Reconnecting with History to Better Understand Our Lives Today

by Judith T. Won Pat

Buenas yan Hafa Adai!

Last night, a special mass was held at the Cathedral Basilica in which parishioners were

able to view the skull of 17th century Jesuit missionary Father Manuel de Solorzano. As

we close the year, this occasion reminds us of the importance of looking at our history

to better understand the complexities we face today.

Father Solarzano was killed on Guam in 1684 during a battle waged by Maga’låhi Hura,

who was motivated by the desire to protect our ancestors’ way of life and their

connection to the land. This was one of the last major battles of the Chamorro-Spanish

Wars, and the closest our chiefs got to reclaiming Hagåtña from the Spanish. However,

Hula’s forces were defeated by a group of Chamorros, who had converted to

Catholicism and were fighting to protect the Church.

This return of Solorzano’s remains 330 years later has generated a range of feelings and

reflections vis-à-vis constructs of history and identity. It has also drawn attention to

traditions of Chamorro warfare, resistance to the Spanish Crown, as well as divisions

and battles between our own people, which have no doubt lasted throughout our


We tend to think of World War II as the largest war in Chamorro history. While it is no

doubt a period closely tied to the memory of our people that resulted in tragedy and the

taking of our lands, it also important to acknowledge the 17th Century Chamorro

rebellion, which is indicative of how our people were willing to fight and die for our

culture and our lands. These wars lasted for 27 years, and most of us know nothing

about this time.

As we embark on a new year alongside this particular occasion (the arrival of

Solorzano’s remains) let us take this time to reconnect with a history that is our own,

and deeply and conscientiously reflect on the actions of our ancestors, as well as in

response to those who came to our island with glorified intentions of spreading their

mission. Let’s consider the ways in which colonial history and the accessibility of this

history have defined our present state and sense of culture.

As we look on the horizon of our rapidly changing island and work to redefine the

future of our island, let us thoughtfully determine what we want as a people. Let’s

understand our rich, complicated, and telling history and, most notably, make it our

own. A Round Table Discussion entitled Chamorro Catholicism, Sovereignty, and Evangelization will take place Friday, January 2nd, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Cathedral Basilica Conference Room, in which the public is invited. The public is also invited to a

scholarly dialogue hosed by the University of Guam on Saturday, January 3rd at 11 a.m.

at The College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Lecture Hall, which will include a

display of Father Solorzano’s remains. I would like to encourage the community to

attend these events and learn more about this important history.

Saina Ma’ase

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