Thursday, June 1, 2017


In the village of Santa Rita lies a street named after the late Blas dela Cruz.

Most people are surprised that a man's first name is Blas, since Blas is a well-known family surname in the Marianas. But what is known in the Marianas as a last name is actually a first name. "Blas" is the Spanish version of the name Blaise. There was a saint by that name, and that is how his name got spread all over the Christian world. The saint was Armenian, and his Armenian name was Vlasi. Vlasi became Greek Vlasios and then Latin Blasius. After that, Latin Blasius became Spanish Blas.

Just as first names like Francisco, Pablo, Ignacio and Jesús became family, or last, names, so did Blas.

The Blas we are concerned with, for whom this street is named, was born in Hågat in 1895, the son of Antonio Hocog de la Cruz and Ana Aquiningoc.

Somehow, he enlisted in the US Navy and served during World War I, something that was not done by many Chamorro men at the time. While he was in the service, in California, he was naturalized a US citizen in 1919. Thus, Blas could claim, with only a tiny handful of other Chamorros, that he was made a US citizen long before the Organic Act made all the other Guam Chamorros US citizens in 1950.

Blas de la Cruz's headstone, along with his wife, at Agat Cemetery. It proudly states that he served in the US Navy in World War I.

Blas de la Cruz's petition for US Naturalization, showing his nationality as "Guam." 

Blas was still in the US Navy as the new decade dawned in 1920. He is missing from the Guam Census in 1920. He is also seen on a list of servicemen sailing on the USS Logan with Guam as its destination in 1921. At some point in the 1920s, Blas left the Navy and settled in Sumay, marrying a lady living in Hågat, Natividad Barcinas Reyes, around 1923 or so. Blas and Natividad had four children, two sons and two daughters. When Sumay was closed and the residents transferred by the Navy to Santa Rita, Blas and family moved with the others to the new village. Since his house was on this street, the street was named in time after him.

One thing that Blas did, when he returned to Guam in the early 1920s, was he kept the original Spanish version of his last name de la Cruz. Almost all other de la Cruzes on Guam dropped the "de la" and became known simply as Cruz.

Blas dela Cruz, and wife Natividad

On a personal note, I met Blas once or twice at Guam Memorial Hospital in the 1980s. I was visiting the sick and walked into his room and saw him in bed as a patient with his daughter Ana attending at his side.

He passed away in 1987. RIP

1 comment:

  1. What an amazing story, and pretty well-preserved photo copy.
    My husband's grandfather, Juan Unpingco Pangelinan, from Tumon, was also a sailor in the US Navy during WW1 and was naturalized a US citizen at Monterey, CA (or thereabouts).