Wednesday, November 22, 2017



It's interesting how even scary folklore changes over time.

For example, I came across a duendes story from 1852 that differs, in some detail, from our duendes stories today. I'll add that link at the end of this post.

Now I've come across a story about a bruha from 1902.

The word bruha is borrowed from the Spanish word bruja, which means "witch." Most of us, raised in the American culture, think of pointy hats and pointy noses. Wizard of Oz and Snow White sort of things.

We don't hear the word bruha much anymore, or about their alleged existence. As a kid I heard older people say the word bruha only rarely. Maybe once every few years. But the word does appear in older Chamorro dictionaries (Ibáñez 1865 and von Preissig 1918).

This story comes from an American reporter in 1902 who heard it on Guam. That's not directly from the local source, so take it for what it's worth.

"The bruja is never seen, but commits awful atrocities on people and property. One evening a man was eating his supper when he heard the peculiar click, click which indicated the presence of the bruja. In a sudden fit of bravery he invited the unseen to partake of food, adding that he was not afraid, when without a moment's warning the candle was extinguished, dishes broken and the man himself attacked until his face was covered with blood and his hair lay in tufts about the room. This was the work of the witch, itself frightened away at last by the terrified man's prayer to the saints, 'Jesús, María, José,' from whom protection was asked. Suffice it to say that that man never again invited the bruja to lunch."

Just like us to call out "Jesús, María, José" when in a jam!

A duendes story from 1852 :

Monday, November 20, 2017


Pan Am 1941 route map showing Canton Island

Canton Island in 1941 was a tiny, barren atoll of sand and rocks, with no native population. But it made a convenient spot where Pan American Airline's clipper planes could stop for refueling on their way from Hawaii to New Zealand.

Pan Am also had a station on Guam, and it was from Guam that Pan Am recruited workers to staff various positions on Canton Island.

That's how these Chamorro Pan Am workers got stuck on a remote atoll, far from home, when World War II broke out on December 7, 1941.

From the list of Chamorro Pan Am employees working at Canton Island in 1941

When war broke out and disrupted normal travel and communications, and with the Japanese at the outer fringes of that Pacific area, the residents of Canton Island abandoned the island. The Chamorro workers were first taken to Pago Pago in American Samoa, not too far from Canton Island. From American Samoa, they went by ship to Honolulu in January of 1942.

The Chamorro workers were (name, age, occupation, home village) :

ANDERSON, Jose (24, waiter, Sumay)
BORJA, Antonio (21, launderer, Sumay)
CARBULLIDO, Albert (23, clerk, Agat)
CHARFAUROS, Ignacio (23, messboy, Agat)
CONCEPCION, Juan (23, waiter, Sumay)
CRUZ, Ignacio (31, cook, Sumay)
CRUZ, Vicente (25, assistant cook, Agana)
DE LEON, Jose (46, aircraft mechanic, Agana)
DUEÑAS, Ramon (47, carpenter, Sumay)
GARRIDO, Anselmo (27, aircraft mechanic, Sumay)
GUERRERO, Jose (27, cook, Agana)
GUERRERO, Magno (18, messboy, Agana)
MAFNAS, Antonio (23, waiter, Agana)
MATAGULAY, Juan (41, aircraft mechanic, Garapan, Saipan)
MATERNE, Domingo (23, laundryman, Agana)
MESA, Felix (24, utility man, Agat)
PEREZ, Vicente (20, waiter, Agana)
QUITUGUA, Enrique (30, cook, Asan)
RIVERA, Vicente (22, waiter, Agana)
SALAS, Juan (33, cook, Agana)
VALENZUELA, Francisco (27, messboy, Agana)
WON PAT, Vicente (23, bar keeper, Sumay)

The large number of Sumay men is not surprising, given that the Pan Am base and hotel site were located in Sumay before the war.



Tuesday, November 14, 2017


Santa Ana (Saint Anne), mother of Mary and grandmother of Jesus

In the old days, most parents and grandparents were very strict with their adolescent children, especially the girls. Their every movement was monitored and who they kept company with was duly noted. Even at dances, older sisters or cousins or aunts went to chaperone the activities. This meant that young people in love found it a challenge to find time to chat with each other.

