Friday, January 2, 2015


Yes....if the wishes of a few Spanish governors had been granted.

The idea of transferring the capital of the Marianas to Hågat was put in more than one report written by the Spanish governor to his superiors in Manila.

Remember that Guam was not politically separate, as it is now, from the rest of the Marianas. Until 1898, all the Marianas were one political unit.

Don't forget, either, that Hagåtña was overshadowed at times by Humåtak, where the Spanish governor would often reside. The fact is that the disadvantages of Hagåtña, and the advantages of other places, sometimes meant that the official capital city of the Marianas was in question.

What were these disadvantages and advantages?


1. Lack of Anchorage

Hagåtña is bordered by a coral reef that acts like a wall or barrier. Ships could anchor outside Hagåtña in the deep, but to get from the ship to the shore, passengers would have to get in small boats and take their chances going through small breaks in the reef.

It is for this reason that Humåtak became such a desirable place for the Governor, who controlled the importation of goods. Ships could more easily anchor in Humåtak Bay without a reef to deal with. Later, Apra Harbor became the port of choice. From Sumay, the town which developed at Apra, it was a short ride to Hågat.

2. Lack of Good Drinking Water

Although a small river ran through Hagåtña, beginning at its source in the ciénega or swamp to the east of the city, people did not drink from it. The water was cloudy and brackish so they used it for washing and bathing instead.

For drinking water, people in Hagåtña dug wells on their property. But the soil is chalky, and the water, though drinkable, was not pleasant enough for the Europeans and perhaps even some Chamorros. Those who would not drink the water from the Hagåtña wells would have water from the Asan River hauled over to the city. This took time and, for some, money.


1. Port at Apra

As mentioned, some thought that by moving the capital to Hågat, it wouldn't be that much of a distance from Hågat to the port at Apra where ships were anchoring. The road between Hågat and Sumay was easily traveled by carriage.

2. Abundant, Good Water

The mountains behind Hågat produced good streams and rivers which could easily provide a new capital city with drinking water.

Although not stated, as far as I know, in Spanish reports, I believe another factor that made Hågat more desirable than Hagåtña was its spacious landscape compared to HagåtñaHagåtña was hemmed in by the reefed shoreline in front and by the sheer cliffs that rise behind the capital city, where Agana Heights is now located.  The disatnce beteen the cliffs and the beach in Hagåtña sometimes leaves the tightest of spaces to build.

Hågat, on the other hand, had a broader space, from the beach slowly rising into the highlands behind it. This would allow for the expansion of houses. Hagåtña, in contrast, was growing ever more crowded due to space limitations.


hemmed in by both reef (north) and cliffs (south)


more spacious and well-watered

If Governors Francisco Villalobos (1831-1837) and Francisco Olive (1884-1887) had their way, Hågat would have become the capital of the Marianas.

But it was not to be.

Spanish inattention of the Marianas doomed such a large project from the beginning. A great deal of effort, and some money, would need to be spent in order to transfer the government to Hågat from Hagåtña.

Some factors also favored the retention of Hagåtña as capital of the Marianas.

First, the majority of Hagåtña's population would have stayed there, rather than move to Hågat. This majority had their interests in northern lands, where their farms, and livelihood were located. Some Hagåtña families owned land in and around Hågat, but most had their lands up north. That would have kept them tied to Hagåtña and closer to the farms they tilled so they could eat.

Secondly, the Church would more than likely have remained headquartered in Hagåtña, sanctified, as it were, by the spirit of Sanvitores, who chose Hagåtña as his center of activities and his residence. If ordered by the government to make Hågat the seat of the mission, the missionaries could be expected to put up a fight against such an order.

Hågat was not the only place proposed as a possible new site for the islands' capital. In the end, none of the suggested villages ever replaced Hagåtña.

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