Thursday, September 21, 2017


Here it is, 118 years after the Spanish left Saipan in 1899, and this Chamorro family still prays this nobena to the Santa Cruz (Holy Cross) in Spanish. Even the singing is in Spanish.

While it is true that Spain left Saipan politically in 1899, and left Guam politically a year earlier in 1898, the clergy in both places remained Spanish for another 40 years or so.

In Guam, the last Spanish priest left in September of 1941, just three months before the war, and the bishop remained Spanish until 1945.

In Saipan, the last Spanish priest left in 1947. In addition to Spanish priests, Saipan had Spanish sisters, the Mercedarians, since 1928. These sisters had influence over the women of Saipan, and women generally have more of a role to play in keeping religious customs alive in the home. The people leading this Spanish nobena in this video in Saipan today are the women.

Spanish was used as an official language of government on Guam even in the early days of the American administration. It was in 1905 that Governor Dyer ordered the switch entirely to English. But, even in to the 1920s, performances staged by Chamorros included Spanish songs and dances. Chamorros clung to Spanish in prayers and hymns for many years after and, although in smaller numbers now, up to this day.

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