Wednesday, August 7, 2019


Prior to 1944, there was no place on Guam called "Agaña Heights."

The area which we now call Agaña Heights was not considered one place before the war. The area was included in Sinajaña municipality and was known by the specific names of the separate smaller areas such as Tutuhan, Taigigao, Pa'åsan, Apugan and a few others. Even today, some people refer to these specific areas by these traditional names.

Here is a map of the area in the 1940 US Census :


As you can see, there is an Agaña, a Sinajaña and an Asan but no Agaña Heights. The area now known as Agaña Heights was then a part of Sinajaña municipality.

A village breakdown of the 1940 Census shows that Tutujan and Apugan (now parts of Agaña Heights) were barrios of Sinajaña in 1940 :



Immediately after the return of US forces to Guam in July of 1944 we see the first references to an area called Agaña Heights. It started with the US military.

It started with the US military because the area above the capital city had strategic military value. This was recognized even in Spanish times, which is why the Spaniards built a fort in Apugan, now a part of Agaña Heights, which still remains to this day.

From the heights above Agaña, one could enjoy a military advantage over the city below.

And so, the US military started referring to "Agaña Heights" as they fought the Japanese coming from the south entering into Hagåtña. Here is an example. A war reporter writes as early as August, 1944 about a machine gun placed at "Agaña Heights."


But, just to be clear, the writer wasn't referring to an established, political entity called Agaña Heights. In other news articles at the very same time, reporters sometimes do not capitalize "heights," meaning they literally are saying "the heights above Agaña," rather than saying there is a specific municipality called Agaña Heights. Other reporters call it "Agaña height," in the singular. Again, "Agaña Heights" was not a village name in 1944. But the name did get its start right at the time of the American return to Guam.


And so, from the last half of 1944 until around 1950, people called the same area by two names; the traditional name Tutujan and the newly-coined "Agaña Heights."

The area received a lot more attention after the war than before. The military had a lot to do with that.
The US Navy used the Tutujan area a lot right after the war, and sometimes referred to the area as "Agaña Heights." The US used the area for the stockade of Japanese prisoners and even for Saipan Chamorros, Guam Japanese civilians and Japanese-Chamorros. Then, the US built Naval Hospital in the area.

So, here's an October 1944 report on military construction on Guam, mentioning a building project in "Agaña Heights."


And yet, people didn't abandon the name Tutujan just yet, as seen in this court testimony given by Adolfo C. Sgambelluri, a civilian police officer, in 1945 :


And, as you can see, Tutujan was still considered a part of Sinajaña in 1945.

This map of Guam was printed just a year or so after the end of World War II. In it, Tutujan is still the name of the area we now call Agaña Heights.



But change was on the way and very quickly. By 1950, "Agaña Heights" was the preferred, and eventually official, way of designating that area of the island.

And so, in this 1950 Guam Census map, the area once named Tutujan in earlier maps is now called Agaña Heights, still considered a part of Sinajaña in 1950.


One very nice example of how the name Tutujan phased out and was replaced by "Agaña Heights" is seen in the Catholic directory of Guam parishes. The switch to "Agaña Heights" occurred in 1948, just four years after the American return to Guam. The 1949 Catholic Directory, reflecting information for the calendar year 1948, no longer lists a parish located in Tutujan, but rather in Agaña Heights. Here's an example from the 1952 Catholic Directory.




We were under Spain for 230 years so we inherited many spellings of our Chamorro names, both of places and of people, from Spain. In Spanish, J is pronounced like Chamorro or English H.

Juan and Jose, for example.

And so we get Chamorro names like Sinajaña and Inarajan spelled with a J. Or last names like Fejeran and Terlaje where the H sound is spelled with a J.

So while the move lately has been to stick with the H instead of the J (Tutuhan instead of Tutujan), older documents will still use the J and I don't think we're going to see many Taijerons and Tajalles switch to the H just yet.


In recent years there has been some attempt to bring back the name Tutuhan from the past.

The grassy triangle at the eastern entrance of the village, popularly called "Triangle Park" was christened "Tutuhan Park" by the mayor some years ago.

The village marker in that area says Tutuhan. It doesn't say "Agaña Heights."

But efforts to do more, as in officially changing the name of the municipality to Tutuhan, have met strong resistance by some of the residents of Agaña Heights themselves.

Apart from stating that people are so used to calling the village Agaña Heights for over 70 years already, opponents to the reversion to Tutuhan say that Tutuhan is not an accurate name for the village since Tutuhan is only one part of the municipality. Specifically, Tutuhan is the name of the area around the parish church and the center of the village. But many of the village residents actually live in Pa'åsan, or Taigigao or Apugan and other areas within the municipal borders. Is it fair, they ask, to name the entire village by just one of the many areas making up the municipality?

But, some others point out, that shouldn't be a problem because that's the situation with a number of other villages. Barrigada, for example, includes Cañada, As Penggao, Leyang, Ungåguan, Lålo' and many other areas, but no one living in those areas minds if the entire village is called Barrigada.

One Agaña Heights resident told me that there is, perhaps, another, more important reason for keeping the name "Agaña Heights." "In the alphabetical list of villages," he told me, "Agaña Heights appears at the very top of the list. The letter T, as in Tutuhan, comes towards the bottom of the list, as in Talofofo or Tamuning."

Ai ke!

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