LAS VEGAS (KTNV) – Home is where the heart is, and for many native Hawaiians and Las Vegas it has become their adopted home. In fact, so many have settled in southern Nevada that Vegas has a reputation for being the “ninth island”.
The tropical vibe of a band playing at a Hawaiian festival is very present in the islands and it all happens in the Las Vegas Valley.
“The people are here. The Hawaiian spirit is here. We have our food. We have our clothes. We have everything we can imagine but the elements of Hawaii Nei, “said Doreen Hall, president of the Las Vegas Hawaiian Civic Club.
Hall is part of the native Hawaiian community, the largest group of Pacific islanders in the valley.
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“We’re growing and the migration from Hawaii Nei to here in Las Vegas continues,” she said.
But why Las Vegas, especially when Hawaiians trade a tropical island for a desert climate. UNLV Professor Mark Padoongpatt says you had to go back to the 1970s when the California hotel-casino opened.
“It’s starting to market to Hawaiians after the California Hotel doesn’t do well among Californians and it turns its attention to Hawaiians, making Las Vegas a popular travel destination,” he said.
With Hawaii not allowing gambling, Sam Boyd saw an opportunity.
“Sam Boyd made it so easy when he first started charter planes that he wanted to bring people here from Hawaii, and that’s obvious 40 years later. People still come to Las Vegas, ”Hall said.
Eventually, some Hawaiians began to settle in Nevada and form a community. Many moved for economic reasons as the cost of living on the island became too high.
“Right now, our average home price in Hawaii is between $ 850,000 and $ 900,000. That’s nearly $ 3,500 to $ 4,000 in mortgage payments, ”Hall said.
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According to Padoongpatt, Las Vegas became a perfect landing spot, despite being further away than cities on the west coast.
“LA or San Francisco or anywhere in California are probably just as prohibitive in terms of the cost of living. But Las Vegas is an opportunity not just for Hawaiians but for many color communities, and some have argued that it is one of the last few ways to achieve a middle-class lifestyle, ”he said.
He also says that in some ways, Las Vegas still has a notion of an island to Hawaiians and reinforces the ninth island name.
Hall says she expects the bonds of Hawaii and Las Vegas to stay strong, especially as many Hawaiians look for better options on the mainland.
“We are in Aloha. Aloha doesn’t have to mean just in Hawaii. It comes from Hawaii, but where we are we make it our home, “she said.