Wednesday, January 26, 2022



In 1970, the vast majority of Guam voters were Chamorro. Many of those Chamorro voters were elderly, born when schools went as far as the fourth or fifth grade in many cases. So, quite a number of senior voters spoke little to no English in the 1970s.

Even if many voters spoke English, their primary language was still Chamorro and to speak Chamorro to many voters was more effective than to speak to them in English.

So when Juanito Peralta, a Filipino, ran for the Guam Legislature in 1970, he thought it a good idea to put some campaign ads in the newspaper in the Chamorro language. Not only did he have an uphill battle winning because he was not Chamorro, he also ran as a Republican, a new party on Guam that had not won a single seat in the Legislature yet.

Peralta had a Chamorro wife who perhaps assisted him in writing the Chamorro ad, or perhaps a Chamorro supporter penned it for him. The spelling is quite rough, so I'll put it in my own way of spelling Chamorro.

HÅFA ADAI MAN ATUNGO'-HO yan todos hamyo taotao Guam.
(Greetings to all my acquaintances and to all of you people of Guam.)

Guåho si Juanito T. Peralta, asaguan Rita Flores Guerrero, ginen Bånik yan Charot na familia.
(I am Juanito T. Peralta, the husband of Rita Flores Guerrero, from the Bånik and Charot families.)

Numero diesisais yo' gi agapa' na bånda gi baloto.
(I am number 16 on the right side of the ballot.)

Pot fabot na' saonao yo' gi bentiuno na kandidåto para en bota.
(Please include me among the twenty-one candidates you will vote for.)

Malago' yo' bai anunsia na yanggen suette ya humålom yo' gi konggreso
(I would like to say that if I am lucky and am admitted into the Legislature)

bai protehe mås i mamopble yan bai hu setbe maolek para i interes-miyo
(I will protect the poor more and serve well your interests)

yan i fina'maolek i tano'-ta.
(and the improvement of our land.)

I fuetsa gaige giya hamyo. Hamyo i ma'gas, guåho i setbiente. Ennao i hinengge-ko.
(The power is with you. You are the boss, I am the servant. That is my belief.)


Notice that uses his wife's full maiden name, including her maternal and paternal surnames and even the Chamorro nicknames for her families. This is a way to connect with all the voters who might be related or who these families well. A candidate can win by one vote, so every vote counts.

He doesn't say he is on the Republican side of the ballot. In 1970, the island was still very Democrat. The Democrats won all 21 seats in the Legislature two elections in a row before 1970. The word "Republican" would instantly turn off a number of voters and, as every vote counts, it's safer to just say "right side of the ballot."

He calls the Legislature Konggreso or "Congress." This was the way older Chamorros called the Legislature. It goes back to the pre-war Guam Congress established by some Naval Governors, which was purely advisory and lacked real power. Even when, in 1950, Guam got a Legislature with the power to pass laws, older Chamorros kept calling it the Konggreso and the members Konggresista. Even in English, members of the Legislature were called Congressmen/women till 1970. Old habits die hard.

Seen above, it's 1953, Guam has a Legislature, not a Congress, but the new Speaker is called CONGRESSMAN A.B Won Pat, not Senator A.B. Won Pat.


Peralta did not win, but neither did fourteen of his fellow Republicans.

The Democrats swept the 11th Guam Legislature in 1970 with a super majority of fifteen seats, against six Republican winners.

Thursday, January 13, 2022




I once knew a Chamorro sister who wouldn't speak Chamorro to me. She would only speak Spanish.

In 1992, I flew to Spain to research in our Capuchin archives in Pamplona, Spain where many documents are stored concerning Guam, mainly about the Church from the 1900s to 1941. 

After a week of research in Pamplona, my next visit was to Bérriz, a small town not too far away from Pamplona. If I had a car, I could have driven from Pamplona to Berriz in two hours. But I didn't have a car and took the train, instead, which meant it took me pretty much the whole day to get to Bérriz (by changing trains at least 2 or 3 times).

My goal at Bérriz was to meet some older Spanish Mercedarian Sisters who had once served on Saipan since the 1930s. But little did I know that there was a Chamorro Mercedarian Sister there as well!

SISTERS HELEN (Palau), JULIANA (Saipan), BEATRIZ (Spain) and ME (Guam)
At tomb of Mercedarian Foundress Bd Margarita Maturana, Spain, 1992

Her name was Sister Juliana Roberto de la Cruz, of the familian Bisco from Saipan. She was born in 1912, so she was 80 years old when I met her. Her parents, Vicente San Pedro de la Cruz and María Sablan Roberto, were both born on Guam but moved to Saipan where they met and married in 1904.

She was in the first group of Saipan women who joined the Mercedarian Sisters after the war. She ministered for many, many years away from Saipan so I had never seen her before. Even the Chamorro Mercedarians from Saipan who never worked on Guam I knew from meeting them in Saipan, but Sister Juliana had long left Saipan by then.

