Get to know Guam: Sinajana - Guam's cooking grounds
Editor’s note: The U.S. territory of Guam is comprised of 21 villages, many with their own distinct character, history and points of interest. Stripes Guam and Guampedia have joined forces to present this weekly feature on each of them in the hopes that it will help our readers get out – and get to know – our gracious hosts. To learn more about Guam’s people, history, culture and places, visit: guampedia.com
It is said that wild yams grew plentiful in the lands nestled above the capital village of Hagåtña. These yams were harvested and cooked in earthen ovens dug into the ground, a process known as chinåhan.
The village name of Sinajana is believed to derive from this word, from which comes chinahån-ña— “his or her cooking ground.”
Sinajana was in existence before the arrival of Spanish missionaries in 1668 and was bordered by the areas now known as Cha’ot and Otdot, the present-day Ordot village. This ancient village was the domain of Hineti, a Chamorro who was loyal to the Spanish and the Marianas Mission, and was baptized Don Ignacio de Hineti.
On July 23, 1684, at the climax of the Chamorro-Spanish Wars, Hineti joined with the Spaniards and recruited about 50 Chamorros, armed with lances, to secure the Spanish stockade and the Spanish flag in Hagåtña from Chamorro homeland defenders. For this he was rewarded the position and title of sergeant major by the Spanish governor Captain General D. Antonio de Saravia.
The last Spanish census, taken in 1897, listed 133 residents in Sinajana. There were family names that still exist today, including Quidachay, Fegurgur, Atoigue, Taisague, Concepcion, Agualo, San Nicolas, Dela Rosa, Taimanglo, Gogo, Quichocho, Agui, Neputi, Lujan, Tertaotao, Achaigua, Matanane, Navaro, Castro, Crisostimo, Balajadia, and Fejaran.
Although pre-World War II Sinajana was an agricultural village, at one time operating as the coffee capital of the island and supplying all of civilian Guam, much has changed with modern urbanization. The destruction of Hagåtña during World War II sent thousands in search of homes, and Sinajana absorbed many families when the U.S. military government erected temporary housing in the village. By 1950, the population had swelled to 3,000.
St. Jude Junior High School, built in 1955 under the guidance of Sinajana pastor Fr. Raymond Demers, had the distinction of being the only school on island built entirely through “happy labor.” More than 500 men from the village volunteered for the construction. The Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, from Lacrosse, Wisconsin, administered the school at the request of Bishop Apollinaris William Baumgartner, who the school is now named after.
Also in the village at one time was the former George Washington High School campus, which was later moved to Mongmong and finally to its present location in Mangilao. C. L. Taitano Elementary School was previously known as Sinajana Elementary School before being renamed after the former educator and village resident.
After Supertyphoon Karen destroyed eighty percent of the village structures in 1962, the next decade ushered in an onslaught of unimaginable change, as “urban renewal” forced the relocation of hundreds of villagers to other parts of the island, changing forever the lives of those families who lost their link to the old concept of Sinajana village life.
landing craft. But when the U.S. forces came to retake the island on July 21, 1944, the guns were not fully operational, and were therefore never fired. They remain a site for visitors as part of the War in the Pacific National Historical Park.
POINTS OF INTEREST
Ada’s Funeral Home
Ada’s Funeral Home was the first funeral home to operate on island, and continues to be operated by the Ada family.
Butler’s Emporium is situated on Route 4, next to Leonard’s White House. It is the longest continuing business on Guam. Next to the building the concrete foundation is the only remnant remaining of the Coca-Cola bottling factory owned by the Butlers. In the 1920s, founder Chester Butler was the first person to receive a license to manufacture and sell the soda outside the continental U.S.
The old Won Pat store is located across from the fire station. In the yard can be found an old Spanish stone oven, or hotnu.
Bishop Baumgartner Memorial School
This kindergarten to eighth grade school is part of the Catholic School System. The school, formerly called St. Jude’s Catholic School, was renamed in honor of Bishop Apollinaris William Baumgartner, OFM Cap, DD who came to Guam on Oct. 23, 1945. Bishop Baumgartner was instrumental in laying the foundation of the island’s Catholic school system.
