Thursday, June 28, 2012


From the records of William Edwin Safford, the Secretary to the first American Governor of Guam, we read the following data for the year 1901 :

Can read and write
3,439 (46% )
Can read and sign name only
     70 (1%)
Can read only
2,440 (32.5%)
Can sign name only
     16 (.25%)
Cannot read or write
1,506 (20.25%)
Children younger than 7

Fully 20% of the population of Guam aged 7 years and up could neither read nor write.

In addition, the total number of people aged 7 and up who could not even write their own names in 1901 was 3,946 or about 52% of the population.

That's why, in document after document, many a Chamorro just put a cross (+) next to their name, wirtten for them by a clerk.

Although this Spanish-era document involves Carolinians, as well as Chamorros, it still gives you an idea how a clerk would write out the person's name, and the person who could not sign his own name would mark it with a cross (+).

On the left column, you will see three names of Carolinians who have a cross (+) after their names.  Three Carolinians, Bernardo Santamaria, Jose Ogumoro and Jose Taman, could sign their names, and so could all the Chamorros in this document.  But there are many other documents where some Chamorros, especially women, could not sign their names but simply etched a cross next to their names.

This is how some people explain the prevalence of the surname Cruz or de la Cruz in the Marianas and the Philippines.  "Cross" in Spanish is Cruz.  Since so many Filipinos and Chamorros couldn't sign their names and just put a cross where their names were written, they were called "of the cross," in Spanish, "de la Cruz."

I don't buy this explanation completely because baptismal records of adult converts and illegitimate babies do show that Spanish priests often gave them religious last names (de la Cruz/of the Cross; de los Reyes/of the Kings; de la Concepcion/of the Conception; and so on). 

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