I finally met this surprise (for me) Chamorro sister all the way in Spain in the parlor. I do not remember now if my first words to her were in Chamorro or Spanish; knowing me I would have let her begin the dialogue and choose the language.

Naturally I would have wanted to explain to her who I was and what my connection to Saipan was. I distinctly remember trying to say all this in Chamorro, and she understood, because when she answered, her comments followed up on what I was saying, but she said it all in Spanish.

But when she spoke in Spanish, it was said with a very identifiable Chamorro tone and pronunciation. I kept hearing Spanish words, but the "music" was Chamorro. So I kept going back to Chamorro when it was my turn to speak. But, her complete reliance on Spanish (she didn't say a word to me in Chamorro) made its impression on me. Eventually I switched to Spanish, as well, and Spain was bereft of hearing Chamorro that day.

Sister Juliana seemed very interested in what I had to say; I knew her family in Saipan. We talked about how they were, what the latest news was in Saipan, a little bit about her and a little bit about me. It was the one and only time I ever met her, and the impression remains with me to this day. This urge to speak Chamorro far, far away from home, with a Chamorro woman fifty years older than me, but who would only speak Spanish to me. How often would I get to experience that!

Kansas City, Missouri in 1985

Sister Juliana had joined a Spanish community of Sisters. When she joined them, all the Sisters were Spanish-speaking and only one, I believe, Sister Beatriz (previously Angélica), spoke some English. They recruited new Sisters from all over Micronesia; Palau, Chuuk, Ponape as well as Saipan. English was unknown to them, so Spanish was the dominant language in the Micronesia community until some years later when enough time had passed to allow more of them to learn English.

But Sister Juliana eventually left Micronesia and began serving in the US. One of her last assignments was assisting the elderly in a Mercedarian facility in Kansas City, Missouri. Then she retired to the Mercedarians' motherhouse in Bérriz, Spain.

All those years away from the Marianas meant that Sister Juliana stopped speaking a whole lot of Chamorro, and got accustomed to speaking Spanish more and more, the language of most of the Sisters. She must have continued to communicate in Chamorro with her family, who did not know Spanish. But, for whatever reason, we only conversed in Spanish.

In a way, Sister Juliana reminds me of the countless Chamorro men who left the Marianas forever on the whaling ships in the 1800s, and ended up living a new life wearing new clothes, eating new food and speaking other languages because they had few people, sometimes no one, to speak Chamorro with.

Hearing Sister speak Spanish with a Chamorro accent also took me back in time to the 1800s when quite a number of Chamorros spoke excellent Spanish. We know this because many government documents written in the Marianas in perfect, high-level Spanish were penned by Chamorro clerks and officials. But I assume many (most?) spoke it with a Chamorro accent.

Not many years after I met her, Sister Juliana went to her eternal reward and is buried in Spain. In 1668, Spain came to the Marianas as Sanvitores started the Catholic mission, and one of his fruits 300 years later, Sister Juliana, went from the Marianas to Spain and her remains are still there. U såga gi minahgong. Descanse en Paz. Rest in Peace.

(traducida por Manuel Rodríguez)  


Una vez conocí a una hermana chamorra que no me hablaba en chamorro. Ella solo me hablaba en español.

En 1992, viajé a España para investigar en nuestros archivos capuchinos en Pamplona, donde se almacenan muchos documentos relativos a Guam, principalmente sobre la Iglesia desde 1900 hasta 1941.

Después de una semana de investigación en Pamplona, mi siguiente visita fue a Bérriz, un pequeño pueblo no muy lejos de Pamplona. Si tuviera un coche, podría haber conducido desde Pamplona a Bérriz en dos horas. Pero yo no tenía coche y cogí el tren, por lo que tardé casi todo el día en llegar a mi destino.

Mi objetivo en Bérriz era conocer a algunas hermanas mercedarias españolas mayores que alguna vez habían servido en Saipán desde la década de 1930. ¡Pero no sabía que allí también había una hermana mercedaria chamorra!

Su nombre era Sor Juliana Roberto de la Cruz, de la familia Bisco de Saipán. Había nacido en 1912, así que tenía 80 años cuando la conocí. Sus padres, Vicente San Pedro de la Cruz y María Sablan Roberto, nacieron en Guam pero se mudaron a Saipán donde se conocieron y se casaron en 1904.

Juliana estaba en el primer grupo de mujeres de Saipán que se unieron a las hermanas mercedarias después de la segunda guerra mundial. Ella ministró durante muchos años, lejos de Saipán, así que nunca la había visto antes. Incluso las mercedarias chamorras de Saipán que nunca trabajaron en Guam, las conocí por haberlas visto en Saipán, pero Hermana Juliana ya hacía mucho tiempo que se había ido de la isla.