One opportunity was Sunday Mass. Since almost everyone was Catholic and went to Mass on Sundays, there was a good chance you could see your sweetheart there. One young man thought he could take advantage of Mass and spend a few moments chatting with his girlfriend. But even in church there are challenges to be met.

Era 1956 na såkkan ya sen umaguaiya si Francisco yan si Luisa.
(It was the year 1956 and Francisco and Luisa were so in love.)

Lao pot i mampos estrikto todo i mañainan-ñiha, ti siña i dos umali'e'
(But because all their parents and elders were so strict, the two couldn't see each other)

solo an umeskuela i dos ya para un råtoto ha'.
(except when they were both in school and only for a brief moment.)

Sinangåne si Luisa as Francisco un dia gi eskuela,
(Francisco told Luisa one day in school,)

"Gi Damenggo, ta asodda' gi Misa."
("On Sunday, we'll meet at Mass.")

"Lao mångge?" mamaisen si Luisa.
("But where?" Luisa asked.)

"Tohge gi fi'on i mañåntos gi pettan san me'na," ilek-ña si Francisco.
"Stand by the statues of the saints at the front door," Francisco said.

Ya magåhet na ayo na Damenggo eståba si Francisco
(And sure enough that Sunday Francisco)

na ha nanangga si Luisa gi fi'on i mañåntos gi pettan san me'na.
(was waiting for Luisa beside the saints at the front door.)

En fin måtto si Luisa lao ti magof matå-ña.
(At last Luisa came but her face wasn't happy.)

"Håfa, kerida, na ti mamagof posision-mo?" mamaisen si Francisco.
("Why, sweetheart, is your expression not happy?" Francisco asked.)

"Francisco. Atan hulo' ya un li'e' håye na såntos un ayek para un fi'une," ilek-ña si Luisa.
("Francisco. Look up and see which saint you chose to be next to," Luisa said.)

Tumalak hilo' si Francisco ya ha repåra na tumotohge gue' gi fi'on Santa Ana.
(Francisco looked up and saw that he was standing next to Saint Anne.)

"Ai lokkue'. Sa' kontodo gi halom guma'yu'us ha pupulan hit si Nanan Biha," ilek-ña si Francisco.
"Oh dear. Even in church grandmother is watching us," Francisco said.)

Monday, November 13, 2017



You can't totally get away with it.

That seems to be the message of this bit of wisdom from the elders.

The inner ugliness of an evil person will somehow manifest itself outwardly in the body of that evil person when he or she dies.

Thus, even if an evil person who did much harm in life got away with it, the punishment will come when the dead body of the evil person becomes so ugly that the person suffers an ignoble death.

Here's how one older lady explained it :

I taotao gi durånten lina'lå'-ña yanggen mampos bula tinailaye bidå-ña,
(The person who during his life if he has done a great deal of evil,)

tåt komo mampos båba i pachot-ña,
(such as having a very bad mouth,)

sesso de muna' mumu taotao,
(who stirs up fights between people,)

gi oran finatai-ña siempre u guaha ma susede.
(at the hour of his death something surely will happen.)

Siña ha' ma baba i pachot-ña, ma laknos i hila'-ña
(It's possible his mouth will open, his tongue come out)

ya ti siña ma na' halom.
(and it can't be put back in.)

Horror! But this is the punishment.

Even though evil people often get away with it in this life, still, at death, you can't get away with it completely.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017


It was only the second mass trial of black military servicemen in the U.S. during World War 2.

Some forty-five black service men were convicted and given different sentences for a "riot" on Guam involving white Marines. The troubles included some deaths, and also, according to many reports, Chamorro women who were pursued by both white and black military men.

Reflecting the general tenor of the country at the time, the U.S. military was a segregated one in World War 2. Black servicemen were grouped together in their own companies and quarters, separate from the whites, and even had their own line for meals in the canteen. Black nurses treated black patients in military hospitals.


Black Marines in Saipan 1944

On Guam in 1944, four companies working in the Marine supply depot were comprised entirely of blacks.

For some time, white Marines targeted these black Marines, yelling racial slurs, throwing at them empty bottles, rocks and even hand grenades and smoke bombs on a few occasions. One of these smoke bombs thrown by a white Marine landed in the fuel dump, where black Marines were working with dangerous amounts of octane gas. An explosion, putting the black men at the risk of their lives, was gratefully avoided.

