Saturday, January 16, 2016


Naturally there is no snow in the Marianas, just as coconut trees do not grow in Alaska.

But there have been many women named Nieves among the people of the Marianas.

"Nieves" means "snows" in Spanish. Why would Chamorro mothers name their daughters "snows?"

Because of Catholic tradition.

In Rome is a basilica which was the first church in Western Europe named after the Blessed Virgin Mary.

It is called Saint Mary Major, "major" meaning "greater," as there are many churches named after Mary in Rome, but none as grand in size as Saint Mary Major.

How this church was built explains why it is also known as Our Lady of the Snows.

In ancient Rome, a Christian couple could not have children and were thinking what to do with their wealth once they died. As they were devoted to Our Lady, they vowed to use their wealth to do something in Our Lady's honor but didn't know exactly what to do. They asked Mary for a sign.

On August 5th, snow fell on the spot where the basilica now stands. Not only is it unheard of for snow to fall anywhere in Europe in August, even in winter it doesn't snow much in Rome at all. So everyone took this as Mary's sign to build a church in that spot. And so many people called the church Our Lady of the Snows and August 5th its feast day on the church calendar.

In Spain, "snows" is "nieves." So the custom began of naming some baby girls Nieves, especially those born on August 5th.

Nieves C. Aguon
3rd name from top
1920 Guam Census

Though typically a woman's name, the Spaniards were not hesitant to name their boys, once in a while, Nieves.

Case in point, our very own Hagåtña library is named after the Filipino Nieves M. Flores, a Guam educator before the war.

The Chamorro nickname for Nieves is Ebi' or Ebe'.

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