Traditional lei maker shares her story about the pandemic

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Leis are an iconic symbol of the culture in Hawaii. “Why we make leis? To give love. To give them something,” said Hano De Guerra, a traditional feather lei maker and artist. Guerra learned how to make leis from her mother when she was just four years old. Since then, she has been perfecting her craft, creating leis for thousands of people for 70 years.

Guerra started working as a lei maker at the Marriot in 1964. Being able to create relationships and share the culture of Hawaii is something Guerra says is important to her. “I still keep in touch with some of the people I met at the hotel,” she said. “Once they learn why you give a lei, then they want pay.” The pandemic completely shut down the tourism industry in Hawaii, and many like Guerra were out of employment. Selling leis is about showing and sharing what a lei means, and the pandemic brought that to a halt. “Nobody bought anything because you don’t show anything. You don’t go around showing anything, and you can’t go out.”

The tourism industry is slowly recovering, allowing many individuals to return to work. Guerra is happily back at the Marriot Wailea Resort every Tuesday from 8:00 A.M. to 1:30 P.M. She said its important visitors return to the islands so people can continue to make a living. “No people, no money,” said Guerra.

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