Complaints by the black Marines fell on deaf ears with the higher command. This only increased the sense of frustration and helplessness among the black men, convincing them that they had to take matters into their own hands. As one black Marine said about doing military service on Guam, he might as well be in a "town in the deep South," since he found the same racial discrimination in both circumstances.

Part of the tension involved competition over the Chamorro women these military men met. Besides a general kind of competition for these women's attention, there seems to have been a few cases of specific rivalry between a black and a white service man over a specific Chamorro lady.

The military commander (and civil governor) of Guam, Major General Henry Larsen, was warned that trouble was brewing among his own service men. Larsen preached reconciliation and unity, but his words came too late. In December of 1944, verbal assaults and bottle throwing turned more violent. Shots were fired and men, both black and white, were killed.

More than once, black Marines left their camps in the Hågat-Sumay area and went up to Hagåtña, only to engage in fights with white Marines. White Marines in jeeps drove by the black camps, firing shots. The last time, early in the pre-dawn hours on December 26, a caravan of black Marines, armed with weapons taken without permission, heading towards Hagåtña hoping to get back at the white Marines, was stopped on the road by a military barricade. The black men were arrested.


During World War 2, news reports were heavily censored by the government in the interest of national defense. After all, you don't want the enemy to get tipped off about America's military situation by reading the morning newspaper. The Navy therefore blocked the release of news reports about the racial riots among the military on Guam. It would be bad for military morale and bad for the image of the U.S. in the world.

Except that.....Walter White was in the picture.

Walter White

Walter White was the Executive Secretary, at the time, of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the NAACP, the nation's influential advocacy group for black Americans. White happened to be on Guam in December of 1944 right when the racial troubles blew up.

He served as counsel to the black Marines arrested on Guam. He would make sure that their case would receive the attention and fairness that he believed they had a right to.

The forty-some black Marines tried and convicted for things such as rioting and the abuse of military property (like the guns they took) got dishonorable discharge and prison terms as high as four years down to four months. The fewer white men facing charges got considerably lighter sentences, as low as 20 days' confinement which was then written off.

As soon as the news blackout was lifted in July of 1945, White made sure that the story of the convicted black Marines made national news. He also put pressure on the Navy to reopen the case and look at significant factors that were not considered at the trial, such as the intimidation given the black Marines by the white ones, and the non-action of the military commanders to diffuse racial tensions by taking seriously the complaints of the black Marines.

In 1946, the Navy released from prison those black Marines still serving time for the Guam "riots."

Tuesday, November 7, 2017


The 19th century saw a lot more contact between the Marianas and the rest of the world than had been previously seen.

The British and American whaling ships were a constant source of news, activity and opportunity for our little island for much of the 1800s. Businesses associated with the whaling enterprise then came into contact with Guam and the Marianas.

Case in point, the Melchers Company in Honolulu.

The Honolulu trading company was a branch of the original Melchers Company established in Bremen in modern-day Germany. The founder of that company had three sons and one of them, Gustav by name, founded the Hawaii branch in 1852 along with a partner named Gustav Reiners.

As many whaling ships either came from Honolulu or were on their way to Honolulu before or after touching at Guam, Honolulu became a conduit of merchandise and information for Guam. Thus, it's no surprise that the Melchers Company had some kind of relationship with the Spanish Governor of the Marianas. The Company urged whaling captains to call on the Company before they sailed for Guam. Perhaps the whaling captain could bring some supplies, merchandise or news to the Governor. One Spanish governor used the services of Melchers when the Governor wanted to return deposits made to the Spanish government in the Marianas to whaling captains based in Hawaii.

When a Hawaiian commercial ship, the Pfeil, was condemned at Guam because of serious damage, it was put up for sale and Melchers bought it.

Another Guam connection with Melchers was Richard Millinchamp, an Englishman who had previously settled in the Bonin Islands but who later definitively moved to Guam and stayed. He also had prior connections in Hawaii and legally appointed Melchers to represent Millinchamp's interests in Hawaii.

Richard Millinchamp's signature

The contact between Guam and Melchers did not last long. Melchers was bought out by someone else and, as the whaling business subsided, the connection between Guam and Hawaii cooled down as well.

