawaiian monarchy and how they were backstabbed by a group of businessmen who helped overthrow them from power. I gained an immense sense of respect for Queen Lili’oukalani and appreciation for her great sacrifice to save a few subjects. I was also extremely disappointed about the manner in which Hawaii became part of the United States. It certainly is nothing to be proud of.

But, no matter how great an injustice was done, that time and those people are long gone. What is left today is something which should be treasured and remembered always. As we know, there are very few native Hawaiians left; they have slowly but surely been integrated with people of European and Asian descent. What remains is the grand melting pot which is so representative of the United States. With that change in the makeup of the Hawaiian population, the greatest tribute we can give is to continue honoring the memory of these wonderful people and demonstrating Aloha to others. We also need to continue supporting places such as Iolani Palace, which strive to pass on to younger generations and visitors the history of Hawaii. It is a powerful way to keep the culture alive.

Ok, you can relax now. I will stop and step down off of my soapbox. But, if you are reading this and are of Hawaiian descent, I want to thank you for sharing your paradise with those of us, many of us, who came here from different parts of the world. Thank you for your tolerance, patience, and ever-present smile. Thank you for teaching us the spirit of Aloha.

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