Friday, November 24, 2023


The first American Governor of Guam, a Navy captain named Richard P. Leary, thought that Guam had too many holidays. That was because Guam had observed numerous religious holidays as public holidays under Spain. Not being a fan of the Spanish missionaries, Leary spelled out in an Executive Order in 1899 that religious holidays from now on were private affairs, and the only public holidays, besides Sundays, would be those "authorized by US Statute Law" and US presidential decree.

In 1870, US Congress made Independence Day, July 4, a Federal holiday. We can assume that this was observed even on Guam as soon as Leary set up the first American administration in August of 1899. Even if there were no parades or fireworks, it's very likely the Navy closed government offices on Independence Day.

Thanksgiving didn't become a Federal holiday till 1941, though it had been celebrated long before, sometimes on different Thursdays in November from state to state.

But the first public holiday that Leary proclaimed on his own authority was Thanksgiving Day.

On November 3, 1899 Leary declared that the last Thursday of November that year, November 30, would be set aside as a day of "thanksgiving and prayer." He recommended (not mandated) that people refrain from "unnecessary work" that day, so I'm not sure if the government closed their offices or not.

Leary could not mandate any religious services, but he urged people to observe their own rites in their own churches, Catholic or Protestant.

State and Church

But Leary knew his promotion of Thanksgiving wouldn't fly if he didn't have the cooperation of the Catholic Church, which commanded the hearts of 95% of the Chamorro people. And he succeeded. According to Leary, Palomo wholeheartedly agreed to hold a Thanksgiving prayer service in the Hagåtña church. It was a traditional thanksgiving prayer, chanted by the priest in Latin (Te Deum) which the Catholic Churched prayed all the time, all year long, but this time applied to the American holiday.

Leary said that the Navy band would play at this Te Deum service, and praised Palomo for his outstanding qualities. Leary reported a huge number of people attended the church service. Standing room only.

I wouldn't be surprised if there was no turkey served on that first Thanksgiving Day on Guam in 1899, but Leary made every effort to have the American holiday observed.

Tuesday, November 14, 2023



Numerous Chamorro women were marrying American military men just as soon as the island came under the United States flag.

Not all of those marriages were successful.

A good number of those unions ended with the American sailor or Marine deserting his wife and children, as they were reassigned to another location or simply left island.

Here are some examples.


Rita married a Marine private in 1903 and had a son by him. In 1905, her husband was assigned to another post, and did not take Rita and his son with him.

Rita wrote to her husband and got three replies. His letters acknowledged his deserting her, and contained every excuse in the book, with plenty of promises to come back and resume his family commitments. He never did.

Rita filed for divorce in 1926 - twenty-years after last seeing her husband!


Yet another Rita had married a military man in 1905. They had four children. Quite possibly already a civilian, the man left Guam in 1910, supposedly to visit his mother. He was never seen again.

A few letters were exchanged, however. In one of them, the husband said he had met his wife's brother and the two of them were going to fish salmon in Alaska and both would return to Guam afterwards. The brother did return, but the husband did not.

Instead of filing for divorce, Rita petitioned the court to rule her husband deceased! This was granted. Almost sixteen years had passed since she last saw her husband.

This second Rita's move was more advantageous than the first Rita's decision to file for divorce.

Since both women had married according to Catholic rites, only death could end the bond. The first Rita, even if divorced, could not marry a second time in the Church until her husband had died. The second Rita obtained that freedom to marry again by having the Guam court declare her husband dead.

These two Ritas are but two examples of Chamorro women abandoned by the American husbands who left island and never returned. There were more.



In 1920, the American Naval Governor, Captain William Gilmer, issued a new law prohibiting marriages between American service men and Chamorro women.

His reason for this prohibition was his judgment that such marital unions were not good for either American husband nor Chamorro wife. He didn't, at least in print, get more specific than that.

Americans already married to Chamorro wives, and the Catholic bishop, Spanish Bishop Oláiz, opposed Gilmer's law, which was eventually overturned by the higher-ups in Washington.

But Spanish Påle' Román agreed with Gilmer. Too many American military and former military husbands had deserted their Chamorro wives, leaving them without financial support to raise the children, and unable to marry again in the Church.

was all for protecting Chamorro wives from deserting husbands

Tuesday, November 7, 2023




Besides the marshy area behind the Humåtak Mayor's Office by the river, associated with a murder scene from the 1980s, many people in Humåtak consider the area behind the church to be spooky.

The current San Dionisio Church was built in 1939 but, many decades before that, it had been the site of the Spanish governor's palåsyo (palace), along with other government buildings for soldiers, the sick, military defenses and storage rooms, since the bay was the major port of call for Guam at the time. The rock foundations for these government buildings are still there, hiding in the vegetation.

If the area behind the church is haunted, it is believed to be so because of the location's association with sick soldiers, ship's passengers and others who may have died in the port's hospital. Others believe the taotaomo'na (ancestral spirits) trail leads down from the hills behind the church to the bay through that area.



One Humåtak girl, in her teens, was playing behind the church one day with a few other teenage girls when she saw a man also behind the church. She was immediately frightened; it was hard for her to describe the man, but he was scary and she had never seen him before. She and the others ran away.

But not long after she saw the ugly man walking toward her, and off she went screaming.

Yet a third time she was in the bathroom and when she looked into the mirror, the ugly man was behind her. Out she went screaming. On and off, she would see the man. The man stopped appearing only after she had gotten married.


So the family of the teenage girl burnt some påtma bendita (blessed palm) to ashes, then had a boy in the family (some say it has to be the oldest boy) urinate into the ashes just enough to make the ashes into a paste, and that they applied to the forehead of the girl. The scary, ugly man would disappear for a while. But not permanently until she got married.