Networks of Conversion: Catholic Congregations in the Marianas Islands, 1668-1898
James B. Tueller
In May of 1690, two elderly native Chamorros of the Marianas islands, new converts to Christianity, learned their parts in the sacraments of confession and communion. A seventy-year-old man “prayed every day with those of his household so that in a month he knew the Christian doctrine well enough that he could confess and receive communion to his great consolation.” An elderly woman anxiously learned the Christian doctrine with such great care that she soon returned to her priest saying, “Father, I now know the Christian doctrine and word of God because I have not rested until I knew it.”1 So wrote Lorenzo Bustillos to his superiors in his carta annua (annual letter) from the Jesuit mission in the far-off Marianas islands in the western Pacific Ocean. The bare facts of his account leave us to guess motivations, causes, and historical impacts.
Conversion in the early modern Marianas occurred as Chamorros actively created new networks of social life -- or found themselves unwillingly immersed in them. Both natives and newcomers in late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century Guam lived within political and social networks formed by their interpersonal attachments. The relationships created because of conversion developed among individuals who had confidence in “the religious explanations” because “others expressed confidence in them.”2 The missionaries, the soldiers, and other immigrants lived as Catholics, and the newcomers gave the indigenous inhabitants living examples. The old man and woman who studied and worried so much about their Catholic sacraments were not alone in their efforts. They passed through the portals of Catholic conversion as individuals, but their motivations, histories, and consequences were entwined in the social networks of fellow Chamorros, Jesuit priests, and other migrants to an archipelago in the western Pacific Ocean.
The conversion of individuals to other religions has been rightly described as one of the “most destabilizing activities in modern society.”3 It may seem that people who convert to new religions explicitly deny previous traditions, having found something better. Yet, converts continue to live in their old worlds, hence the intimate and apparent destabilization. Conversion may seem only to count in the particular and individual soul, and yet the networks of social interaction that any one convert shares with others greatly influence the societal continuity of conversion. Multiple connections between converts, new friendships, and customs, even transforming or unexpected contingencies lead to a societal change of religion. Converts also bring suspicions and hostilities to their new brethren, as individual sincerity can be questioned. In Christianity, the desire and possibility of conversion beg the question, “what makes a Christian?” Richard Fletcher notes that, “conversion could mean different things to different people at the same time. What was required of the convert could vary as circumstances or tactics or the pressure of time or the level of moral resources also varied.”4 Fletcher’s quartet of circumstances, tactics, time, and moral resources elucidates the networks of conversion within the Marianas islands. The islanders did not choose the Spanish monarchy nor were they free to reject physical baptism. They nonetheless became participating Christians over time, and more so in subsequent generations. As conversion to Christianity occurred in the surrounding social world, the religious changes of the early modern Chamorros are best understood in the context of the social networks of conversion among all the inhabitants of the Marianas islands.
As the principal island of the Marianas group, Guam has a long history of interaction with European explorers and administrators. Generations of islanders have adapted to new cultures and technologies within dynamic social networks, containing both positive and negative characteristics. This paper examines four of those networks, arguing that Chamorros became more Christian as they created new connections and paths among all the island’s inhabitants. The first connection began with the circumstances of the Jesuit arrival in 1668 and continued as the background to the eighteenth-century Marianas mission. A second network points to the conversion tactics that Chamorros experienced, and subsequently to the Christian beliefs and practices that they molded into their own ways of life. The third network captures ways in which Chamorros, with the passing of time, accepted models of behavior, imperfect as they were, from their confident and exemplary fellow believers. Behavior and belief are two different things, making difficult judgments of reality, but conversion connotes a tangible change. The shifts can be measured in the naming patterns, formal institutions of sociability, and marriages between various families. Lastly, I sketch a network of moral resources, represented in public festivals, which brought Chamorros and others together in mutual celebration. The people of the Marianas islands have changed since Magellan’s landing. Describing those changes, and the equally important continuities among a small Pacific island population, exhibits the value of religious conversion as a tool for studying the past and its history.
CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE ENCOUNTER
With an area of 541 square kilometers, Guam is the southernmost, highest, and largest island of the Marianas, which stretch northward toward the Bonin Islands of Japan. Human inhabitants have lived on Guam and the fourteen other islands since at least two thousand years before the Common Era. The Chamorro conversion to Christianity occurred during the tragic loss of life following the Spanish arrival. Despite widely varying estimates -- in this case between 24,000 and 100,000 -- by the mid-eighteenth century the population of the Marianas islands dropped to a frightening low of less than 2,000.5 The social networks that predated the first contact unraveled and were seemingly destined for extinction. However, Chamorros survived, although as newly converted Christians, so much so that Catholicism is credited as the “most enduring legacy of Spain for Chamorros.”6 The networks of Catholic conversion succeeded over time both because of short-term Spanish force and local adaptations over many generations.
In 1521, the inhabitants of Guam were the first Pacific Islanders to experience contact with Europeans. The speed and maneuverability of the native water craft impressed Magellan sufficiently that he named the Marianas las islas de las velas latinas, or “the Islands of the Lateen Sails.” Soon after, he renamed them las islas de los ladrones (“the Islands of Thieves”), because the people stole so much from the Spanish ships.7 Outraged that their understanding of property varied so greatly from his own norms, he and other sixteenth-century captains who came later killed dozens of people.8 Confusion about the islands and their name followed. In 1668, the Jesuits renamed them the Marianas, after Queen Mariana of Spain. Thereafter, charts could label the islands Lateen Sails, Ladrones, or Marianas. Designations for the indigenous inhabitants of the islands have also proven to be troublesome. Easily enough, they could be referred to simply as indio, as natives in the Spanish New World were often called, or Marianos, a term the Jesuits favored. The native appellation, Chamorro, seems to derive from their own language for a word meaning noble or highborn, chamorri or Tchamo-li. Yet even this had a double meaning for Spaniards. Chamarro in Spanish means shorn or beardless, which may well have described some Chamorro males, especially if the limited descriptions were correct in that the men shaved their heads, except for a small length of hair on the top of the skull.9 The social networks that fostered conversion in the Marianas islands grew slowly in this world of confusion, mistranslation, and alterity.
