Monday, February 25, 2013


Born in Hawaii in 1899, this Joaquin Zablan is the son of a Chamorro whaler also named Joaquin Zablan

Doing some research recently with Hawaii records, I came across some Chamorro settlers in Hawaii long before the islands became American territory.  These Chamorros arrived in Hawaii as crew members of the whaling ships.  Some of these Chamorros I already knew about; some I didn't.

Many of these Chamorro whalers, or bayinero as we say in Chamorro, settled in the Kohala district of the Big Island.

The Kohala area was an active center of sugar plantations.  There, Chamorro settlers met and married local women, either born in Hawaii or settlers as they were.  Some were Hawaiian, others Portuguese or Puerto Rican.

I came across records on Joaquin Zablan and Sylvester (Silvestre) Zablan, whom I have written about it an earlier post on this blog.

Also on a Ben Pangelinan, who died on the Big Island in 1903 at the assumed age of 68 years old.  I say "assumed" because Chamorros, as well as many other people who didn't come from a very literary culture, were quite casual about such details as birth dates and ages.  Some didn't even bother informing church or government who their parents were.  They had left home for good.

There was a new name for me among the records : Luis Guzman, who died in the Kohala area as early as 1884. He is described as a "Spaniard from the Mariana Islands." But naturally this just meant he fell under Spanish jurisdiction, since Guam was part of Spain at the time. He was believed to be 45 years old when he died, so perhaps born in 1839. 

Most of these Chamorro settlers remained attached to the Catholic Church, which in Hawaii at the time meant contact with the Sacred Hearts Fathers, the same group as that of Saint Damien of Molokai.  Many of these priests were French and Belgian; indeed, some notes in the church records are written in French.  We see in the records that many of the Chamorros were married in the Church and acted as godparents.  One Joaquin Pangelinan was a godfather to a good number of baptisms in the Kohala area for Portuguese and Spanish families.

Half-Chamorro Ben Zablan, born and raised in Hawaii, is standing on the far left.

These Chamorro and their half-caste descendants were very mobile, moving here and there in Hawaii.  The children of these Chamorro identified very much with the local culture, and the Chamorro language was probably not passed down even to the second generation.  Today, the descendants of these Chamorro whalers from over 100 years ago are a diverse group of people of many different racial mixtures and religions.  Some of them know their roots are in Guam, but some don't know much at all about Guam.  Quite understandably, their first identity is as Hawaiians.

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