Tuesday, March 30, 2021



Guam has been ruled mainly by two foreign powers, Spain and the United States. Both nations have used Guam as a place of exile. Just as the French had Devil's Island and the Russians had Siberia, there was also Guam.

Guam's remoteness was an asset to Spain and the US when they wanted to make trouble makers "disappear." Send them to Guam! And, in the case of Spain, send them to the Marianas!

Spanish political agitators, and Filipino criminals and revolutionaries were sent here by Spain, and the US also used Guam to house Filipino rebels such as Mabini and many more.

But, in 1919, an American senator came up with another reason to use Guam as a place of exile. Guam, he said, should be an island prison for radical American Communists wanting to overthrow the government.


In 1917, the Bolshevik faction of Russian Communists took over the Russian government through force of arms. The Soviet Union was born. It was the first nation to be ruled by Communists.

In 1919, an American Communist party was founded and still exists today. Many Americans feared them, and the loss of democratic and religious freedom.

Although the Bill of Rights protected Americans and their right to hold  whatever political ideas they wanted, it was against the law to aim for the violent overthrow of the government and this is where the anti-Communists searched for targets.

But, besides putting these Communists in jail, exile was also an option. Exile got trouble makers out of the way, so they could make less trouble.

Senator Duncan Fletcher, a Democrat from Florida, introduced a bill in the US Senate to make Guam a place of exile for American Communist radicals.

Guam was far away and the entire island was ruled by a Naval commander. The island was tropical, with no concern for winter heating, and mother nature gave up her gifts of fish and fruits without effort. After a month of good behavior, a Communist prisoner may even be allowed to roam the island freely, and still cause no harm to the United States.

Some went so far as to say that, since the Communists believed they could create a perfect human society, they could first do it on Guam and, if they succeeded, then maybe others would believe them, as well.


None of the proponents of this idea seemed to have cared at all that they didn't ask an important group of people what they thought of the idea; the people of Guam who had lived here for thousands of years.

When they even mentioned the existence of Chamorros (or Guamese, Guamians or Guamites), they said "Too bad." Someone has to pay the price for isolating the reds, let Guam be the sacrificial goat. "I have more interest in the people of the United States," said one American Senator, "than in the people of Guam."

Some would argue that sentiment is still rife in Washington, DC. For that politician just quoted, the United States was one thing, and Guam was something else.

But others, to be fair, asked, "Why pick on Guam? And the Chamorros?" The Chamorros of Guam were too nice, they said, to be troubled, corrupted or harassed by such unseemly people as Communists.

Fletcher's bill went nowhere and the Chamorros of Guam needn't be bothered by red Americans. They had enough to deal with with red, white and blue Americans.

Florida Senator Duncan O. Fletcher

(traducida por Manuel Rodríguez)


Guam ha sido gobernado principalmente por dos potencias, España y Estados Unidos. Ambas naciones han utilizado a Guam como lugar de exilio. Así como los franceses tenían la Isla del Diablo y los rusos tenían Siberia, España y EE.UU. tenían a Guam.

La lejanía de Guam fue una ventaja para España y Estados Unidos cuando querían hacer que los alborotadores "desaparecieran". ¡Enviadlos a Guam! gritaban los americanos. Y, en el caso de España, ¡A las Marianas con ellos!

Los agitadores políticos españoles y los criminales y revolucionarios filipinos fueron enviados aquí por España. Y Estados Unidos también usó Guam para albergar a rebeldes filipinos como Mabini y muchos más.

Pero, en 1919, a un senador estadounidense se le ocurrió otra idea para usar Guam como lugar de exilio. Guam, dijo, debería ser una prisión para los comunistas estadounidenses radicales que deseaban derrocar al gobierno democrático.

En 1917, la facción bolchevique de comunistas rusos se hizo cargo del gobierno ruso por la fuerza de las armas. Nació la Unión Soviética. Fue la primera nación gobernada por comunistas.

En 1919, se fundó un partido comunista estadounidense y todavía existe hoy. Muchos estadounidenses les temían a ellos y a la pérdida de libertad democrática y religiosa.

Aunque la Declaración de Derechos protegía a los estadounidenses y su derecho a sostener cualquier idea política, era contra la ley apuntar al derrocamiento violento del gobierno y aquí es donde los anticomunistas buscaban soluciones.

Pero, además de encarcelar a estos comunistas, el exilio también era una opción. El exilio eliminaba a los alborotadores para que no causaran problemas.

El senador Duncan Fletcher, en la foto, un demócrata de Florida, presentó un proyecto de ley en el Senado de los Estados Unidos para hacer de Guam un lugar de exilio para los radicales comunistas estadounidenses.

Guam estaba lejos y toda la isla estaba gobernada por un comandante naval. La isla era tropical, no había que preocuparse por cómo calentarse en invierno, y la madre naturaleza proporcionaba pescado y frutas en abundancia sin tener que esforzarse. Después de un mes de buen comportamiento, a un prisionero comunista se le podía permitir vagar libremente por la isla sin causar daño a los Estados Unidos.

