Friday, April 8, 2011

A HIDDEN GEM IN HAGÅTÑA


Precious little in Hagåtña survived the massive American bombardment of the city in 1944.  But tucked away in the back streets of town, near the cliffline, is a private, family cemetery that did survive the war.  It was owned by the Torres-Leon Guerrero family, with connections to Padre Palomo (who was a Torres, and whose sister married a Leon Guerrero) and to the Martinez family (Don Pedro married Maria LG Torres).

The remains of Padre Palomo, the first Chamorro Catholic priest, are interred here.  Don Pedro and Tan Maria Martinez rest here as well, and many of their children. 

How old is this cemetery?  I'll have to ask family members, but there is a headstone (called lápida in Spanish/Chamorro) kept here that dates to 1910.  It seems to be the headstone of one Caridad Leon Guerrero, who was married to a Suarez.  Here is the headstone, written in Spanish back when Spanish was still the language of the educated and upper classes of the Marianas :


It reads, in Spanish, "Aquí yaces Caridad / pues la parca te segó / más tu espíritu voló / al seno de la Deidad."

It means, "Here you lie Caridad / for death has felled you / but your spirit flew / to the bosom of the divinity."

This was poetic, not elementary, Spanish and indicates the high level of Spanish spoken by some on Guam at the time.

The stone is dated March 18, 1910.

The D.O.M. at the top is the abbreviation for "Deus Optimus Maximus," a Latin phrase meaning "God, the Best and the Greatest."  It was the custom to write this abbreviation on many public buildings and monuments all over Catholic Europe.

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