C.L. Taitano Elementary School
This school is one of twenty-five elementary schools of the Guam Public School System. It was established in 1958 as Sinajana Elementary School and renamed in 1970 to honor the late Carlos Lizama Taitano who was a public servant and civic leader.
St. Jude Church
St. Jude Thaddeus Catholic Church, located in the heart of the village near the Sinajana mayor’s office and Community Center and the Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority (GHURA),was recently rebuilt and rededicated after Supertyphoon Pongsona partially destroyed it on Dec. 8, 2002.
This village at a glance
- Population: The 2000 U.S. Census counted Sinajana village to have a population of 2,853.
- Village officials: Robert Hofmann, Mayor, 2013-Present; Roke B. Blas, Mayor, 2005-2012; Daniel E. Sablan, Mayor, 1997-2005; Francisco N. Lizama, Commissioner/Mayor, 1981-1997; Ignacio N. Sablan, Commissioner, 1973-1981; Alfonso M. Pangelinan, Commissioner, 1968-1973; Francisco R. Santos, Commissioner, 1965-1968; Luis C. Baza, Commissioner, 1957-1965; Manuel G. Sablan, Commissioner, 1953-1957; Felipe R. Ignacio, Commissioner, (no dates provided); Rudy Iriarte, Vice Mayor, 2013-Present; Robert R.C. Hofmann, Vice Mayor, 2005-2012; Vicente S.A. Lizama, Vice Mayor, 2001-2005; Roke B. Blas, Vice Mayo,r 1997-2001; Daniel E. Sablan, Assistant Commissioner/Vice Mayor, 1981-1997; Margaret D. Mendiola, Assistant Commissioner, 1980-1981; Francisco N. Lizama, Assistant Commissioner, 1973-1980; Ignacio N. Sablan, Assistant Commissioner, 1969-1973; Alfonso M. Pangelinan, Assistant Commissioner, 1965-1967; Jacinto B. Calvo, Assistant Commissioner, 1961-1965; Vicente S. Iriarte, Assistant Commissioner, 1957-1961; Luis C. Baza, Assistant Commissioner, 1944-1957; Vicente T. Gogue, Deputy Commissioner, 1935; Juan S. Aflague, Deputy Commissioner, 1935; Vicente Gogo, Deputy Commissioner, 1931; Andres Crisostomo, Deputy Commissioner, 1930 (Courtesy of Konsehelon Mahot Guåhan/the Mayor’s Council of Guam).
- Village description: Sinajana is perched along a hilltop between Agana Springs and Agana Heights. When entering the village from San Ramon Hill, one comes upon the Catholic Saint Fidelis Franciscan Friary, whose order maintains Sinajana’s Saint Jude Thaddeus Catholic Church, among others. The annual village fiesta is celebrated on the last weekend of October, in honor of Saint Jude, patron saint of the impossible.
The two main schools are Carlos L. Taitano Elementary School, a public school, and Bishop Baumgartner Memorial School, a private Catholic school.
C. L. Taitano Elementary School is centrally located within walking distance of the village fire station, St. Jude Thaddeus Church, mayor’s office, and community center. Within this busy block one will also pass the old Won Pat store, which is now an apartment complex. A hotnu, or old Spanish oven, can still be found in the yard.
Bishop Baumgartner Memorial School sits on the site of the old Saint Jude Thaddeus Junior High School campus and is within walking distance to another village landmark – Cool Spot, owned and operated by three generations of the De Oro family who have committed to continuing the neighborhood store concept. Art and Vera De Oro and their daughters not only sell groceries and household items, but also exchange village news with their loyal and regular customers.
The Sinajana Community Center houses mayoral administrative offices, the Senior Citizen Recreational Center, Chief Hurao Chamoru Cultural Camp, and sports facilities for basketball and baseball. Since the 1950s and 1960s, basketball and baseball have been the principal form of recreation for the neighborhood youth and intra-village leagues, followed nowadays by street hockey tournaments.