For a century and half after Magellan’s initial contact, Spaniards and others only stopped on the islands for water and food, never demanding baptism. Miguel López de Legazpi, en route to establish a Spanish presence in the Philippines, stopped long enough to claim the islands formally for his king, Philip II, in 1565. Thereafter, the Manila Galleon, en route from Acapulco, usually stopped at Guam. A few Dutch and English vessels captained by the likes of Francis Drake, Thomas Cavendish, and Olivier Van Noort also stopped at Guam and traded with the inhabitants. Only castaways stayed on the island among the native inhabitants for more than a few days. In 1526, the Loaisa expedition to the Moluccas stopped in the islands, and the crew was surprised to hear a Spanish greeting. Gonzalo de Vigo had deserted one of Magellan’s ships and lived among the islanders for five years.10 In 1602, Fray Juan Pobre, a lay brother of the Franciscan Order, chose to stay in Guam, jumping ship en route to Manila in order to teach the inhabitants Christianity. Pobre stayed seven months and later wrote a narrative of his life among the Chamorros. For the most part, his account ignores Chamorro life; rather it contrasts a corrupt Spain with an idyllic and innocent island life. Pobre records that the “people never quarrel, putting our country to shame ... . They do not engage in unnatural acts, never having heard or seen such things on their islands.” Pobre concluded with the hope that “if the Lord sees fit that they are ready, He will send help so that they may become Christians.”11
Pobre’s dream to Christianize the islands did not occur for another sixty-six years. In 1668, the Jesuit Father Diego Luis de Sanvitores landed on the shores of Guam. He had convinced the Regent Queen Mariana to sponsor a mission among the natives, and in her honor, he re-christened the islands. The arrival of Sanvitores marked the beginning of direct Spanish governance in the Marianas, lasting until the defeat of Spain in the Spanish-Ameriean War (1898).12 A thirty-year interval from 1668 to 1698 is best described as the Chamorro Wars, when with violence and overwhelming force the Spanish subdued the islanders and forced baptism on the survivors. Although the early Jesuits had hoped to convert the islanders by persuasion, after the final Chamorro surrender, the missionaries still needed to continue the process of Christian conversion. In fairness, the violence between the Chamorro and the Spanish can hardly be summarized as a straightforward conquest. The diverse groups and conflicting loyalties of peninsular, American, or Philippine Spaniards; mestizos (persons of mixed blood) from Mexico, Guatemala, or Manila; and indios from Guam, Guadalajara, or Pampanga resist simplification.
Widespread demographic change characterized the eighteenth century. The bewildering loss of life was of primordial importance for the Christian conversion of the surviving Chamorro population. New social networks of conversion were created and solidified between the newcomers and the Chamorros, preparing the way for the Christianization of the population. The last hundred years of Spanish government, up to 1898, were decades of adjustment and conformity. Outside observers commented on what to them were all the features of superstitious Spanish Catholicism. For exampIe, in 1819, when the French corvettes Uranie and Physicienne sailed to Guam on their expedition around the world, J. Arago wrote that:
[N]owhere perhaps is there so much and so little religion as at Guam ... . In church the people behave like Christians and in the country like savages ... . Abbé Quelen is convinced that the poor man [the priest of Agaña] can scarcely instruct his flock in the simplest lessons of the catechism) as he is himself ignorant of the fundamental principles of our religion.13
The French observer had his own prejudices about Spanish Catholicism; nonetheless, his observations confirm a comparative Christianity on Guam since the “poor” priest of Agaña must be counted a Catholic, and his island flock could only be as Christian as he. The conjuncture of circumstances among Jesuit missionaries, Spanish trade across the Pacific Ocean, and local islanders began with violence and force. The survivors were not only baptized, but their conversion to Christianity created the initial circumstances of Chamorro and Catholic networks.
TACTICS FOR CHAMORRO CONVERSION
The Chamorros fit easily into a larger historical periodization of Christian conversion. In the same decade that Father Sanvitores died, the Belgian Jesuit Ferdinand Biest wrote a letter from his mission in China, urging his brothers to greater effort, saying, “so many souls to be won, yet so few workers in the harvest.”14 In the Philippines, only 400 Spanish priests lived among 600,000 indigenous Catholics. Fellow Jesuits in the highlands of Paraguay were drawing nearly 100,000 Guaraní into thirty mission villages. The first generation of Chamorro conversions to Christianity, in the late seventeenth century, occurred precisely as an era of Catholic renewal concluded in the European world. Crucial questions still deserve asking: how, in the Marianas islands, did Christianization occur? What tactics worked best? One answer might focus on the importance of the missionaries as the heroes of the Christian conversion of the islanders. Much like Julius Caesar, their story is often told as coming, seeing, conquering, and converting. But what about those who converted, or those who experienced real change in their lives?
The heroic missionary answer ignores the very brave changes of the Chamorros and assumes the complete conversion of passive Chamorros. The historical records, written by the missionaries, only hint at the dynamic adaptations of the Chamorros. Pre-contact Chamorro religious life seems to have centered on ancestral spirits or aniti, which easily shifted to the multiple saints of Catholicism. The taotaomona, a powerful helping spirit, still can be acknowledged in everyday speech. Most powerfully, the mourning rituals of Chamorro life have blended with Catholic traditions of prayer services like novenas and commemorative masses for the dead into a still active tradition.15
However, contemporary observers had doubts as to the Christian sincerity of the conversion. Baptism may occur in a moment, as it did with the Ethiopian baptized by Philip in the biblical account of the Acts of the Apostles,16 but religious conversion must be told as a long-term process rather than a one-time event. For example, the municipal council (cabildo in Spanish) of Manila warned the king in 1726 that:
the conversion should be very suspect because if the sword impels them, so does self-interest without actually changing their hearts. ... They have accepted the Catholic religion more from the report of overly enthusiastic missionaries and lieutenants than because of sincere impulse. For with the moros they are the same and with Christians they become Catholics.17
The doubts of the Manila cabildo arose from reports from fellow Christians as much as from the suspicion that exists in any conversion process. The missionaries taught and baptized, but to answer how and why the Chamorros were Christianized begs a focus on those very issues of assimilation between the many cultures and individuals in the Marianas during the eighteenth century.