The Melchers Building, built in 1854 on Merchant Street, is the oldest commercial building in Honolulu.

Sunday, November 5, 2017


It was a Spanish hymn translated into two different Chamorro versions, one in Saipan and one in Guam.

This recording is of the song sung in Saipan.

1. Mames Jesus man hongge yo' sen metton
(Sweet Jesus I believe very firmly)

na Hågo ha' i Sånta Komunion.
(that You Yourself are Holy Communion.)

Maila' pues ya un na' chocho i anti-ho
(Come then and feed my soul)

ya un na' såntos i korason-ho, ya un na' såntos i korason-ho.
(and make my heart holy.)

2. Mañotsot yo' nu todo i isao-ho
(I repent of all my sins)

båsta yo' umisao yan umaguaguat.
(I am done sinning and rebelling.)

Ya bai sen osge i tinago'-mo 
(And I will truly obey your commands)

ya bai hu sen guaiya Hao Asaina, ya bai hu sen guaiya Hao Asaina.
(and truly love you Lord.)


My suspicion is that there is a Saipan and a Guam version because the original Spanish hymn, on which both Chamorro versions are based, didn't become known until after the split between American Guam and the German Northern Marianas in 1898. Prior to 1898, all the Marianas were one political unit and would have a shared musical tradition. But, after 1898, the two parts of the Marianas were served by different missionaries who started new musical traditions within their own island group.

While the two Chamorro versions are worded differently, they share a common origin, the Spanish hymn, and so are both the same in that they are both songs for Holy Communion, focusing on the reality that the Host is the true Body of Jesus, and the consecrated wine has become the true Blood of Jesus.


The Spanish hymn is quite well-known among traditional Catholic circles in the Spanish-speaking world. Prior to Vatican II and the outpouring of new church songs following a different style, this Spanish hymn, Oh Buen Jesús, was very common in church.

Many sites that include this hymn say that the author is unknown, but one site says the composer was one "H. León" but nothing more. I have not found any information who this person was. The H can stand for Hermano, or Brother, meaning a religious brother, and León (Leo) is his first name.

The first verse in Spanish says :

Oh Good Jesus, I firmly believe that for my benefit You are on the altar;
that you give Your Body and Blood together
to the faithful soul in a heavenly meal.


A Spanish missionary on Guam (probably Påle' Román de Vera) translated the Spanish original differently from whoever translated it in Saipan.

On Guam the hymn is entitled Guåho Jesús.

The first verse goes like this :

Guåho Jesús hu hongge na magåhet
(Jesus, I believe it is true)

na gaige Hao guennao gi sagå-mo.
(that You are there is your place.)

Ume'etnon yan i man yiniusan
(Joined together with the divine)

na tataotao, ånte yan hagå'-mo, na tataotao ånte yan hagå'-mo.
(body, soul and blood.)

Thursday, November 2, 2017


I was on a plane to Saipan and overheard the conversation of two people sitting in my row. It's a very small, cramped plane!

I heard them use a phrase of which I knew the literal meaning, but also knew that they were saying something hidden to me.

"Para lahi-ho," said the man. As is often done, he shortened it to, "Para lai-ho."

Literally, it means "To be my son." But I tried to figure out what was the hidden meaning. Was he going to adopt someone? He seemed somewhat too elderly to adopt a little boy!

Minutes later, the lady he was speaking to said, "Para hagå-ho." She, too, shortened it to "Para hagao."

So, of course, as soon as I got the chance, I asked some older people what they meant.

When one of your children is getting married, their spouse-to-be becomes, after the wedding, your son or daughter.

Technically, they become your yetno or yetna; son or daughter-in-law. Those are terms borrowed from Spanish.

But, as these folks did, one can also say they become your son or daughter. Period.

I think this gives some insight into the way traditional Chamorros view family relations. There is much more blending of family relations than in modern culture. You can imagine my shock when, thirty years ago, I heard people call their father or mother-in-law by their first names, instead of "mom, pop, nang or tang," as I normally hear.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017


When a Chamorro speaker first hears about the last name Matagolai, they find it curious because the name happens to resemble two Chamorro words : måta (eyes/face) and gollai (vegetables). If taken as a Chamorro name, Matagolai means "vegetable face or eyes." The area around the eyes is called måta.

