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Hawaiians in San Diego keep the culture alive

The Hui O Hawaii San Diego Club started in 1969 to keep the Hawaiian culture strong in San Diego.

SAN DIEGO — Perhaps you have taken a 6-hour flight from San Diego to visit one of the Hawaiian islands for a dream vacation, but you can experience Hawaii without traveling. There is a large group that is keeping the Hawaiian heritage alive and thriving in San Diego.

"It's beautiful I love to sing it, and it's nice when you have a beautiful voice to help you sing with you," said Rosamaria Kahiinu Harrelson.

From the sounds of the ukelele to lei making, each task is done with good intentions and careful precision.

"My feelings this morning to making the lei is joy...gratitude for the women that I'm here with today," said Elizabeth Ah-nee. 

Elizabeth Ah-nee along with many other women are part of the Hui o Hawaii of San Diego, a club that started in 1969 to keep the Hawaiian culture strong in San Diego.

"When it comes to the different flowers you use, in Hawaii you're able to forage, you can go to the forest, different people's homes. In order for you to pick, you have to be in the right state of mind," said Ah-nee.

"Around '66 or '67, a group of people who were coming out of the Korean war, they were settling here in San Diego," said Denise Uilani Dudoit Myer.

Myer or "Auntie Denise" as everyone calls her is the past president of the Hui O Hawaii San Diego Club and is originally from Oahu.  

"I am second generation. There are now four generations of our family. My parents with other Hawaiian people opened up the Hui-O Hawaii," said Myer.

Audre Spencer is now the president of the Hui-O club.

She said the focal point of the organization is to pass down the knowledge to anyone and everyone who wants to know.

"Uplifting our people, and our children, Ohana is what it's all about we want to make sure our children carry this legacy, this education of different things we do in the culture," said Spencer.

It's the aloha spirit of love peace and compassion. Hawaiians say it's the ocean that connects the islands to San Diego and with 100,000 Hawaiians living here, you could say its one big Ohana or "family".

"We all share the love of Aina the land, and our Ohana our family and our culture it all blends together," said Spencer.

And of course, you can't talk about Hawaii without talking about the amazing food.  

Teri Villanueva opened Island Style Cafe in 2008. Originally from Kona, Villanueva wanted to not only bring authentic Hawaiian food like "Kahlua pork" and "poke" to San Diego but she also wanted to bring a bit of home.

"This is like comfort food for island people in Hawaii," said Villaneuva.

But you'll notice many of the foods are rich and heavy. That's for a good reason.

"Back in the plantation days, most of the time you only have that one meal you have that meal and you make sure it's filling takes you through the day," said Villanueva.

And in Hawaii, many celebrations and even sad events have music involved. Anthony Stanley and Keahi Rozet both have played the ukulele since they were young.

"Being able to share the music and the love that we have for Hawaiian music and Hawaiian culture is amazing," said Rozet.

They say the ukulele can emit both happy and sad emotions. It is an instrument that's been in Hawaii since the 1800s.

With the addition of hula dancing, to pass down life lessons and re-enact stories, the Hawaiian community is fostering a spirit of aloha between the people of Hawaii, right here in San Diego.

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