During this period of Marianas history, after many wars and the eventual acceptance of Christianization, a new hierarchy was created. We need more information about the individuals and families of Guam -- native and foreign, indios and Spaniards -- who became the new principales (local officials) of the island.18 The Spanish governor of Guam and the military captains profited from the monopoly derived from the Manila galleon, and native alcaldes (mayors) were appointed by the governor to supervise work in the island districts.19 Traditional political structures, accepted social customs, and ancient economic practices changed with the violence of war. In the upheaval, the population of Guam continued its steps down the path to a new Christian community. The eighteenth century saw the creation of something quite new, but elements of an old and multifaceted history also survived.
Without a doubt, Father Sanvitores was the European with the most influence on the early modern history of the Marianas islands. His personal zeal, his father’s position at the royal court, his martyrdom in 1672, and the process of his beatification have made and still make him the premier figure of Guam’s standard history.20 The Sargento Mayor, Joseph de Quiroga, born in Galicia and stationed in Guam from 1679 until he died in Agaña in 1720, also had an enormous impact on the first generation of conquest and colonial change. There were many other governors, military officers, and Jesuits who passed through the Marianas and who could add to our prosopography of the islands’ inhabitants. However, we turn more advantageously to the first and second generation of Chamorros for examples of growing networks of Christian interaction.
One such network of Christianity among the Chamorros can be detected in the Jesuit annual report of 1699, just one year after the cessation of war. There we read of the “tireless teaching” of the fathers and their successes, great and small, among the indios. The example of a “little girl just more than two years old from the island of Rota who gracefully repeats the prayers her parents have taught her and also accurately answers the doctrinal questions” proves a strong witness of some kind of Christian change.21 In the acculturation process we must examine the diverse cultures in which mere children of two years could find themselves. Christian conversion did not occur solely among the young, as shown by the two elderly converts mentioned in the introduction. In 1709, the Jesuit Juan Tiple, while writing another annual report, described the story of a repentant Chamorra woman. He wrote:
[O]ne day while a certain priest went to help the sick he passed by a village where this young woman lived. The woman’s husband approached the father, crying and saying, “Oh, Father a soldier is inside that house with my wife.” The priest approached the house and called to her two times by name, but as she neither replied nor came out, he added, “in the end you won’t learn but you want to go to hell,” and the priest left.22
A few days later, the husband told the priest that his wayward wife had been deathly ill, but the Virgin of Guadalupe had appeared to her, wherein she received sufficient strength to confess and repent completely.
Both the account of the two-year-old girl and that of the repentant wife illustrate the hopes with which the early missionaries wrote, but there is more here than evangelical history. A two-year-old girl who can repeat prayers and answer doctrinal questions signals significant changes. Her parents were teaching her the rudiments of Christianity. It could be that the parents were only doing so to survive in a new imperial world, but the changing environment of a toddler’s early beginnings remains impressive. In the same manner, the repentant woman confirms that there were impressive and intimate contacts between the Chamorras and the soldiers. The husband spoke with the priest because the soldier was already inside his home. The priest called to the woman “by name” knowing her enough to become very angry with her. Then the woman repented, suggesting that she already was Christian and desired Christian forgiveness.
Tilpe, very interestingly, emphasized that the appearance of the Virgin of Guadalupe instigated the woman’s repentance. The Guadalupe story had only been current in the kingdom of New Spain for a little more than one hundred years, yet evidence of similar devotion in the Marianas by 1709 points to a powerful Christianity situated in a concrete local environment. These small, isolated islands were not so far away that cultural innovations from Mexico, like the Virgin of Guadalupe, were not transferred.23 The Chamorros could only have known the Christianity of their missionaries, as Francisco García unwittingly pointed to in his compilation of letters from the Marianas in the 1670s. García recounts how Juan Ipapa, a native on the island of Tinian, saw the Holy Virgin, “in the same form as Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico is venerated, a copy of which the fathers had decently placed in an oratory in front of the house of this indio.”24 Tilpe and García wrote about these apparitions as miracles attesting to the growing conversion of the Chamorros. True visions or not, these cases illustrate a cultural change of stories and explanations among the islanders.
The enclosed space of the island of Guam attests to the idea of “local religion” described by William Christian for sixteenth-century Spain.25 Although the Tridentine decrees were only a century old by the time the Jesuits arrived in the Marianas, the religion that they taught and approved was intimately connected to the agricultural calendar, clouded by the weight of uncertainty, and ameliorated by hope in divinely guided protectors. The missionary Lorenzo Bustillos described a feature of the local religion in his 1691 letter to his superiors:
Antonio Etaqui, an excellent indio, most pious and devout ... after receiving communion one day mentioned to his confessor that he had seen a rat in his rice bed. He then raised a cross in the field, kneeled down before it and asked Our Lord by his passion and death to have mercy on the rice so that the rats would not eat it. His divine Majesty consoled him with the luck of harvesting good rice and plenty of it.26
Don Antonio Ayuchi and Captain Pedro Ynog, Chamorro leaders in the village of Aniguag, also had problems with rats in their fields. They followed the advice of the Jesuits, erected a cross, knelt before it and recited the act of contrition. Bustillos tells us that this exorcism and the use of holy water successfully eliminated the rats, and they had a bountiful harvest of rice.27 We cannot learn from Bustillos if these agricultural practices were holdovers from a pre-contact culture, but as both the Chamorros and the Jesuit believed it, a new strand to the network of trust and conversion had been created.
