Friday, July 22, 2011


Vicente Camacho Reyes
The Japanese made him district head of Barrigada
Or - Haruta Mura

When the Japanese occupied Guam for two-and-a-half years, they changed the names of many island places.  The whole island was re-named Omiya Jima (Great Shrine Island), Hagåtña became Akashi (Red City), Sinajaña became Shinagawa and so on.  Barrigada became Haruta Mura.

Guam was divided into districts headed by a Chamorro whose position was called kucho.  The villages were lead by a soncho.  You didn't volunteer to be a soncho, nor were you elected, nor were you asked - you were made soncho by the Japanese and accepted it or be killed.

Vicente Camacho Reyes, married to my grandmother's sister, Ana Perez Torres, was Island Attorney before the war.  He was a lawyer, having gone to UC Berkeley and Hastings College of Law in the 1930s thanks to a Navy scholarship.  As soncho of Barrigada, Uncle Ben's main duties were assisting with police efforts in the village, and letting people know any new policies or orders issued by the Minseibu, the Japanese civil administration. 

But the one duty he liked to share with me was his obligation making sure the Barrigada farmers turned in their quota of corn and other crops to the Japanese.  If the Japanese told Uncle Ben they wanted five bags of corn by Tuesday, Uncle Ben had better come up with five bags by Tuesday.  If he was a day late, or, if on Tuesday, he produced only four bags, Uncle Ben was beaten or otherwise disciplined.

His wife, Auntie Ana, would pray, her hands shaking as she fingered her rosary beads.  But Uncle Ben was never severely disciplined; at least he had no scars to show for it years later.  Auntie Ana also had a hard time during the war, having miscarried during that time. 

Uncle Ben would have had to deal with the Saipanese interpreters during the war, since he was soncho.  Uncle Ben had to do the Japanese's bidding but could speak no Japanese.  So, the Saipanese interpreters mediated and Uncle Ben got to know a few of them.  Years later, Uncle Ben took me to Saipan and we visited a former interpreter, Vicente S. Camacho, on a daily basis.  Obviously, there was no animosity shared between two Chamorros who had similar names.  Many Saipanese interpreters tried their best to avoid trouble between all parties during the occupation.  Another time, on Luta (Rota), Uncle Ben sat down and talked all night with William S. Reyes, another Saipanese interpreter during the war.  We were all visiting Luta for the fiesta.

After the war, Uncle Ben went on to practice law, serve on the bench as judge of the Superior Court and engage in politics, serving twice in the Legislature and being one of the leaders of the Territorial and later Republican parties.

Ai si Uncle Ben!  Onrao yan gof yo'ase na kabayero!  Ma na' sonchon Barrigada fuetsao ni Hapones.  Kuånto biåhe ma patmåda pat ma lalåtde?  Duru manåyuyut si Auntie Ana pot para u siña ha li'e ta'lo i asaguå-ña kåda pupuenge, sa' hai tumungo' na ti pinino' si Uncle Ben ni Hapones ayo mismo na dia? Gråsias a Dios, lumå'la' si Uncle Ben katna ha' kuarenta åños mås despues di gera, ya hu gacha', hu ekkungok i estoriå-ña siha ya hu li'e giya guiya maolek na ehemplon kilisyåno.

En Español

La ocupación japonesa de Guam durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial empezó una época de grandes dificultades para los guameños.  Mi tío Vicente fue alcalde del pueblo de Barrigada, llamado Haruta Mura en japonés.  Fue golpeado algunas veces por los japoneses cuando los rancheros no producieron su cuota de maíz para los soldados y oficiales japoneses.

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