Tuesday, August 21, 2018


February is usually not the main season for catching atulai (mackerel). July to October are the busier atulai months.

But, in February of 1902, Don Venancio Sablan Roberto was doing a brisk business selling them out of his house in Hagåtña. Roberto was a leading citizen of Guam and most likely had hired fishermen to catch fish for him to sell.

Another well-connected Guam citizen, Don Antonio Martínez Torres, sent one of his muchachos, or domestic boys, to pick up his order of atulai from Roberto. His name was Antonio Martínez Santos, a boy of just 12 years. As he waited at Roberto's, he saw another lad, Joaquín Iriarte Celis. According to Santos, Celis started a fight, which ended with Celis giving Santos a bloody nose.

Since Roberto was attracting customers to buy his atulai, there was no lack of witnesses; others who were there to buy fish. Joaquín Pablo Reyes, Rosa Matanane Taitano and Juana Baza Benavente (Juana'n Emmo') all testified that either they saw Santos with a bloody nose, or that Celis punched Santos.

Celis had a somewhat different story to tell. He said he was at Roberto's waiting to buy his boss some fish, when Santos called out to him, "Hoi! Kaduko!" ("Hey! Crazy!") Celis said he ignored Santos. But when Santos then said, "Karåho! Demonio!" ("Damn it! Demon!"), Celis punched Santos.

The court took into consideration that Celis was believed to be only 13 years old. The court ordered a very curious thing. They wanted two school teachers to interview Celis and determine for the court if Celis had acquired "discernment," meaning the ability to distinguish right from wrong, and to make rational decisions.

Two leading teachers, Luís Díaz de Torres and Manuel Rosario Sablan, rendered the following judgment : in the Marianas, the ability to discern is not reached till between fourteen and sixteen years of age.

When Celis' true age of 12 years was verified by his baptismal record, Celis was let off the hook.

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