Other tactics of Christianization also proved effective. Don Antonio de Ayigi was held up as a model for all Chamorros. He was the indio exemplarissimo de las islas Marianas. Chamorros could evaluate their lives in comparison to his. Even before the arrival of Sanvitores, Don Antonio had helped the shipwrecked survivors of the nao (Spanish merchant ship) Concepción, which had crashed on the coast of Saipan in 1638. Besides this predisposition to good Christianity, the Jesuit eulogist held Ayigi to a mirror with seven facets. Ayigi exhibited constant faith, great hope, bright charity, Christian prudence, justice, valor, and temperance. It matters little if Don Antonio actually lived this way. By the Jesuits elevating him as exemplary, we can see what they hoped others would become. Even more crucially, an indio could become so. Bustillos finished his eulogy, declaring that Ayigi “lived a life so Christian that he could be an example even unto the clergy. He confessed and attended mass frequently. The purity of his conscience was such that his confessors hardly could find material for absolution.”28 Chamorro conversion to the new religion occurred as they found role models and practices that made sense to them. As one of the first converts, Ayigi created more strands in the social network of conversion.
The tactics that the missionaries followed were those that proved successful in similar times and other places. The Jesuits urged belief in simple daily chores like weeding a field of rice or calling in prayer to the Virgin of Guadalupe. The Chamorros could look to their own early converts who proved that Christian behavior was possible and blessed among their own. The tactics created unique connections and fostered new relationships for the Chamorro Christian networks.
CHRISTIANITY IN SPANISH TIME
Using two of Richard Fletcher’s conversion variables demonstrates how crucial the factors of historical circumstances and chosen tactics were for the Christianization of the inhabitants of the Marianas islands. The two other Fletcher variables -- of time and moral resources -- also testify to the growing networks of personal attachments between natives and newcomers. With the passing of time and the evolution of Chamorro Christianity in a Spanish world, the behavior of newcomers to the islands introduced alternative models of behavior. The models were often not the Christian ideal. Although Ayigi was an archetype of the good indigenous convert, we know from the letters written to the Holy Office in Mexico that there were many Spaniards giving bad examples.
The Spanish Inquisition monitored and protected the lives of all Christians in its domain. The Inquisitors, however, did not process the indios on Guam but only exercised their jurisdictional burden over the fully Christian members of the Hispanic empire. The Inquisition excused the indios because of their new Christianity and poverty, but, according to the Inquisition, the Spaniards should have been better examples. During the early eighteenth century, the Inquisition of Mexico City prosecuted at least fourteen cases against Spaniards in the Marianas. In 1719, Juan Antonio Cantova, as the Jesuit reporting to the tribunal in Mexico City from Agaña, wrote about five Inquisitorial penitents. Josef Granados invoked a demon for help in obtaining a woman. Juan Gregorio de Fuentes did the same for silver. Pedro Manuel de Montufar called for demonic aid in killing an enemy. Eusebio Hipólito appealed to the devil for victory in cards and shuffled the deck in his name.29 The others were for the sin of bigamy. Men had fled their wives in Galicia, Guatemala, and Querétaro, finding a new identity and spouse among the Chamorros. The Spaniards in Guam may not have been living as perfect Catholics, but perhaps even their example of human frailty offered a believable faith to the Chamorros. The converts could readily observe that “conversion did not cause one to cease being a sinner.”30
As in other areas of the Spanish monarchy, the bigamists, before detection, participated completely within the rites and beliefs of the Church. We know from a bigamy case in Peru, studied by the Cooks, that it was possible to exhibit good faith and truthful ignorance even as they sinned in matrimony to two different women.31 Other histories of bigamists describe how the men lived within Church norms, even though they knew they were committing mortal sin.32 For example, Baltasar Rodríguez de Oropesa, born in Pontevedra, had married two women, one in Colima, Guadalajara, and later, another woman in Agaña, Guam. The Colima registers indicate that Baltasar married Isabel de Carpio in 1689. He lived with her for four months and then left for the Marianas islands. In Agaña, he rose to the military position of ayudante and married Rosa de Ribera in 1696. In this second marriage, three witnesses fulfilled the obligations of a proper Catholic wedding. In 1708, when a ship arrived with information of his bigamy, Rodríguez de Oropesa tried to hide, but he was tracked down and sent back to Mexico. Later on, during the Inquisition trial in Mexico City, other witnesses testified that he also had married a woman in Acapulco.33 If the cristianos viejos (old Christians) did not live the laws of the Church, should we or the Jesuits on the island have expected any more from the Chamorros who were literally cristianos nuevos (new Christians) and neophytes? For the Chamorros who knew about Rodríguez de Oropesa’s bigamy, the negative example may very well have proven an effective illustration of allowable or forbidden Christian practice.
Christianization also occurred because of the emblematic behavior of both new and old Christians. The carta annua of 1698 called attention to the Chamorra women married to the garrison’s soldiers for “their example of Christian devotion and holy fear of God.”34 One Chamorra wife was very aware of the Christian norms expected of her Spanish husband, even demanding that he confess his sins to the priest. The soldier, her husband, had solicited two times without results a young lady whom the missionaries had housed with the couple. “Tell me,” said the wife to the speechless husband, “if other soldiers and the indios discover these things, what will they say of you, being an Old Christian and Spaniard? What example will you give to the nuevos in the faith?”35 In 1720, Sergeant Quiroga wrote in a letter to Philip V that “the father’s example of a stainless life has very little power against the bad example of the many Spaniards and Filipinos.”36 He knew that the Chamorros needed a better example of Christian living not just from the Jesuit missionaries, but also from the “old Christians.” With the passing of time, Chamorros created a Christianity for Guam that combined their own observations of how other Catholics lived with the proscriptive commandments of this new religion.
Another method of evaluating the Christian conversion of the inhabitants of Guam can be among the social circles of religious devotion. We know from a letter written by Father Wolfgang Stainbeck to the Inquisition in Mexico that the women on Guam formed a Congregation of the Most Holy Mother of the Light. The women were devoted to the Virgin and sought to give “a good example to the natives of this island.”37 The Congregation was organized in 1758 with the support of Doña Ignacia Medrano y Avendaño, wife of Governor Andrés del Barrio y Rabago. The women adopted sixteen rules. They promised to attend mass daily, recite the rosary every night, and confess on Holy Days. Moreover, statutes commanded worthy acts of good Christians.
