Reconnecting with History to Better Understand Our Lives Today
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.
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