Algunos llegaron a decir que, dado que los comunistas creían que podían crear una sociedad humana perfecta, primero podían hacerlo en Guam y, si tenían éxito, quizás otros también les seguirían.

A ninguno de los proponentes de esta idea parecía importarle en absoluto que pensaba la gente de Guam que había vivido aquí durante miles de años.

Cuando incluso mencionaron la existencia de chamorros o guameños, dijeron "Lástima". Alguien tiene que pagar el precio por aislar a los rojos, habrá que sacrificar a Guam. "Tengo más interés en la gente de los Estados Unidos", dijo un senador estadounidense, "que en la gente de Guam".

Algunos dirían que ese sentimiento todavía abunda en Washington, DC. Para ese político que acabo de citar, Estados Unidos era una cosa y Guam era otra.

Pero otros, para ser justos, preguntaron: "¿Por qué meterse con Guam? ¿Y los chamorros?" Los chamorros de Guam eran demasiado amables, decían, para ser molestados, corrompidos o acosados por personas tan indecorosas como los comunistas.

Afortunadamente, el proyecto de ley de Fletcher nunca fue aprobado.

Monday, March 15, 2021



Here is a slice of old village life that mental health professionals and others may reprove, but it happened and may even happen today.

I recently heard for the first time about what someone called the "Lonesome Stranger" of Talofofo.

That's all the writer said, so I had to do some digging. I went straight to the source; lifelong Talofofo residents.

There was once a man living in Talofofo who kept to himself. He was described as a hermit. Everyone in the village knew to leave him alone because that's what he wanted, and the man himself heightened the chance of remaining alone by living by himself most of his life, and by venturing out only in the early morning hours or after sunset. As daily Mass in the 1950s and 60s was as early as 5AM, people going to daily Mass would sometimes see him walking about. Naturally he preferred walking around at night when the sun was down.

He had family, a large one, in fact, but they respected his desire to be on his own. For a while he lived in a separate structure in the back of a brother's house. Later he lived on his own; in a cave or at Ipan along the shore. Family members always kept an eye on him, bringing him food, clothing and supplies. He could have always worn the new clothes the family gave him, but he preferred the tattered clothes he had already until he had to switch to the new ones. When he passed away, the family took care of his funeral.

But for many years, especially for Talofofo kids in the 1950s and 60s, the "Lonesome Stranger" was something of a mythical figure. Parents told their children not to be out of the house at night because the man might snatch them, which of course never happened. The "Lonesome Stranger" never scared anyone; kids were just scared of him. His ragged clothes and peculiarities just looked frightful to them.

There is talk that the man lost his mind during the war when bullets were fired right over his head, whizzing by within inches of killing him. After that experience, he was never the same, so it is said.

Stories grow less and less accurate as they spread. That's because the next story teller adds his own inventions to make the story more interesting. People outside of Talofofo called him the "Lonesome Stranger." But the truth was he was no stranger at all; his large clan lived in Talofofo. Stories circulated that the "Lonesome Stranger" appeared on the road so suddenly that drivers were thrown off by the fright.  Saying that makes the story is more interesting than just a man walking the village streets minding his own business.

One man, not from Talofofo, claimed he was driving around in the early hours of the morning in the 1970s when he came upon the stop at the top of the hill overlooking Talofofo Bay. On his approach, he saw no one, but after he continued driving he looked in his rear view mirror and saw a man sitting on the guard rail. He turned back to check, and there was no one. But when he drove off again, there the man was again in his rear view mirror. He said it could have been the "Lonesome Stranger" who legend says died in that spot. But the real "Lonesome Stranger" was alive and well, and didn't pass away for another forty years.


The "Lonesome Stranger" was harmless, but parents used his idiosyncrasies to scare the children into good behavior.

He would go around the village with a sack, collecting bottles and cans. Your trash might go missing, too, as he would go through your garbage can waiting by the road side for pick up and bring them back to his hide-away to sort them. 

Kids might have called him names or thrown rocks at him, but villagers tell me this wouldn't have been often and if adults had been around the kids would have been scolded. Generally, he was left alone. If he saw someone coming his way, he'd make a detour if possible. If you passed him, he wouldn't look at you.

Several villages in the 1950s, 60s and 70s had their own version of the "Lonesome Stranger." In all cases, they did no harm and no harm was done to them, except for the occasional tease from children (as children can be till taught better). Children at first have that kind of reaction to the odd or different. The older the children got, they lost their fear of these special people and saw them as fellow human beings who just had their own way, and then blended into the scene.

Rest in peace, "Lonesome Stranger."

Monday, March 8, 2021




If you plant nappa',
nappa' will sprout.

The other day I was sharing with an older man how this young man in his twenties is still a child in thinking and behavior. His whole day is spent on computer games, and his evenings are spent playing music and drinking with friends. No thought is given to furthering his education or finding a job to develop skills, earn a living and contribute to society.