On Saturdays at the second bell, the members will all bid farewell to their homes and come to the Church to attend the congregation with all devotion, giving account to their vicarias. In the Sunday discussion and during Easter sermons they should try to be the first ones there in order to provide a good example; moreover, they should attend the discussions and sermons of their familiaries. On the last Sunday of the month they will each take a Saint with reverence. They will visit the sick. In addition, each member will take great care to report if there is any scandal or disorder which needs remedy, informing the Father of the Congregation or the Elder Sister of the Vicarias so that they may resolve the situation with kindness and speed.38
When the Congregation was first organized, it included 218 women, 148 of whom were naturales (natives). In 1774, when another list was sent to Manila and then Mexico, the Congregation had grown to include 457 people; 198 of its members were from Agaña, but the others were from the villages of Guam. If at first the Congregation was only for Spaniards, in a few years time it included many Chamorras. The Congregation became a place for people (mostly women) of all backgrounds to create networks of personal interaction. In its sixth bylaw, the founders expressed their crucial hope in creating and converting others to Christianity. They agreed “that those of this congregation should by very charitable with the natives of this island. Principally, they should help them with a good example in deed and word, being to them an example of good cristianas whom they could imitate.”39
The membership lists of the Congregation of the Holy Mother of the Light also open up a world of names. David Herlihy, while studying Tuscan names, reminded us “that study of personal names still promises a way of conversing with the largely inarticulate members of this distant society.”40 In an example from early sixteenth-century Mexico, lists of names in the 1535-1540 census records demonstrate the outward signs of Christian baptism and marriage among the inhabitants of Morelos. The use or absence of Christian names suggests that conversion in Morelos was not as prevalent as previously thought.41 Eighteenth-century lists of names from Guam offer a similar conversation with the voiceless.
The subaltern Chamorros faced a cultural imposition of foreign names for their own first names and, as far as we know, had no tradition of surnames. Many of the names and surnames have become traditional in the Marianas today, yet in 1758 we cannot know if their bearers even used them in daily life. Besides the membership lists of the Congregation of the Holy Mother of Light, two surviving padrones (censuses) from 1728 and 1758 also record the names of all the island inhabitants.42 No one tells us how the islanders approached the scribe to be enrolled and counted for these lists. As the recorder, invariably a Jesuit, heard their names, he had to create a new written language to capture the identity of the individual. In just the registers of the Congregation there are 230 surnames, each echoing the immense diversity and perhaps pronunciation already on the island. The clearly Castilian De la Cruz is the most frequent surname. Other surnames suggest a Chamorro origin: Aguon, Chatgima, Chibug, Fegungun, Gofmatanmidio, Gumataotao, Magtus, Quidangua, Tatacaon, Taytiguan, and Ulcontaotao. Although a surname does not necessarily indicate origin, there are also many Tagalog or Pampango names of Philippine etymology. Hamangco, Mansangan, Pangilinan, and Taymangco are possible Filipino surnames, even demonstrating Chinese connections with the honorific co at the end.43 The Castilian names could come from a variety of geographical locations. The Hernández, Gutiérrez, Martínez, Ramírez, León Guerrero, and even De España could all by this time be from the Americas, the Philippines, the Marianas and, of course, from the Iberian peninsula. As the priest wrote down the names, did he know why the individual had chosen the surname? If so, he did not write it in the lists. Chamorros could have used their first names, but then have the name recorded as a surname by the priest who would have required a Christian baptismal name. Perhaps the non-Chamorro names reflected a non-Chamorro origin. Chamorros could also have sought connections or preserved ancestry to a grandparent from the Philippines, Mexico, Spain, or elsewhere. An etymology of the surnames uncovers a society with multiple and personal ties between the Chamorros and the other subjects of the far-flung Spanish monarchy.
If the surnames hint at origins and ethnicity, the first names undoubtedly point to the traditions of the Catholic Church. The priests wrote these names and christened the people at baptism, but how much did the names take hold among the individuals who possessed those names? Were the sixty-four Marías and the seventy-five with names blended with María, like María de la Encarnación or María Josefa, aware of the Marian devotions and doctrinal debates that informed their names? Their awareness of core Catholic issues could be immaterial to the simple evidence of name changes. After a generation of membership in the Congregation, twelve of the daughters had given names of María Lumen.44 The mothers or the priests remembered their social network in the Congregation of the Holy Mother of Light and used lumen to light the future friendships of another generation.
In 1727, the Jesuits not only counted every individual on the island, but also listed them by name in their villages of residence. We can examine the village of Mongmong, with a small population of 140, for another snapshot [See Lists 1 and 2].45 The first names in Mongmong would not look out of place in any Catholic parish of the early eighteenth-century Spanish-speaking world. María and Francisco are the most commonly used first names. The surnames, however, tell a different story. Only Meno is somewhat Spanish, perhaps pointing to the small physical stature of the two individuals. All the other surnames were examples of the priest transcribing what he heard in spoken Chamorro into the Roman alphabet. Gumataotao is still a recognizable Chamorro surname today, which may translate into English as Houseman. Just as interesting, in a list of families there is little duplication of surnames. In the 1727 list, children did not carry their parents’ surnames. In 1758, families were again listed, but the similar practice of multiple surnames in one family continued. For example, in the western village of Inarajan, Raymundo Quedagua was married to Ana Laan, and they had four children: Gregorio Mafnas, Francisco Agmatagam, Margarita Taytingo, and Maria Asi.46 Surnames fulfilled a different function in this small island, serving perhaps more to identify individuals among the many duplicate Christian first names than in marking family connections. Certainly, in the small and intimate population the family connections were known and did not need written evidence.
In contrast to the early eighteenth century, evidence of names in Guam of the late twentieth-century world, contains immense diversity. Yet the work of conversion and the historical roots of Chamorro culture remain overwhelmingly evident. In comparison to the 1727 snapshot of life in Mongmong, I have randomly chosen names from the 1996 Guam phone book. Names of Hispanic and Filipino origin are readily noticed, but the names and surnames show how much Guam has changed since the island was opened to immigration after the end of American military rule [Lists 3 and 4].
