Monday, June 8, 2015


Hernán Cortés Street in Hagåtña

Guam's "Main Street" or "Broadway" in the 1920s and 30s was the street pictured above. On this street were many of the capital city's main business and the homes of many prominent citizens.

To the left of the photo is the Gaiety Theater and further down is Butler's store and ice cream parlor. Atkins Kroll, one of the biggest companies on Guam, had its main office on this street. Prestigious families like Pedro Martínez and William Johnston lived across these landmarks on the other side of the street.

The street was called Hernán Cortés.

An old document from the Spanish court here on Guam shows the original spelling : Hernán Cortés

It was named after the famous, or infamous, depending on your viewpoint, Conquistador of Mexico, Hernán Cortés.

As the first of many conquistadors who won a whole nation over for Spain, it wasn't surprising that his name was found on many streets all over the Spanish Empire, including Hagåtña.

But the American rendering of his last name - Cortés - soon replaced the Spanish original.

Cortés became Cortez.

You can see here that Mrs. Dejima, a Japanese merchant on Guam, had one of her shops, store number 3, located on Hernan Cortez Street.

And here, in a prewar map of Hagåtña, we see the street is spelled Hernan Cortez (encircled above).


But after World War II, society on Guam became even more estranged from its Hispanic heritage. Familiarity with history and the Spanish language weakened considerably.

In time, not only was Cortés changed to Cortez, even Hernán was changed to Herman!

Luckily, the few buildings in modern Hagátña who identify the street have it right as far as Hernán is concerned.


Well, if you start by the San Antonio Bridge (Sirena Park) on the street closer to the cliff (not the sea), that's Hernán Cortez Street.

Following the street south, you will head towards Julale.

Approaching Eddie Terlaje's building on left.

Passing Julale (on left), Hernán Cortez takes you out to Kentucky Fried Chicken, where it joins Marine Corps Drive.

If you made a u-turn and went back in the opposite direction, Hernán Cortez Street will take you back to the San Antonio Bride (Sirena) and the US Immigration office in the tall office building on the right, across from Mermaid Tavern.

One thing's for sure. Hernán Cortez Street is no longer the heartbeat of the capital city as it once was, just as the city itself is not the lively nerve center for the island as it once was.

1 comment:

  1. I was always puzzled by that street name. I didn't think he came here. Good to know