But, his father is the same way. If it weren't for the fact that the father is very talented in one thing that brings in money without much effort on his part, since he's so good in it, the family would be penniless.

The older man replied to me with the above proverb. If you plant nappa', you get nappa'. Nappa' will grow.

The son was "planted" by the father (and mother). As the father, so the son. The Bible says, "You reap what you sow." The apple doesn't fall far the tree, and many other sayings like that from all over the world, in their own manner of speaking.


Nappa' is the Chinese cabbage.

But the word nappa' is borrowed from Japanese nappa, which refers to the leaves of vegetables in general, especially those used for food.

The fact that Chamorros use a Japanese word for it, when Japanese influence in the Marianas did not start till around 1900, suggests that the cabbage is not old in the Marianas. Safford (1905) states that cabbage didn't grow on Guam, but does say that Japanese merchants were bringing in plant seeds from Japan by the time he was on Guam (1899-1900). So, more than likely, nappa' began to be grown in the Marianas thanks to Japanese infuence in the 1900s and so even the name is taken from Japanese.

So, at least from the early 1900s, nappa' has been grown in the Marianas and the saying came about. If you plant nappa', nappa' will sprout. Train a child a certain way, he or she will grow up that way.

Monday, March 1, 2021



Early 1800s Guam

As someone once told me, "Almost anything can be made booze, if it has sugar."

So our ancestors learned the art of making åguayente (from Spanish aguardiente or "burning water"), also known as agi.

Corn, tuba, sugar cane, among other things, could all be used to make it. 

But alcohol can be dangerous, especially since not all alcohol are created the same. Methanol is a bad one, when it comes to human consumption. It can kill you.

People didn't have the ability in those days to use laboratory methods to analyze moonshine. People only guessed from actually drinking it what proof it had. If it was too strong, or if methanol was produced sometimes by natural microbes that got in, the agi could be deadly.

And so one elderly man told me that his grandfather died that way. His grandfather was a great agi drinker and maker. He made it clandestinely before the war and a little after the war. But one time, his last time, he made it too strong. Perhaps he was used to it being that strong after all those years. But he died some hours after drinking.

"Sinengge i san halom-ña," the grandson told me. "His insides were burned up."

There were no autopsies performed in the late 1940s when the grandfather died so there's no telling what he truly died from. But he had the telltale signs of methanol poisoning. Beginning with headache, dizziness, confusion, abdominal pain  and leading to, hours later, loss of movement and vision and finally death.

Methanol poisoning from homemade liquor happens frequently all over Asia.

And yet.....

According to the same older man whose grandfather died, probably of agi toxicity, when gasoline became hard to find in the final days of the Japanese Occupation, the Japanese sometimes used local åguayente, if it were higher in alcohol content, to fuel their trucks, if you care to believe him.

One man's poison was another man's propellant.

(traducida por Manuel Rodríguez)


Como alguien me dijo una vez, "Casi de cualquier cosa se puede hacer alcohol, si tiene azúcar".

Así que nuestros antepasados aprendieron el arte de hacer åguayente (del español “aguardiente” o “agua ardiente”), también conocido como agi.

El maíz, la tuba de coco, la caña de azúcar, entre otros productos, podían usarse para elaborarla.

Pero el alcohol puede ser peligroso, especialmente porque no todos los alcoholes son iguales. El metanol es malo en lo que respecta al consumo humano. Puede matarte.

En los tiempos de antes, la gente no tenía la capacidad de utilizar métodos de laboratorio para analizar el destilado. Solo lo reconocían probándolo. Si era demasiado fuerte, o si el metanol era producido por microbios naturales, el agi podía ser mortal.

Así es que, un anciano me contó que su abuelo había muerto en esas circunstancias. Su abuelo era un gran bebedor y productor de agi. La hacía clandestinamente antes de la guerra y también un tiempo después. Pero la última vez, la hizo demasiado fuerte. Quizás estaba acostumbrado a que fuera tan fuerte después de todos esos años. Pero murió unas horas después de beber.

"Sinengge i san halom-ña", me dijo el nieto. "Sus entrañas estaban quemadas".

No se realizaban autopsias a fines de la década de 1940 cuando murió el abuelo, por lo que no se sabe de qué murió exactamente. Pero tenía los signos reveladores de intoxicación por metanol. Comenzando con dolor de cabeza, mareos, confusión, dolor abdominal y llevándolo, horas más tarde, a la pérdida de movimiento y visión y finalmente a la muerte.

La intoxicación por metanol de licor casero ocurre con frecuencia en toda Asia.

Según el mismo anciano cuyo abuelo murió probablemente por toxicidad del agi, cuando la gasolina era escasa durante la ocupación japonesa de Guam, siempre que tuviese un alto contenido en alcohol, se usaba åguayente local para repostar los camiones.

El veneno de un hombre era el propulsor de otro.