MORAL RESOURCES AND NETWORKS OF FESTIVAL
Exemplary models, Catholic congregations, and names offer us entries into the levels of conversion. In addition, the vivid public celebrations and festivals brought all those on Guam into contact. The shared community illustrated a moral code of values. By the middle of the eighteenth century, there were sustained ties between the Spanish center and the Mariana periphery. The strong local foundation of Christianization and Hispanization indicated an environment united by shared ideas of right and wrong. The mourning rites for Philip V and coronation celebrations for Fernando VI observed on the island are examples of shared festivals. Secretary Jorge Eduardo del Castillo duly wrote his report and preserved the doings for us.47
In 1747, the news of one king’s death and another’s accession reached Guam when two ships en route to Manila dropped anchor. The newly appointed archbishop of Manila, Don Pedro de la Santísima Trinidad announced both the sad and joyful news. The ships also carried wages and situado monies (or subsidies), which had not been distributed for four years. Evidently, there was ample cause for celebration. On 18 July, the new royal banner was raised and a platform was built in the Plaza del Palacio where all the Spanish inhabitants of the islands gathered. The Chamorros in the furthest villages had time to arrive when celebrations were delayed until the vice-provincial of the Jesuits returned from a visit to the southern areas of the island. Upon his return, he began the masses that had been ordered.
The funeral ceremonies began at sunset on 26 July. Every hour on the hour cannons fired and bells rang. In the morning all the vecinos (residents) and the natives were in the church for the devotional mass. Governor Manuel de Argüelles Valdés ordered alms given to all the lepers and widows. The eight lepers and twelve widows who showed up each received one hundred pesos. The recipients of alms attended the mass for monetary reward, but del Castillo does not explain why the natives in general attended. The funerary mass would have been an impressive display of Catholic devotion and belief, which they certainly would have witnessed.
The coronation celebration began when the governor paid the garrison its fourteen months of back pay, totaling 16,040 pesos. The Chamorros also received payments due to them from the foodstuffs as that supported the troops. The governor’s generosity was carefully recorded since the funds came from his personal pocket. The Plaza del Palacio had been strung with lights and the crowds began to shout “Viva Nuestro Señor y Rey, Fernando VI y Nuestra Reina Doña María Bárbara” (Long live our lord and king, Fernando VI and our queen Lady María Bárbara).48 The following day was the feast of San Ignacio de Loyola, patron saint of Agaña, and the festivities continued unabated. A portrait of the new king was paraded through the streets, carried by the governor and the Sargento Mayor. The painting was given a seat of honor on the platform, whereupon the soldiers marched by for review. Finally, the governor ordered that silver coins be “thrown by the fistfuls” to the crowd. The spectacular flow of currency was a clear reason to celebrate among all the island inhabitants. Here, money clearly marked a Spanish and Christian world. Normally, economic exchange occurred through barter, with old clothes and tobacco leaves used as the most valuable markers of wealth. For the Chamorros, a money economy meant a Christian world.
When the mad scramble for the fistfuls of silver coins finished, a final talk was given in both Spanish and Chamorro. The speakers extolled the virtues of Fernando VI.49 The Spanish monarchy united and identified itself around the king. The festivities of 1747 involved all the island’s inhabitants. Spaniards, Filipinos, Mexicans, and Chamorros drew on the royal center to create commonality. They did so in the language of the empire as well as the language of the islanders, while mixing together publicly. Although a year delayed, and on the other side of the world from the king’s court, the celebration of the new monarch by the people of Guam serves as a symbol of union. Was their unity with others of the Hispanic monarchy an imaginary construct? It may be, but during the previous one hundred years, the Chamorros underwent radical change within a Hispanic world. Modernity came to the Marianas islands with unexpected tragedies and premeditated disasters, yet conversion prevailed.
In the last half of the eighteenth century, the inhabitants of Guam were again surprised with news from the Spanish center. Justifiably or not, Charles III of Spain ordered the Jesuit order expelled from his dominions in 1767. The royal order thus changed the Marianas from a mostly religious administration staffed by long-serving Jesuits to a secular government of rotating governors. Despite their willingness to serve, the Augustinian fathers who came did not have the Jesuits’ century of experience among the Chamorros. Many of the Jesuit investments and improvements declined seriously while revolutions in the Americas and Europe passed the Marianas, leaving the islands and their inhabitants in a very isolated spot.50 The governors took on more responsibility. In the 1770s, Governor Mariano de Tobías became famous among European intellectual circles through Raynal’s history of the Indies. The Frenchman portrays an enlightened rule of reason, patience, and tolerance promoting success among the backward Chamorros.51 Despite moments of construction, improvement, and building on Guam, the island finished the eighteenth century in continued decline and neglect from its distant mainland. Spanish kings died, new orders came to Guam and governors devised hopeful plans, but even as the power of Spain diminished in the Marianas, conversion to Christianity was assured.
The conversion of the Chamorros and multiple generations of believing Catholics have made Catholicism a defining cultural trait in the Marianas Islands. In the late nineteenth century the first Chamorro priest was ordained. Father José Palomo became a symbol of Chamorro dedication to the Catholic Church. After the Spanish-American War, as Germany and the United States appointed outsiders over the political and ecclesiastical jurisdictions within the islands, Palomo linked Chamorros to their traditions of Spanish Catholicism. In the early twentieth century, Spanish Jesuits returned to the islands, finding much to praise about the Chamorros. Father Julián de Madariaga visited the Marianas in 1926, and in a letter home, wrote approvingly that the Chamorros “are all old Christians. They dress well and speak a language with many Castilian words ... they are like yeast in all these Christian places.”52 The traditional patterns of maternal control over the household and family persisted, advantageously linked with the Catholic emphasis given to the Virgin Mary.53 Spanish philologist and diplomat, Rafael Rodríguez Ponga writes that, “the link between them [the Chamorros] and the Spanish world is palpable today in their language, in their names and surnames, in their Catholic religion and in their food and customs.”54 Even today, Chamorro realities combine a fascinating amalgam of Spain in the Pacific and powerful Americanization with a distinctive Chamorro life.
