Wednesday, November 17, 2021




In 1919, the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution outlawed the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors. It came into effect in 1920 and was known as Prohibition.

It was not a success.

Make something illegal and its popularity doubles.

People made liquor themselves (moonshine), sold it illegally (bootleg) or smuggled it in from Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. The Mafia's power and income were propelled thanks to Prohibition, as they made millions of dollars in the illegal sale of liquor.

During Prohibition, booze didn't disappear. It went into hiding. And many people found it.


Yes and no.

When Guam came under US power in 1898 through the Treaty of Paris signed between Spain and the US, the US Congress was supposed to determine the civil rights and political status of the people of Guam and the other territories taken from Spain. 

The US Congress did so right away for the Philippines, passing Organic Acts in 1902 and 1916. Guam didn't get an Organic Act till 1950.

In the Philippines Organic Act of 1916 (also known as the Jones Act), it was determined that American laws did not apply to the Philippines unless the American law specifically mentioned the Philippines. The law putting the 18th Amendment (Prohibition) into effect was called the Volstead Act, and the Volstead Act failed to mention the Philippines. So, while you could not buy a glass of Scotch legally in the US, the booze freely flowed in the Philippines.

American newspapers commented that Prohibition would have been fiercely opposed by most Filipinos. 

On Guam, the Naval Governor was king. It was debatable whether the Volstead Act (never mentioning Guam) was applicable to Guam. But it didn't matter. The Naval Governor could outlaw all liquor if he wanted to. And the Naval Governor of Guam in 1920 wanted to.

Governor William W. Gilmer, Governor from 1918 to 1920, outlawed the making and consumption of tuba (coconut wine or toddy), except for use in bread and for vinegar.


So yes, Prohibition did happen on Guam for a time, but thanks to the Naval Governor's supreme and uncontested power to make such a law, whether the 18th Amendment or Volstead Act applied to Guam or not.


But, just as liquor only went into hiding in the US, liquor didn't disappear from Guam either, no matter what the Naval Governor said.

An American visitor to Guam in 1926 wrote in a newspaper that he had spent just a few hours in Piti, and a few hours in Hagåtña and still a few more hours in Sumay, and before the day was done he had heard that tuba was available, despite the law. More than tuba; åguayente or agi, which can be made from tuba and distilled into clear and stronger alcohol, was also available.

The problem enforcing Prohibition on Guam was the remoteness of the agi stills and the tuba collecting. Guam had very few automobile-worthy roads, especially in the southern and northern rural areas. Deep river valleys in the south hid many illegal agi or tuba sites. Law enforcement would need to get to these locations by animal or on foot. Policemen tried their best; they had a reason to. Out of the $5 fine bootleggers paid, $1 went to the policeman who discovered the illegal still or tuba tree. But it was hard for the police to find the hidden ones. There were only some 20 patrolmen anyway; not enough to poke around every corner.

In 1926, a gallon of tuba, or a gallon of åguayente, sold for 50 cents. All hush hush, so it was said. But how hush hush could it have been when a short-term visitor heard all about it on his first day?


Local alcohol wasn't the only illegal liquor available during Prohibition.

An American civilian worked for a trading company on Guam in the 1920s. He had never been in trouble with the law on Guam before. But he made the mistake of firing his Chamorro cook, who went to police to report on his former boss, as a form of revenge. The American, the Chamorro cook said, owned booze smuggled from overseas shipped on the Gold Star.

When the police went to the American's house to investigate, they found crates marked ginger ale, only to find a tin inside each crate and inside the tins 6 quarts of whiskey. The American was cited for making a false customs declaration and for receiving illegal and smuggled alcohol.

In 1933, Prohibition ended with the repeal of the 18th Amendment. Guam once again had saloons, bars and restaurants serving liquor. But, the whole time they were illegal, the tuba and agi never dried up.


It should be said, for completeness regarding all Chamorros and all the Marianas, that Prohibition never happened in the Northern Marianas which were under Japanese jurisdiction. Research needs to answer the question whether the Japanese imposed some restrictions on tuba and/or agi production, such as licenses (probably) or quotas. But the sake, beer and other liquors freely flowed under Japan.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021



If you walk around Hagåtña and also if you look up in the direction of Agaña Heights, you will see more than one Spanish-era structure all thanks to one man.