But Matagolai is not a Chamorro name. It just happens to resemble Chamorro words. Coincidences happen, believe it or not.

The first documented Matagolai we have is a female baptized Rita Matagolai, in Saipan, in 1857.  Her first name Rita comes from her Chamorro godmother, Rita de Torres. Her last name Matagolay (so it was spelled in those days) is her biological mother's one and only name, thus showing that her mother was an unbaptized Carolinian. Carolinians, like the Chamorros before they were baptized, had only one name, their given name. No last names existed in those days.

Then, in 1877, there is a newborn girl baptized in Saipan named Francisca Matagolay. Her mother is named Francisca Matagolay as well, and she is described as a native of Elato, in the Carolines.

In 1891, a Gerónima Matagolay married a Chamorro named Nicolás Ada. Gerónima's father's one and only name is Matagolay, meaning he is not baptized, and he is listed as a native of Satawal, in the Carolines.

And then in 1897 there is a Manuel Cruz Matagolay who is baptized in Saipan, the son of Vicente Matagolay, a native of Onoun, in the Carolines. The mother is Chamorro, a Carmen Cruz from Sumay, Guam.

By 1930, a Juan Cruz Matagulay, born in Saipan, was living on Guam, married to a Chamorro named Carmen Santos. Juan was almost certainly the son of Vicente of Onoun and Carmen of Sumay.

It seems that the Saipan branch spells it Matagolai, while the Guam branch (which originated in Saipan) spells it Matagulay.

So, the documents show three different Matagolay, all with Caroline Island origins in Onoun, Elato and Satawal. Although the Matagolai intermarried with Chamorros and became part of the Chamorro community, the family's earliest roots are Carolinian and their name is Carolinian as well.

Three islands in the Carolines with Matagolai connections


I came across another non-Chamorro surname that has a Chamorro meaning.

In the Philippines, there is a last name Matanguihan.

In Chamorro, this means "fish face" or "fish eyes." Måta (face/eyes) and guihan (fish). It can also mean someone who really likes fish, or craves fish, just as we say "matan salåppe'" for someone who always thinks of money or is desirous of money.

Saturday, October 28, 2017


October 27, 2017

This blog started on March 19, 2011 with a post about the San José fiesta in Inalåhan.

As of October 27, 2017 the blog has been visited over one million times in those six and a half years.

Si Yu'us ma'åse' and thanks to all readers and followers!


Here are the five top posts read by the most visitors :


Friday, October 27, 2017


June 8, 1901

Between 130 and 2 o'clock in the morning on June 8, 1901, the peaceful sleep of Dolores Blas, and her mother Teresa Espinosa Blas, was interrupted by the sound of their dog barking. The dog was inside the house where they were sleeping. The front door of the house had been closed, but it was not barricaded by a bar or some other object. In walked an American man, later identified as John W. Scaggs.

Scaggs entered their bedroom and proceeded to lie down next to Dolores, on her bed. He had in his hand a revolver, pointed at her. When Scaggs lied down, Dolores immediately got up to put on clothes in order to exit the house. She noticed Scaggs was quite drunk, and was able to grab the revolver from his hands. She hid the revolver and left the house with her mother Teresa. They went in haste to Sergeant Nicholas Kelley, who called on two more guards. They all returned to Dolores' house. While the two women waited outside, Kelley and his guards went in to find Scaggs sleeping on Dolores' bed. They got him up and escorted him to jail.

Scaggs was brought before judge Luís Díaz Torres. Scaggs testified that all he remembers about that night was going to the home of Sergeant Kelley and leaving quite drunk. He doesn't remember what he did afterwards. He was sorry if he misbehaved in anyway; it was never his intention to do so, but he got quite drunk. Asked why he carried a revolver, he said it was only for his own protection. He lived in Asan, and was going to walk home alone at night, so the revolver was for security.

The court put a lot of attention on the fact that Scaggs carried a revolver without a license. Scaggs responded that he had had a license for it when he worked for the US Navy the year before in the Philippines, and thought that license applied on Guam as well. He also claimed that an old American law said that anyone carrying at least $100 in coins or bills could carry a gun without a license (for protection). Scaggs was carrying $340 in his pocket that night. Quite a sum in those days!