Early modern Chamorros faced a new world as Christian converts. Although the missionaries prayed for religious conversion, neither the Jesuits nor the Chamorros could have predicted so much change. It reminds me of Friedrich Engels’ letter to Joseph Bloch in September 1890, in which he wrote: “history is made in such a way that the final result always arises from conflicts between many individual wills. ... What each individual wills is obstructed by everyone else and what emerges is something that no one intended.”55 Conversion is a heart-by-heart, soul-to-soul endeavor, something that individuals choose with varying levels of sincerity. When enough choose or will, then the individual interactions and connections to others create a social transformation. It may be good headlines to claim that Guamanian culture is so disconnected from its past that it is buried in Spam, and thence conclude that Chamorros barely have culture, but such views ignore the continuities.56 From the pre-contact islanders to new Christians, or superstitious Catholics to loyal Americans, the possibilities for the inhabitants of the Marianas change while individual lives and social relationships persist.
Through all the changes, a recognizable Chamorro identity continued. In 1894, visitors noted that Chamorros still spoke their own language when among themselves. Currently, the government of Guam finances Chamorro language immersion programs to support the indigenous language. I agree with Jane Moulin, an ethnomusicologist of French Polynesia, who highlights Pacific Islanders as they localize a wider culture. They may be more externally influenced, but “considering the length of accelerated contact ... and the substantial amount of external pressure brought to bear on indigenous music, people should stand in awe of its continuity, tenacity and amazing adaptability instead of shaking their heads over loss or change.”57 Yes, in the Marianas Islands there has been a great conversion, Christian and otherwise. The change is tangible and clear, but there is no need to despair of the loss. The endurance of Chamorro language and people attests to the substantial networks of social interaction in the Marianas. The religious changes in the islands demonstrate how central the outside world could be in such a seemingly peripheral place like Guam. Indeed, conversion destabilizes place, identity, and culture, but religious change is also a fruitful topic for historians to study the continuity and variability of the past.
LIST 1: First Names in Mongmong, 1727
Agustín - 2
Francisco - 7
Inés - 2
Isabel - 3
José - 4
Josefa - 2
Juan - 8
María - 15
Martín - 3
Nicolas - 3
Pedro - 6
Rafael - 2
Rosalia - 3
Teresa - 3
Thadeo - 2
Tomás - 2
LIST 2: Surnames in Mongmong, 1727
Meme - 2
Meno - 2
Ogchon - 3
Taimaetus - 2
Taisipie - 2
LIST 3: Surnames from 1996 Guam Phone Book (Random Sample)
Cruz - 3
LIST 4: First names from 1996 Guam Phone Book (Random Sample)
Daniel - 3
David - 2
Donald - 2
Jaime - 2
James - 4
Jesús - 2
John - 4
José - 2
Maria - 2
Mark - 2
Michael - 2
Richard - 2
Robert - 3
Tony - 2
Vincent - 2
Virgilio - 2
Wilson - 2
Archivum Romanum Societatis Iesu (ARSI), Philipp. 14, folio 79v; Micronesian Area Research Center (MARC) Spanish Documents Collection, photocopy of the original.
Rodney Stark and Roger Finke, Acts of Faith: Explaining the Human Side of Religion (Berkeley, 2000),118, 279.
Gauri Viswanathan, Outside the Fold: Conversion, Modernity and Belief (Princeton, 1998), xvi.
Richard Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion: From Paganism to Christianity (Berkeley, 1997), 9.
See Richard J. Shell and J. R. McNeill, “Of Rats and Men: A Synoptic Environmental History of the Island Pacific,” Journal of World History 5/2 (1994): 313. For disputed numbers see Georg Fritz, Die Chamorros: A History and Ethnography of the Marianas, trans. Elfriede Craddock, (Mangilao, Guam, 1984), 17; and Richard J. Shell, Saved from Extinction: Changes in Guam’s Population -- 1700 to Mid Century (Mangilao, Guam, 1997), 5.
Robert F. Rogers, Destiny’s Landfall: A History of Guam (Honolulu, 1995), 106.
Antonio Pigafetta, The First Voyage Around the World 1519-1522 (New York, 1995), paragraph 46.
Charles Beardsley, Guam: Past and Present (Tokyo, 1964), 112-16.
Fritz, Die Chamorros, 20.
Mairin Mitchell, Friar Andrés de Urdaneta, O.S.A. (London, 1964), 29.
Marjorie G. Driver, The Account of Fray Juan Pobre’s Residence in the Marianas, 1602 (Mangilao, Guam, 1993), 17-24.
For more on the general history of Guam and its Spanish heritage see Florentino Rodao, “España en el Pacífico,” in Islas del Pacífico: EI Legado Español, ed. Javier Galvan Guijo (Barcelona, 1998), 27-35; Paul Carano and Pedro C. Sanchez, A Complete History of Guam (Tokyo, 1964); and Rogers, Destiny’s Landfall.
J. Arago, Narrative of a Voyage Round the World in the Uranie and Physicienne Corvettes, Commanded by Captain Freycinet During the Years 1817, 1818, 1819 and 1820 on a Scientific Expedition Undertaken by Order of the French Government (London, 1823), 248-50.
R. Po-Chia Hsia, The World of Catholic Renewal 1540-1770 (New York, 1998), 179.
Francisco García’s 1670 account of the missionaries in the Marianas mentions the aniti; see Archivo Histórico Nacional (AHN), Diversos, 27, Doc. 40, folio 9v-10r; cf. Beardsley, Guam: Past and Present, 96-100.
The complete account is given in Acts 8: 28-40.
AHN, Sección Códices, Sig. 1271B, 111v-1l2; MARC photocopy.
A multi-generational study of island life on Guam in the eighteenth century is a project that continues to draw my interest, although only just begun.
Marjorie G. Driver, “Revealing Secrets of the Past: Public Administration and Related Activities in Guam During the 1700 and early 1800s,” Journal of the Pacific Society (July 1989): 11-15.
