Wednesday, August 23, 2017


Santa Rosa de Agat

One of the earliest Spanish military commanders in the Marianas was from Peru. His name was Damián de Esplana. He was on Guam by 1674 and took up military leadership that same year, and later became actual Governor of the Marianas from 1683 to 1686 and once again from 1689 to 1694.

Esplana, being a Peruvian Spaniard, was naturally very proud of his saintly compatriot, Rosa de Lima. She was the first saint born in the Americas, the New World. A Dominican tertiary, Rosa de Lima lived a life of extraordinary prayer and penance, and her fame spread throughout the New World as well as Europe. She was canonized a saint in 1671, just three years before Esplana came to the Marianas.

The devotion Esplana had for Santa Rosa was noted by the missionaries in their records. A girls school in Hagåtña, founded in 1674, was named in honor of Santa Rosa. More than likely the same year, a church in Tepungan (in Piti) was built and named Santa Rosa to honor Esplana's devotion to her. It was the first church in the Marianas named for Santa Rosa. For some unknown reason, the patroness of Tepungan (Piti) was later changed to Our Lady of the Assumption.

In 1680, a church in Hågat was built and also named Santa Rosa. Years later, we see evidence that the patroness of the Agat church was Our Lady of Mount Carmel, but the Spanish had this custom of often having multiple patron saints. One for the village itself, and another for the parish church. We see this in the capital city of Hagåtña, where the patron of the city is San Ignacio de Loyola, and the patroness of the church is Dulce Nombre de María.

Esplana may not have had anything directly to do with the naming of Hågat's church as Santa Rosa, but he wasn't totally unconnected with it. He was an important figure in the struggling Spanish colony, and the missionaries knew about the special place Santa Rosa had in Esplana's heart.


Capt. Richard P. Leary, USN
First American Naval Governor of Guam

On August 7, 1899, the first American Naval Governor of Guam appointed by the US President, Captain Richard P. Leary, arrived at Apra Harbor. Leary was very critical of the Catholic Church on Guam. He had a low opinion of the Spanish missionaries and in short order expelled them all from the island. He also opposed the role of the Church in public life on Guam, and banned religious instruction and the hanging of crucifixes and religious pictures in the schools.

He also put his attention on banning the public observance of the church fiestas on Guam. He issued this ban just a few days before the fiesta of Santa Rosa in Hågat. Maybe he had heard talk about the upcoming fiesta; how people took off from work in order to prepare for the fiesta by erecting the åtkos (street arches) and cooking the food and organizing the entertainment (such as cockfighting, or gayera) that usually accompanied such celebrations. Well, Leary wasn't going to have any of that and issued Executive Order No. 4 stating, "Public celebrations of feast days of the patrons saints of villages, etc. will not be permitted. The church and its members may celebrate their religious feast days within the walls of the church...." Keep it inside the walls of the church, he said. No processions with the statue, no arches on the public streets. A copy of the Order was sent to the gobernadorcillo (like a mayor) of Hågat the day before the fiesta, which was celebrated on August 30th in those days.

It was a very different, then, if not dull, Santa Rosa fiesta in Hågat that year. The fiesta of 1900 went back to normal, as Leary was no longer Governor of Guam.

Needless to say, Leary was not a very popular governor on Guam, and some of his decrees were later rescinded by subsequent governors.

Leary's orders banning the public celebration of fiestas was a wake-up call to the Chamorros of Guam that a new way of life had entered. Though short-lived, the fiesta ban was only one of many changes the American administration ushered in, much of them to last to this day. For many decades, Guam Chamorros lived with the tension created between two hundred years of Catholic, Spanish colonization and the new American style. We see this tension even today.

No comments:

Post a Comment