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Ancient Chamorro settlement

Sumay’s history dates before the Spanish colonial period, although not much is known about its pre-contact history. Findings in a cave complex in the old village site suggest that ancient Chamorros dwelled in them long before the Spanish first arrived. When the Spanish proclaimed Guam as theirs, Sumay’s chieftain was said to be among those who held strong opposition to the Spanish colonizers, although the Spanish government eventually gained control. Sumay, like other villages, became centered around the Catholic church.

The Spaniards kept a settlement at Sumay, and its easy access to San Luis de Apra Harbor made it a favorite anchorage town for whalers and other sailors. Sumay grew into a thriving little port town in the 1800s. The Spaniards fortified the high cliffs behind the village and other points to protect the harbor. The guns were in disrepair, however, when the Americans sailed into Apra to capture Guam without resistance during the Spanish-American War in 1898.

The Americans also fortified the same cliff line after World War I and stationed a Marine Corps Aircraft Squadron in the area because of suspicions of Japan, which had gained the Northern Marianas after the war. However, the U.S. dismantled the fortifications on Guam in the early 1920s.

Much of the naval shipping operations were situated along this coastal village when the American government took over. The Trans-Pacific Cable Company anchored its station at Sumay in 1903, linking Guam with both Asia and the United States. Pan American Airways landed its China Clipper at Sumay in 1935, and built Guam’s first hotel there.

A seawall that surrounded the coastline was constructed to protect it from the pounding waves, and many of the residents enjoyed fishing and swimming along the coast every day. The Maxwell School was also constructed in the early 1930s, a small building that educated most of the children of the area. As of the 1920 census, the population of Sumay was 1,209, the second-highest population after Hagåtña. In 1923, the village became the site of Guam’s first golf course, the Sumay Golf Links, with eighteen holes.

Sumay’s well-known representative in the Guam House of Assembly was Antonio B. Won Pat, a schoolteacher whose family was from the village. Won Pat became speaker of the House of Assembly in 1948 and would go on to become the first speaker of the new Guam Legislature in 1951 and Guam’s first delegate to U.S. Congress in the 1960s – and the island’s most influential politician for several decades. Won Pat’s successor as Guam delegate to the U.S. Congress, Gen. Ben Blaz, was also from Sumay.

People flee the Japanese

Because military shipping and communications centered around Sumay, it was one of the first areas to be bombed when the Japanese attacked on December 8, 1941. The people of Sumay fled and scattered inland to their small ranches in the jungles, with many families becoming separated. The entire population of Sumay was promptly evicted by the Japanese in the first few days of occupation to make room for a Japanese garrison, and five Chamorro girls were raped by Japanese troops in the takeover. The residents were eventually moved from camp to camp by the Japanese, some as far as Merizo and Mannengon hills in Yona.

Navy takes village for base

After World War II was over the Navy did not allow the Sumay residents to reclaim their home, saying they needed the property for U.S. Naval Base, Guam. The former Sumay residents were eventually relocated to the newly created village of Santa Rita. All that remains of Sumay Village is a cross from the Catholic Church, the cemetery and remains of a few of the structures.

By Leo Babauta

For Further Reading

Blaz, Gen. Ben. Bisita Guam, Sumay, The Missing Village (accessed 6 Feb. 2013).

Guam Historic Resources Division, Parks and Recreation (accessed 6 Feb. 2013).

Fanhasso I Taotao Sumay: Displacement, Dispossession and Survival on Guam

By James Perez Viernes

Editor’s note: Following is a masters thesis written by James Perez Viernes from University of Hawai’i in 2008. It is a comprehensive history of the village of Sumay with accounts by former Sumay residents. To cite as a reference please use: James Perez Viernes, “Fanhasso I Taotao Sumay: Displacement, Dispossession and Survival on Guam,” Master’s Thesis, University of Hawai’i, 2008.

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