For more on the historical interpretations of Sanvitores, see Carano and Sanchez, A Complete History of Guam; and Beardsley, Guam: Past and Present. For more specific details, see Francisco García, Sanvitores in the Marianas, trans. Felicia Plaza (Mangilao, Guam, 1980); E. J. Burrus, “Sanvitores’ Grammar and Catechism in the Mariana (or Chamorro) Language (1668),” Anthropos 49 (1954): 936-60; Vicente M. Diaz, Repositioning the Missionary: The Beatification of Blessed Diego Luis de Sanvitores and Chamorro Cultural History (Santa Cruz, 1992).
ARSI, Philipp. 14, folio 92, “Puntos para la carta anual de esta Misión de Marianas de la Compañía de Jesús año 1699;” MARC photocopy.
ARSI, Philipp. 14, folio 92, 98v; MARC photocopy.
Stafford Poole, Our Lady of Guadalupe: The Origins and Sources of a Mexican National Symbol, 1531-1797 (Tuscon, 1995).
AHN, Diversos, 27, Doc. 40, folio 10r.
William A. Christian, Jr., Local Religion in Sixteenth-Century Spain (Princeton: 1981).
Archivo General de Indias (AGI), Ultramar, Legajo 562, 2; MARC transcription, 400-401.
Archivo General de Indias (AGI), Ultramar, Legajo 562, 2; MARC transcription, 401.
Real Academia de la Historia (RAH), Cortes 567, Legajo 11,2677; MARC bound photocopies, 395-401.
AGN (Archivo General de la Nación), Inquisición, Vol. 552, Exp. 16, fs. 75; MARC photocopy #840.
Robert Ricard, The Spiritual Conquest of Mexico: An Essay on the Apostalate and the Evangelizing Methods of the Mendicant Orders in New Spain 1523-1572 (Berkeley, 1966), 268-69.
This is the interesting case of Francisco Noguerol de Ulloa, vecino of Medina del Campo and a twenty-year resident of Peru, who, before leaving the peninsula, had married in Castile. Thinking that his wife had died, Noguerol remarried in Lima. See Alexandra Parma Cook and Noble David Cook, Good Faith and Truthful Ignorance: A Case of Transatlantic Bigamy (Durham, 1991).
Richard Boyer, Lives of the Bigamists: Marriage, Family and Community in Colonial Mexico (Albuquerque, 1995); Javier Pèrez Escohotado, Sexo e Inquisición en España (Madrid, 1988).
AGN, Inquisición, Vol. 718, Exp. S/n, fs. 416-421; MARC photocopy #920.
RAH, Cortes, 567, Legajo 12, Parte 1; MARC photocopy, page 64.
RAH, Cortes, 567, Legajo 12, Parte 1; MARC photocopy, page 64.
AGI, Ultramar, 561; MARC transcription, page 1524.
AGN, Inquisición, Vol. 1108, Exp. 12, folio 191; MARC photocopy #1080.
AGN, Inquisición, Vol. 1108, Exp. 12, folio 191; MARC photocopy #1080, 191v-192.
AGN, Inquisición, Vol. 1108, Exp. 12, folio 191; MARC photocopy #1080, 191.
David Herlihy, “Tuscan Names 1200-1530,” Renaissance Quarterly 41 (1988): 582.
Sarah Cline, “The Spiritual Conquest Reexamined: Baptism and Christian Marriage in Early Sixteenth-Century Mexico,” Hispanic American Historical Review 73 (1993): 453-80.
See AGI, Ultramar, 561 and AGI, Filipinas, 480.
By the mid-eighteenth century, Manila had a very large Chinese community, which lived in the parián, across the Pasig River from the walled city, and was known as sangley. See Ramon Ma Zaragoza, Old Manila (Singapore, 1990).
AGN, Inquisición, Vol. 1108, Exp. 12, folio 191; MARC photocopy #1080, 216v-220.
AGI, Ultramar, Leg. 561, fs. 197-202; MARC transcription of original.
AGI, Filipinas, 480; MARC transcription, page 114.
Dossier Compiled Upon the Occasion of the Royal Funerary Rites for Felipe V and the Proclamation of the Coronation of Fernando VI in the City of Agaña, 1747, trans. Carolyn McClurkan (Mangilao, Guam, 1987), 7-8; the original document can be found in the Archivo Histórico Provincial de Aragón (AHPA) E-1-c-6, E-1-c-5b, E-1-c-5r.
Dossier Compiled Upon the Occasion of the Royal Funerary Rites for Felipe V and the Proclamation of the Coronation of Fernando VI in the City of Agaña, 1747, trans. Carolyn McClurkan (Mangilao, Guam, 1987), 14-16.
Dossier Compiled Upon the Occasion of the Royal Funerary Rites for Felipe V and the Proclamation of the Coronation of Fernando VI in the City of Agaña, 1747, trans. Carolyn McClurkan (Mangilao, Guam, 1987), 20-22.
Carano and Sanchez, Complete History of Guam, 118-19; and Beardsley, Guam: Past and Present, 160.
Guillaume-Thomas Raynal, Histoire Philosophique et Politique des Établissemens et du Commerce des Européens dans les Deux Indes (Geneva, 1780), 2: 98-99; also see Beardsley, Guam: Past and Present, 114-16.
Vicente Guimerá, Marino y misionero o el P. Julián de Madariaga de la Compañía de Jesús misionero en las islas Marianas, Carolinas y Marshall (Seville, 1929), 166.
Rogers, Destiny’s Landfall, 102-103.
Rafael Rodríguez Ponga y Salamanca, EI Elemento Español en la Lengua Chamorra (Islas Marianas) (Madrid, 1995), 9. My translation.
Friedrich Engels to Joseph Bloch, 21-22 September 1890, as found in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Selected Correspondence (Moscow, 1965), 418.
Robert Frank, “Guam’s Roots are So Deep in Spam, They’re Hard to Find,” The Wall Street Journal (March 28, 2000): A1, A8.
Jane Freeman Moulin, “What’s Mine is Yours? Cultural Borrowing in a Pacific Context,” The Contemporary Pacific 8 (Spring 1996): 140.