Torres issued the following sentence. Scaggs was to be fined and his revolver sold in public auction, the money gained thereby covering the court expenses. At the auction there was only one bidder, William W. Rowley, who naturally won. Rowley worked for the Navy and many years later printed the Guam Recorder for the Navy.

Scaggs was 37 years old at the time, and an Alabama native. He worked on Guam for the US Navy as stable foreman, in charge of the Navy's horses and vehicles. Records show he was back in the Philippines a few years later, still working for the US Navy.

From a 1901 list of US Navy employees on Guam

Thursday, October 26, 2017


So this came as a surprise to me, but I heard it from an older member of the family as well as younger members.

A branch of the Quintanilla family in Hågat is known as the Orong family.

The story is that the patriarch of this family was a carpentry supervisor. It had to have been during the early American administration for the explanation to work, since it is based on English.

When he would go around and inspect the work of the carpenters, I assume on military projects, he would tell them, "All wrong, all wrong, all wrong," when he disapproved of their work.

"All wrong" became Orong in Chamorro.

The workers said, "This guy always says 'all wrong,'" and they started calling him Orong.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017


Santa Cruz, Hagåtña

Humånao si Chong para i gima' che'lu-ña as Dolores
(Chong went to her sister Dolores' house)

sa' para u fan lupok hånom gi tipo' na eståba guihe.
(to fetch water from the well that was there.)

Gigon måtto gue’ gi as Dolores, ha li'e' na eståba si Simona,
(When she got to Dolores', she saw that Simona was there,)

na man lulupok hånom lokkue’.
(fetching water as well.)

Ilek-ña si Simona gi as Chong, "Maolek sa' esta hit umali'e'."
(Simona said to Chong, "Good because we already see each other.")

Man oppe si Chong, "Ya håfa?"
(Chong answered, "And what?")

Ilek-ña si Simona, "Esta hao maleffa håfa hu sangåne hao gi halacha?"
(Simona said, "You already forgot what I told you a few days ago?")

"Hekkua'," ilek-ña si Chong. "Gaige ha' yo' guine på'go pot para bai fan lupok. Tåya' mås."
("I don't know," Chong said. "I am here only to fetch water. Nothing else.")

Lalålo' si Simona ya gotpe ha fåom si Chong ya ma tututhon i dos umagalute.
(Simona became angry and suddenly attacked Chong and the two began to fight.)

"Hu puno' hao, hu puno' hao!" sige de umessalao si Simona.
("I'll kill you, I'll kill you!" Simona kept shouting.)

Dångkulo-ña si Simona ya ha palopo si Chong ya ha ke ñukut gue' 
(Simona was bigger and got on top of Chong and tried to strangle her)

ya despues ha åkka' i kannai Chong.
(and afterward bit Chong's arm.)

Pot i buruka, guaha siha na besino manhuyong ya ma sepåra i dos palao'an 
(Due to the noise, there were some neighbors who came out and separated the two women)

annai ma li'e' na mumumu.
(when they saw them fighting.)

Despues, ma kotte si Simona ya ma pongle gue' gi kalaboso para trenta dias. 
(Later, Simona was taken to court and was put in jail for thirty days.)

I Señot Hues ha otden lokkue' si Simona para u apåse i mediko nu i gåston 
(The judge also ordered Simona to pay the doctor the cost)

i ma åmten i chetnudan Chong ni tinaka’ dies dias para u mågong.
(of treating Chong's wound which took ten days to heal.)

Lao håfa gi magåhet i tutuhon-ña i inadisguston-ñiha i dos? 
(But what was really the start of the trouble with these two?)

Ti ha sångan i dokumenton i kotte. 
(The court documents don't say.)

Lao debe de u guaha rason håfa na umachatli'e' i dos.
(But there must be a reason why they hated each other.)


Tupo'. Water well. Many homes in Hagåtña did have wells right on the property since Spanish times. That was their source of drinking and cooking water. Although there was a river flowing through Hagåtña closer to the shore, the city residents didn't drink that water. That water was used for laundry and other purposes. Even the well water was deemed unsuitable by the Americans, who then started piping in water from other sources (like Matan Hånom or Agaña Springs). Water from the city wells was usually brackish.

