Thursday, January 8, 2015


In Spanish times, Chamorros were not used to writing their names. They had little need to. They were farmers and fishermen and paper work was few and far between.

In fact, many Chamorros couldn't write their names. Those who couldn't would mark an X or a + where their name would be written by a clerk on a document.

The first American Naval Governor of Guam, Richard Leary, didn't like this. So, he issued General Order No. 13, dated January 23, 1900, instructing all adults on the island to learn to sign their names by July 1st of that year.

This list above of signatures by island residents was drawn up in the 1920s. Some of them may have been young adults born during the American administration, but some more than likely were older and born under the Spanish flag.

In those days, people were less concerned about uniformity. Take Pangelinan, for example. The first Pangelinan spells it clearly with an E, the second Pangelinan could be spelling it with an I. It's not so clear which.

Garrido is a Spanish surname and is spelled with two R's, but Manuel is happy with just one R. It wouldn't have bothered anyone at the time. If a clerk preferred two R's, he'd have listed Manuel as Garrido and not Garido, and Manuel wouldn't have cared either.

Joaquin Rivera had some trouble writing. He spells it Joaqien, and adds a second R at the end. We know his last name today as Rivera, which is how Spaniards spell it. But, V and B sound the same in Chamorro (and Spanish) so many spelled it with a B in those days.

Spanish influence is very clear here, even 21 years after the Spaniards left. It is seen in the style and form of the letters, and in the name Atoigue. The last Atoigue, Vicente, adds two dots above his U. Atoigüe. This is because, in Spanish, GUE or GUI will not make the GWE or GWI sound unless there are two dots above the U. Without those two dots, GUE sounds like GE, like Guerrero; and GUI sounds like GI as in Aguigui.

You will also notice a family name we don't hear about today. Julian Cabo. In the 1897 Census, there is a Cabo family on Guam. The father, Leoncio, is probably Filipino or some other non-native. But he married a Chamorro, Manuela Guerrero Dueñas. They had a good number of children - five, including Julian. Four of those five were boys, so it's interesting that there are no more Cabos on island, at least descendants of Leoncio.

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