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

No comments:

Post a Comment