History in Hilo

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Hilo is a friendly jem of a town located on the Big Island of Hawaii. The people are culturally diverse and fiercely proud of their indigenous heritage. For that reason Hilo events such as the Big Island Hawaiian Music Festival and the Merrie Monarch Festival (a famous hula exhibition and competition) are so popular. As of right now, the sugar industry is in a bad state, causing a major blow to the economy; luckily, tourism is still booming due to Hilo's rich culture and close proximity to Volcanoes National Park.

It is easy to say that you know a place, but by taking a look back at the history of the town, you can get a better perspective of how the people, culture, and industry of the Hilo known today has changed and developed over time. This, in turn, will allow for a deeper understanding and appreciation of the area.

The town began as a small trading post along the Wailuku River soon after the Polynesians arrived. They populated the area, farmed the land, and fished the rivers and ocean. Things stayed pretty stable, and Hilo became a very prominent center of trade.

During the times of King Kamehameha, Hilo turned into a major cultural and political center for the Kingdom of Hawaii. The town was the main site where the king built his huge army of boats used to conquer all of the Hawaiian Islands.

Towards the end of the 1700s, life in Hilo was changing rapidly due to dynamic trade and relations with distant foreign countries including the United States. New products, foods, seeds, technology, etc., were being introduced.

In the mid-1900s, missionaries decided that Hilo should be the main location for the expansion of the Church. They settled in the area, bringing with them Western education, Christianity, Puritanism, and many Westerners themselves, who saw Hilo as a safe, beautiful, westernized town where they could settle and grow.

Not long after, Hilo developed into a huge commercial area with hotels, shopping, steady trade, and booming sugar plantations. Modes of transportation were increasing by leaps and bounds; a railroad was built to connect Hilo to the rest of the Big Island of Hawaii, wharves were constructed to increase travel by water, etc.

Ironically, it was during this period that the town was devastated by two tsunamis, one in 1946 and one in 1960. However, Hilo persisted, and the town was rebuilt. For this reason, when you visit Hilo today you can stroll along a wide park next to the ocean which was constructed to create some protection for the town against any future tsunamis.

As you can see, Hilo is a remarkably resiliant town. It survived the tsunamis to become not only a major touristic destination in Hawaii, but the largest town on the Big Island as well.

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