Editor’s note: A more eloquent presentation on the life of Angel L.G. Santos is provided to Guampedia in an interpretive essay by Chamorro scholar and activist, Dr. Michael Lujan Bevacqua, and can be accessed here.

“We cannot be passive or silent when human beings endure suffering or humiliation. We must step forward and take sides. We must assist immediately. At times, we may fail. At times, we may make mistakes. But we must never make the mistake of failing to try. People deserve nothing less.”

—Angel L. G. Santos

Perhaps no individual figure in Guam’s recent history epitomizes the social and political activism of the 1990s more than Angel Anthony “Anghet” Leon Guerrero Santos, III. Santos was a United States Air Force veteran, a former Senator of the Guam Legislature, and an icon of Chamorro activism. He fought for the implementation of the Chamorro Land Trust Act and the return of excess federal lands, and was an advocate of social justice for the indigenous Chamorros of Guam.

Santos was born 14 April 1959 to Amanda Cruz Leon Guerrero and Angel Cruz Santos. He passed away on 6 July 2003 at the age of 44, leaving behind eight of his nine children: Angel R. Santos IV, Sheila S. Indalecio, Christopher R. Santos, Vanessa J. Santos, Francine N. Santos (Deceased), Brandon S. Santos, Taga H. Santos-Salas, Ke’puha H. Santos-Salas, and Sosanbra E. Santos-Salas.

Santos served 13 years as an airman in the United States Air Force. He was elected as a Democratic senator in the 23rd, 24th and 26th Guam Legislatures (1994-1998, and 2000-2002). Santos unsuccessfully ran for governor with running mate Jose Terlaje, in the 1998 gubernatorial elections.

In 1991, Santos became president of the newly formed United Chamorro Chelus for Independence and was instrumental in founding Nasion Chamoru (Chamorro Nation) where he took charge as the group’s first spokesperson. With his fellow members, Santos worked to increase awareness of Chamorro rights and engaged in several memorable protests, including sit-ins and marches at the Governor’s Complex in Adelup, and a hunger strike in 1995 over land rights.

In fact, land rights for Chamorros was a major issue Santos wanted to resolve, and he worked in his capacity with Nasion Chamoru and as a senator in the Guam Legislature to implement the Chamorro Land Trust Act. The provisions of the Act—which gave opportunities for landless indigenous Chamorros to lease land under specific conditions—had never been carried out since it became law in 1975. Santos, along with other members of Nasion Chamoru, filed a lawsuit to force the Government of Guam to implement the Land Trust Act. Later, as a senator, Santos authorized the Rules and Regulations for the Chamorro Land Trust Commission.

Angel Santos also advocated for the protection of Chamorro culture, language and heritage, and was often invited to participate in gatherings or speak to audiences about Chamorro rights and environmental issues. He was credited for revealing the improper disposal of toxic waste on private property by the US military, a practice that had been kept secret by the US military itself.

In 2000, Santos began a six-month term in federal prison for violating a 1993 court order to stay off of federal land near Andersen Air Force Base in Dededo. Santos argued his right to be there, as the land belonged to his family and was his grandfather’s property. Upon his release from prison, he was elected to another term in the Guam Legislature. However, his poor health had made him unable to serve his term completely.

Santos’ death in 2003 left a void in the Chamorro rights movement, but he was greatly admired by many in the island community for his efforts, his generosity, his compassion and his passion for the Chamorro people. The latte stone park in Hagåtña was renamed the Senator Angel L.G. Santos Memorial Park in his honor in 2005.

By Dominica Tolentino

For further reading

“Chamorro Activist Angel Santos Dies on Guam.” Pacific Daily News, 7 July 2003.