Simona and Chong. The story is from an actual court case. Although most court cases involved extensive questioning getting to the bottom of a story, this one oddly did not. It never asked why there was bad blood between these two women in the first place or, at least, it wasn't recorded.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


All over the Hispanic world, there are different kinds of rosquete.

The root word is rosco.  A rosco can mean a bread roll, a biscuit, a cookie....and many other similar things.

In the Spanish city of Cádiz, in the south of that country, they make a rosquete that looks like our own Chamorro version, but it is made with some ingredients not found in our own.

A kind of Spanish rosquete

So when Spaniards or Latin Americans brought the basic idea for rosquete to the Marianas, our people had to use ingredients that were available to them.

The Chamorro roskete is made of : flour, corn starch (a lot of it), sugar, butter, eggs and salt. Modern recipes add baking powder and vanilla extract (some use lemon extract), which I am pretty sure were not available in the Marianas 200 years ago. Even butter may not have been quite readily available in our islands 100 years ago or more. Some other shortening must have been used.

The Chamorro roskete is dry and crumbly. That is due to the large amounts of corn starch in the recipe. Because they are so dry and crumbly, mailing roskete to your loved ones off-island is an exercise in hope or optimism. They often become pulverized in the mail. Your loved ones in the States will receive roskete powder by the time it gets to them.

The traditional form of the roskete is to form loops with the rolled out dough. Many people today simply make medallions of the dough. Less work.

Personally, I prefer the "figure eight" traditional form of roskete. Because they are so dry, it is better to eat in smaller doses.

When a roskete is excellent, it has flavor. Am not sure if it is the vanilla extract or the eggs that impart that flavor. I know a lady who makes excellent roskete and claims it's because of her "secret ingredient." I have a suspicion it's Crisco.

But then there is roskete that has little to no flavor. It can become a mouthful of dry, sweet cookie crumbles in the mouth, best dissolved by a gulp of hot coffee.

Here's a video (in two parts, actually) showing how to make roskete according to one person's recipe :

And a link to another recipe for roskete :

Monday, October 16, 2017



Hinckley Alley was only a small, narrow street in the heart of San Francisco, straddling the area in between North Beach, dominated by Italian immigrants, and Chinatown.

It was a rough neighborhood, where saloon fights and petty crime were not unusual. People lived poorly, often in unhealthy environments.

There were people from all over the world living on Hinckley Alley, but in the area around house Number 17, there was a high concentration of Mexican Americans. And one Chamorro. Bonifacio de los Reyes.

Bonifacio was born around 1857 in the Marianas. In 1881, at the age of 24 or so, he arrived in the U.S.  He probably served on a whaling ship or some other vessel. Several years after arriving in the U.S., he married a Mexican American woman named Dominga. Everyone in house Number 17 (besides Bonifacio) was either born in Mexico or had family origins in Mexico. Besides Bonifacio and Dominga, there were the Mexican de la Rosa and Lopez families in the same house.

Many Chamorros who moved to the U.S. or Hawaii (an independent kingdom before 1893) married Hispanic or Portuguese women. The Chamorro language and culture being heavily influenced by Spain, that should be no surprise. Many Chamorros of the time knew some Spanish.

Working Class neighborhood of old San Francisco

Mexican tamales making was a specialty of Hinckley Alley. They fed the Mexican residents of the neighborhood, and anyone else interested in them. Bonifacio, married to a Hispanic wife, and knowing the Chamorro version of tamales , learned to make Mexican tamales and that became his source of income.

In the 1900 Census, Bonifacio and a housemate are described as "talmale (tamale)" makers

Sad to say, a local newspaper considered Hinckley Alley's tamales to be unsanitary.  The whole neighborhood was considered a filthy ghetto. Who knows what the real deal with the tamales was? The neighborhood buyers didn't think so, or else the tamales business would have dried up. I'd venture to say that the tamales sold at Hinckley Alley would not meet today's kitchen standards, but for the most part people back then living in the neighborhood had no problem with it.

The unfavorable report of Hinckley Alley tamales in the San Francisco Chronicle of 1892

Hinckley Alley was renamed Fresno Street after the great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906. 

I don't know what became of Bonifacio. He and Dominga apparently never had children.