Big day in Lanai City. In front of Café 55, several women have set up tables selling slippahs, quilts, baskets, and leis made of shells. Meanwhile, across the street in Dole Park, locals are barbecuing linguica, chicken and pork satays, whole fish. Macduff buys a plate of curried chicken and Asian noodles. I go for some chicken katsu (sort of a Japanese-style fried chicken) and some samosas stuffed with shrimp. Next to the barbecue, a large woman oozing out of a folding aluminum chair has a little Styrofoam cooler at her side that is full of Spam California rolls. Two bucks each.
This little food scene pretty much sums up the mix of cultures on Lanai. There are about 2,500 full-time residents on the island but you’d be hard-pressed to find more than a couple dozen who are pure Hawaiian. In fact, the largest ethnic group here is Filipino, followed by Japanese, Koreans, and Caucasians. Those who are part-Hawaiian, like Derwin Kwon, whose family—half Korean, half Hawaiian—has lived here for generations, make up less than 10% of the population.
Yet you go over to Dole Park and walk around and see families eating satays and samosas, curried chicken and Spam rolls, and it looks like everyone gets along just fine. American assimilation, Hawaiian-style. Just like our new incoming president.