Educator, public servant

Candelaria Flores Taitano Rios (1932-2009) was an accomplished public servant in many sectors of the community. She was a leader in the development of educational programs, the Democratic Party of Guam, and for numerous civic organizations and public events.

Rios was born to Rosario Sablan Flores and Juan San Nicolas Taitano on 22 February 1932. She married Joseph Leon Guerrero Rios as a young woman and together, they had five children: Joleen Rios Siguenza, Joseph, Jr., Rose, Helen and John. Family was very important to Rios.  She was known to the community as “Auntie Candy” or “Auntie Lala.”

Rios graduated from George Washington High School and received her Associate degree in elementary education from the College of Guam in 1961, followed by a BA in the same subject in 1967 and then a Master’s in education in elementary administration and supervision from the University of Guam in 1971.

She began her teaching career at a time when there was a real need for qualified teachers on Guam. The government had put out a call to encourage public service in education and Rios responded. She was a long time educator, working as an elementary teacher and as an assistant principal at New Piti Elementary School, and was principal at the C.L. Taitano Elementary School.

While Rios worked at C.L. Taitano she introduced and then became the project director for the Hawai’i English Program, an educational approach to teaching English to second language speakers. When she retired from teaching in 1976, she opened and managed a daycare center until she returned to work for the government in 1982. Rios held positions in the Government of Guam including deputy director for both the Passport Office and the Government of Guam Retirement Fund from 1983-1986.

Rios was a volunteer for the Catholic Church, the Democratic Party of Guam and other civic organizations. She also helped in organizing community events, such as Pope John Paul II’s historic visit to Guam in 1981 and the Fiestan Guam (Liberation Day) celebrations. In addition, she participated in organizations such as the Latte of Freedom Foundation and the Guma Mami board of directors.

Rios helped raise funds for the Mentally Retarded Adults Association; Chief Kepuha and the Sirena Statute Projects; Committee for President Ronald Reagan’s visit in 1985; Vocational Education Advisory Council; Retired Education Association; Guam Elementary Administrators Association; Inetnon Famalaoan and the Retired Employee Association.

Democratic Party of Guam leader

Rios was a notable leader in the Democratic Party of Guam and a founding member of the Women’s Democratic Party of Guam. She was responsible, along with her brother, Richard F. Taitano, for leading village organizations at the grassroots level to expand Democratic values and beliefs. Rios held numerous positions for the Democratic Party on Guam, and was a Delegate to the National Democratic Convention in 1988 and 1992.

She was also a member of the National Federation of Democratic Women; a charter member of the Democratic Women’s Organization of Guam and vice-chairperson of the Democratic Party of Guam. In these capacities, she supervised the Democratic Party Gubernatorial and Senatorial Canvassing; acted as chairperson for the Committee to Elect Madeline Z. Bordallo for Senator, and was the chairperson for the Jefferson-Jackson Celebrations. She also was the president of the Women’s Democratic Party of Guam at various times.

Rios was a staunch advocate for Government of Guam retirees and their survivors. She passionately led retirees in a class action suit demanding that the government of Guam fulfill its obligations in paying for the Cost of Living Allowance (COLA). She was relentless in the pursuit of her goals. At the end of her long and accomplished life she was able to witness the approval by the court and the payments of the cost of living allowance lawsuit for retirees that began decades earlier.

She passed away on 5 January 2009 at the age of 77.

By Anthony C. Blaz

For further reading

I Manfåyi: Who’s Who in Chamorro History. Vol. 2. The Hale’-ta Series. Hagåtña: Political Status Education and Coordinating Commission, 1997.