Governor Manuel Muro, Governor of the Marianas from 1794 till 1802.

Perhaps more than any other Spanish Governor, Muro built a lot and much of it we can still see.

He built Fort Santa Águeda, also known as Fort Apugan. He built the Spanish Bridge in Hagåtña, more properly known as the San Antonio Bridge and colloquially by our own people as the Tollai Åcho' (stone bridge).

There are walls behind the Azotea at the Palåsyo (Governor's Palace) that he built. All these have survived war and natural calamities and you can still see them.

But there is more that Manuel Muro built which you cannot see anymore, having fallen victim to both natural and manmade destruction.

Later removed by the US Navy

He built Fort Santa Cruz, which used to be in Apra Harbor. He built another fort, San Rafael, closer to the Hagåtña shore near the main Bank of Hawaii building today. And, besides these, he built even more, smaller projects, which have since disappeared.

Muro built all these things, naturally, with Chamorro muscles, obliged to work on government building projects so many days a year in place of paying taxes. The people thought Muro worked them to death.

Fort San Rafael - 1799
Fort Santa Águeda - 1800
Fort Santa Cruz - 1801

Why all these forts? And in a short period of time, 1799 to 1801, or just three years?


For many years, England and Spain were historical enemies.

Think of the Spanish Armada in 1588. Conflict between the two nations continued, and often involved British pirates harassing Spanish ships laden with Latin American and Asian wealth. Some of the British privateers even made it to Guam, such as William Dampier and Woodes Rogers.

In 1762, while England and Spain were at war, the British succeeded in conquering Manila and stayed there for two years till the war ended, then left.

Thirty-four years later, in 1796, Spain and France united against England. Napoleon Bonaparte was already a military star in France, and would soon be ruler of France and went on to conquer much of Europe, fighting the British as well. France was another historical rival of England, so Spain and France wound up on the same side against England.

So, when Manuel Muro was Governor of the Marianas, Spain wanted her Asian and Pacific territories to prepare for possible attack from the British.

In the Philippines in 1800, the Governor-General there ordered all able-bodied men to form a militia, to pick up guns and use them against the British if necessary. According to the newspapers at the time, all of the Philippines was in fear of another British invasion. Seacoast towns were emptied as the population moved inland. 

British newspapers spoke of the anxiety felt by Spanish leaders in Manila, and of the poor state of the military, militia and Spanish warships. The British were already in India, and the Spaniards in Manila believed a British attack could be launched from there. The British were not just in faraway Europe; they were already in Asia.

So Muro's busy building projects on Guam from 1799 to 1801 were all about the same thing; preparing Guam for a British attack, which, in the end, never came.

The British defeated the Spaniards and French at Trafalgar, Spain in 1805. Spain itself was occupied by France in 1808, thinking it could do a better job running the government of their ally. Spain revolted against this occupation and war between France and Spain began. Spain continued to decline, losing most of her territories in Latin America by 1821. The British didn't need to worry about Spain at all.

Yet, because of the fear of a British attack which never came, Spanish forts were built on Guam, which never saw battle.

Remain Guam Icons

So the next time you look up to Fort Santa Águeda (Apugan), you might remember that all that was built because the Spaniards on Guam in 1800 were thinking of the British.

(traducida por Manuel Rodríguez)


Si caminamos por la ciudad de Agaña y miramos hacia arriba en dirección a los Altos de Agaña, veremos más de una estructura de la época española, todo gracias a un solo hombre:

Manuel Muro, gobernador de las Islas Marianas desde 1794 hasta 1802.

Quizás más que cualquier otro gobernador español, Manuel Muro construyó mucho y todavía podemos ver bastante de todo aquello edificado.

Levantó el Fuerte Santa Águeda (abajo en la foto), también conocido como Fuerte Apugan. Construyó el Puente Español en Agaña, más propiamente conocido como el Puente de San Antonio y coloquialmente por nuestra propia gente como el Tollai Åcho' (puente de piedra).

