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Guam Año de 1823

Editor’s note:The following data is from a document that Jillette Leon-Guerrero donated to the Spanish Documents Collection at the University of Guam Richard F. Taitano Micronesian Area Research Center (MARC) in September 2009. The document contains the vital statistics of the year 1823, for the city of San Ignacio of Agaña (Hagåtña) and adjacent towns in Guam, Mariana Islands. The document is signed by the Governor of the Mariana Islands, José Ganga Herrero. His signature has been verified with other documents of that period, which are also housed at MARC, UOG. Previous to this 1823 report on vital statistics, there are only two known reports with names and information about people in the Marianas. These are the Census of 1728 and the Census of 1758. Both documents are available at MARC, UOG.

Background of the document

Toward the beginning of the 19th century King Fernando VII (1813-1833) was the regent in Spain when Europe was divided by two philosophies: absolutism and liberalism. Absolutism represented social and political reforms implemented prior to the French Revolution. Liberalism defended the principles of the French and American Revolutions.

Fernando VII’s political actions fluctuated between the two philosophies. Political instability increased and the power of absolutism was weakened. In 1808 the Spanish people revolted against Napoleon and Fernando VII was forced into exile. Throughout the Spanish peninsula, councils were formed that would influence the wars for independence in Spain’s New World colonies.

In Spain, the events propelled by liberalism led to the proclamation of the 1812 Constitution, which had a progressive ideology. The proclamation established that “All free men and their children born in Spain’s territories are Spanish subjects.”  The 1812 Constitution also defined the territories of the Spanish nation, which included the Philippine Islands and the islands that depend on it for its government.

As a result of the 1812 Constitution, the colonial administration became interested in its colonies and its people. Therefore, the Governor General of the Philippines issued Regulation 23 in June 1813 which implemented reporting vital statistics for the provinces under its administration, including the Mariana Islands.

Fernando VII returned to Spain from exile on March 22, 1814, imposing absolute rule that lasted until his death in 1833. Between 1820 and 1833, Fernando VII became interested in the Mariana Islands and was convinced that the islands were important, because their geographic location, in order to defend the Philippines in case of foreign incursions. Most Spaniards had generally ignored the inhabitants of the Marianas, their history, natural resources, and living conditions up until this time. On 15 May 1823, Fernando VII appointed Jose Ganga Herrero as governor of the Marianas.

The data is presented in three tables, the first of which is entitled AÑO de 1823 – Year of 1823 NACIDOS – BORN. This table has three columns, the first indicating the male children, the second the female children, and the third column indicating the day and month in which each child was born in Spanish and English.

The second table, entitled AÑO de 1823 –Year of 1823 CASADOS – MARRIED, has three columns. The first column indicates the names of the men, the second states the age of each man and the third column indicates the day and month of the marriage. This report does not indicate the names of the women to whom the men were married.

The third and forth tables are  entitled AÑO de 1823 –Year 1823 MUERTOS –DECEASED, which has been subdivided into two tables (one for men and one for women) with three columns each.  The terminology to describe the sickness or cause of death is from the colloquial speech, some words of which are no longer in used in the Spanish language.

AÑO de 1823 –Year of 1823
Noticia que el Ayuntamiento de esta ciudad de San Ygnacio de Agaña y la de los pueblos inmediatos y partidos comprensivo de estas islas Marianas, remite y ha formado en cumplimiento del Artículo 2º del 23 de junio de 1813, que es el reglamento del gobierno económico político de las provincias, de los nacidos, casados y muertos, con expresión de fechas que ha habido en este presente año.

A notification from the City Hall of this city of San Ygnacio of Agaña, including the immediate and adjacent towns of these Mariana Islands, has been sent. It has been formed in accordance with the Regulation, Article 2º of 23 June 1813, which is the regulation of the Economic and Political Government of the Provinces, in which the born, the married and the dead are expressed in the chart dated this present year, expressing the exact dates of the events.

Translated by Omaira Brunal-Perry, Spanish Documents Collection, University of Guam Richard F. Taitano Micronesian Area Research Center.

Download 1823 Guam Vital Statistics Report here.