DIRECTOR'S STATEMENT: I made this documentary to bring to light a little-known group of immigrants to first Hawaii then California. In addition, it provides a vivid description of the life of immigrants working on the plantations of Hawaii, an area often overlooked."
DIRECTOR BIO: Ma's work has screened and been in festivals on three continents in seven countries (USA, France, Germany, Spain, Greece, India, Indonesia). She produces and directs in both English and Spanish, and has made documentaries, dramas, and experimental shorts. One of her areas of special focus is world music and dance, and in certain respects considers herself an international version of Les Blank.
Francisco Pérez, star of this documentary, was 98 years old when we interviewed him and full of stories. He left his native Spain in 1908 or 1909 as a small child, before the Panama Canal had been completed, to make the long and difficult crossing from Spain to Hawaii with his mother, sister, and cousin, and several thousand other immigrants from Spain.
Pérez grew up on a sugar cane plantation in Maui where his mother worked. At the age of 11, he was put to work as well. Later, the small family moved to Honolulu where he found many odd jobs: shoe-shine boy, delivering newspapers, work in a cannery. As a young adult he moved to California along with many of the other Spanish immigrants in Hawaii.
Pérez' tales of his years in Hawaii and subsequent years in California reflect not only the story of the other Spanish immigrants but also of many groups of immigrants to the United States. His narrative is enriched by interviews with descendants of other immigrants from this group and together, provides a fascinating story that many people will relate to.
Jaime Cader has been a member for several years of some of the Spanish Clubs organized by descendents of these immigrants. He had all the requisite contacts and also knew who we should interview. His help on this project was invaluable.
When we went to interview Francisco Pérez, we learned that due to Pérez' advanced age, he was unable to hear any voice in the upper registers. He could, however, hear Jaime Cader's voice. Happily, we had written out the principal questions we wanted to ask him, and so Cader was drafted on the spot to be the host, and interview Pérez. He did a fine job.