Hay unas paredes detrás de la Azotea en el Palåsyo (Palacio del Gobernador) que él construyó. Todas estas obras han sobrevivido a guerras y calamidades naturales y todavía se pueden ver.

Pero hay más de lo que construyó Manuel Muro que ya no se puede apreciar, habiendo sido víctima de la destrucción tanto natural como provocada por el hombre.

Construyó el Fuerte Santa Cruz, que se encontraba en el Puerto de Apra. Construyó otro fuerte, el San Rafael, más cerca de la costa de Agaña, cerca del edificio principal del Bank of Hawaii, en la actualidad. Y además de éstos, construyó otros proyectos más pequeños, que desde entonces han ido desapareciendo.

Manuel Muro construyó todas estas cosas, naturalmente, con mano de obra chamorra, obligados a trabajar en proyectos de construcción del gobierno un número determinado de días al año, en lugar de pagar impuestos. La gente pensaba que Manuel Muro los hacía trabajar hasta la extenuación.

Fuerte San Rafael - 1799

Fuerte de Santa Águeda - 1800

Fuerte Santa Cruz - 1801

¿Por qué fueron construidos todos estos fuertes? ¿Y en un corto período de tiempo, de 1799 a 1801, es decir, solo tres años?

Durante siglos, Inglaterra y España fueron enemigos.

Pensemos en la Armada Española en 1588. El conflicto entre las dos naciones continuó, y a menudo involucró a piratas británicos que acosaban a los barcos españoles cargados con riquezas de Hispano-América y Asia. Algunos de los corsarios británicos incluso llegaron a Guam, como William Dampier y Woodes Rogers.

En 1762, mientras Inglaterra y España estaban en guerra, los británicos lograron conquistar Manila y permanecieron allí durante dos años hasta que terminó el conflicto, luego fueron expulsados.

Treinta y cuatro años después, en 1796, España y Francia se unieron contra Inglaterra. Napoleón Bonaparte ya era una estrella militar en Francia, y pronto sería gobernante de ese país pasando a conquistar gran parte de Europa y luchando también contra los británicos. Francia fue otro rival histórico de Inglaterra, por lo que España y Francia terminaron del mismo lado contra los ingleses.

Entonces, cuando Manuel Muro era gobernador de las Islas Marianas, España quería que sus territorios de Asia y el Pacífico se prepararan para un posible ataque de los británicos.

En las Filipinas, en 1800, el gobernador general ordenó a todos los hombres aptos que formaran una milicia, que recogieran armas y las usaran contra los británicos si era necesario. Según los periódicos de la época, todo Filipinas temía otra invasión británica. Las ciudades costeras se vaciaron a medida que la población se trasladaba tierra adentro.

Los periódicos británicos hablaron de la ansiedad que sentían los líderes españoles en Manila y del mal estado de los militares, milicias y buques de guerra españoles. Los británicos ya estaban en la India, y los españoles en Manila creían que se podía lanzar un ataque británico desde allí. Los británicos no solo estaban en la lejana Europa, ya estaban en Asia.

De modo que los ajetreados proyectos de construcción de Manuel Muro en Guam desde 1799 hasta 1801 eran casi sobre lo mismo; preparar a Guam para un ataque británico que al final, nunca llegó.

Los británicos derrotaron a los franceses y españoles en Trafalgar en 1805. La propia España fue ocupada por Francia en 1808, pensando que podría hacer un mejor trabajo dirigiendo el gobierno de su aliado. España se rebeló contra esta ocupación y comenzó la guerra entre Francia y España. España siguió decayendo, perdiendo la mayor parte de sus territorios en Hispano-América en 1821. Los británicos no tenían que preocuparse por España en absoluto.

Sin embargo, debido al temor de un ataque británico que nunca llegó, se construyeron fuertes españoles en Guam, que nunca presenciaron batalla.

Así que, la próxima vez que miremos hacia el Fuerte Santa Águeda (Apugan), quizás recordemos que todo eso fue construido en Guam porque los españoles en 1800 estaban pensando en los británicos.