Finalmente conocí a esta (para mí) sorprendente hermana chamorra en España. No recuerdo ahora si mis primeras palabras con ella fueron en chamorro o en español; Conociéndome, le habría dejado comenzar el diálogo y elegir el idioma.

Naturalmente, hubiera querido explicarle quién era yo y cuál era mi conexión con Saipán. Recuerdo claramente tratar de decirle todo eso en chamorro, y ella me entendía, porque cuando me contestaba, sus comentarios seguían a lo que yo estaba diciendo, pero lo decía todo en español.

Cuando hablaba en español, lo decía con un tono y una pronunciación chamorros muy identificables. Yo continuaba escuchando palabras en español, pero la "musicalidad" era chamorra. Así que seguí en chamorro cuando me tocó hablar. Sin embargo, su completa confianza en el español (no me dijo una palabra en chamorro) me impresionó. Eventualmente también cambié al español, y ese día España no pudo escuchar una conversación en chamorro.

Hermana Juliana parecía muy interesada en lo que tenía que decirme; Conocí a su familia en Saipán. Hablamos de cómo estaban, cuáles eran las últimas noticias en Saipán, un poco de ella y un poco de mí. Fue la primera y única vez que la vi, y la impresión permanece conmigo hasta el día de hoy. Esas ganas de hablar chamorro lejos, muy lejos de casa, con una mujer chamorra cincuenta años mayor que yo, pero que sólo me hablaba en español. ¡¿Con qué frecuencia llegaría a experimentar eso?!

Hermana Juliana se había unido a una comunidad española de hermanas. Cuando se unió a ellas, todas hablaban en español y solo una, creo, Hermana Beatriz (anteriormente Angélica), hablaba algo de inglés. Reclutaron nuevas hermanas de diferentes partes de Micronesia: Palaos, Chuuk, Ponapé y Saipán. El inglés era desconocido para ellas en aquella época, por lo que el español fue el idioma dominante en la comunidad de Micronesia hasta algunos años más tarde, cuando pasó suficiente tiempo para que aprendieran inglés.

Pero Hermana Juliana eventualmente dejó Micronesia y comenzó a servir en los Estados Unidos. Una de sus últimas asignaciones fue ayudar a los ancianos en una instalación mercedaria en Kansas City, Missouri. Luego se retiró a la casa matriz de las mercedarias en Bérriz, España.

Todos esos años lejos de las Islas Marianas hicieron que Hermana Juliana dejara de hablar mucho el chamorro y se acostumbrara a hablar cada vez más el español, el idioma de la mayoría de las hermanas. Debió seguir comunicándose en chamorro con su familia, que no sabía español. Pero, por alguna razón, nosotros solo conversamos en español.

En cierto modo, Hermana Juliana me recuerda a los innumerables hombres chamorros que dejaron para siempre las Islas Marianas en los barcos balleneros durante el siglo XIX y terminaron viviendo una nueva vida, vistiendo ropa nueva, degustando comida diferente y hablando otros idiomas porque tenían poca gente, a veces nadie, con quien hablar chamorro.

Escuchar a la hermana hablar español con acento chamorro también me llevó atrás en el tiempo a 1800 cuando muchos chamorros hablaban un español excelente. Sabemos esto porque muchos documentos gubernamentales escritos en las Islas Marianas en perfecto español de elevado nivel, fueron escritos por empleados y funcionarios chamorros. Pero supongo que muchos, tal vez la mayoría, lo hablaban con acento chamorro.

No muchos años después de que la conocí, Hermana Juliana fue a su eterna recompensa y está enterrada en España. En 1668, España había llegado a las Islas Marianas cuando San Vitores inició la misión católica, y uno de sus frutos 300 años después, Hermana Juliana, pasó de las Islas Marianas a España y sus restos aún están allí. Descanse en Paz.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022


Near Macau and Hong Kong

We were not the only Ladrones, at one time.

Less known were the Ladrone Islands in China.

Our islands were the first to be called Ladrones, so named after Magellan's fight with our ancestors over a skiff taken off of Magellan's ship in 1521. 

But not long after that, in 1557, the Portuguese set up shop in China, specifically in Macau, which Portugal controlled all the way up to the year 1999.

The Portuguese were in Macau for one reason : trade. Over the many years, think of silk, jade, fire crackers, incense, opium....all commodities popular at different times. 

This trade attracted pirates and sea bandits who hid in their vessels in the small islands outside Macau. The Portuguese called these the Islands of Thieves. The Spanish word for "robbers" or "thieves, " ladrones was what the English used, so in English books and newspapers, these Chinese islands were also known as the Ladrones or Ladrone Islands, just like the Marianas. Sometimes they were called the Great Ladrone islands.

Just as our islands were renamed the Marianas, and Ladrones was dropped in time, no one today calls these islands near Macau the Ladrones anymore. Instead, they are known by the Chinese name Wanshan Archipelago.