Tuesday, February 17, 2015


Although the heyday of the whaling era was already over, some foreign merchants thought there was still money to be made on Guam supplying the whaling ships and whoever else might sail by.

A merchant with roots in Peru named Serapio San Juan opened such a business on Guam. The landing is described as Apra Harbor, but the actual store could have been in Sumay, or perhaps Hagåtña. My guess would be Sumay, though, as it was right on the harbor.

It's quite an impressive list of items for sale, one that the European colony on Guam and perhaps some affluent Chamorros would have welcomed, except that the Spanish Governors usually wanted control over all commerce in the islands. I wouldn't be surprised if there was some quiet "arrangement" between San Juan and the Governor at the time, Pablo Pérez, who was a controversial figure.

Apparently, San Juan reached out to two people with money from opposite sides of the Pacific, probably to invest in his business and keep it alive with capital.

Martín Varanda was a Spanish businessman in the Philippines, and Francisco Rodríguez Vida was the Chilean Consul in Hawaii.

The business floundered and didn't last very long at all, perhaps just a year. San Juan's name shows up in press accounts and documents in Peru years later, after his failed Guam venture.

The ads above were placed in a Honolulu newspaper. Because of the whaling ships, a mercantile connection linked Guam and Hawaii for much of the 1800s. Because of that, a small colony of Chamorros ended up in Hawaii long before both of us became part of the U.S.

*** Even years after Sanvitores changed the name of these islands to the Marianas, non-Spanish sources often still called them the Ladrones in the style of the older maps and books. This was often abbreviated as L.I. (Ladrone Islands)

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