Curbed a Chamorro uprising

Not all Chamorros fought valiantly against Spanish occupation. There were some who chose to side with the Spanish for a variety of reasons. Hineti, a clan leader from Sinajana, chose to protect the Spanish in hopes of improving their personal status and gaining power. Hineti defended the Spanish against Chamorro revolts, and is most known for curbing a Chamorro uprising in Hagåtña in 1684.

Because he was from a mountainous area, it is assumed that Hineti was of the lower caste manachang, as the higher caste matua lived near the ocean. Christianity afforded the lower class a new status in society that they would have had to otherwise be born into. Like their leader, Hineti’s soldiers were no doubt lower class manachang.

Hineti was willingly baptized and given the name Ignacio by the Spanish. In 1678 he was appointed sergeant-general and assigned as the commander of the Chamorro branch of the Spanish militia. During this time, the Spanish military rule was at its peak, and many Chamorros had begun serving the Spanish as soldiers and full-time missionaries. Hineti became one of the most loyal of these soldiers, earning his place in countless Spanish historical accounts of this era. In several accounts, the Spanish admit that if it had not been for Hineti and his troops, the Chamorros would have overthrown the Spanish government in 1684.

In July of that year, Jose de Quiroga, Spain’s most relentless military ruler that was sent to the Mariana Islands to fight Chamorro resistance, and his troops were in Saipan fighting Chamorro armies there. The Spanish Chamorro wars had been going on for ten years on Guam by then and most of the defiant Chamorros were thought to be killed, ran off island or subdued. Quiroga was so confident of this that he left Hagåtña nearly defenseless. He took all the best soldiers and weapons to Saipan.  It was the perfect time to strike against Spain. A bold chief named Yula (also spelled Yura) quickly seized the opportunity and organized a group of Chamorros to attack the Spanish garrison and churches in Hagåtña.

On July 23, 1684, about forty men from three villages attacked the Spanish after Mass. They had precisely chosen a day when the Vice-Provincial Father Gerardo Bouwens had invited some priests to a meeting at his residence in Hagåtña. Yula and his army managed to get into the garrison by attending the mass with other parishioners. After mass, the warriors split into two groups – one went to the governor’s palace, the other went to the house of the priests. At the governor’s house, Yura’s forces killed a sentry and wounded a servant. A Filipino soldier killed Yula, but his army continued to fight.

Four youth from Yula’s army went straight to the Spanish governor’s palace to look for him. They didn’t find him there, but ran into him alone and unarmed on the street. They attacked him, threw him down to the ground, cut him on the face and stabbed him repeatedly, jeering and scoffing all the while. They would have killed him, but two soldiers ran up on them and killed the main attacker, causing the other three to flee.

Yula’s army also took over a guardhouse and killed a soldier who did not have a weapon, and another who was sleeping. They killed a third soldier that day along the road as they were retreating. A fourth soldier died the next day and seventeen more were wounded. They also attacked the churches, harming several priests and killing two. At that point Yula’s forces made a fatal mistake. Instead of capitalizing on their position and finishing off the unprotected priests and government officials, Yula’s warriors retreated and Hineti stepped in.

When Hineti saw what was happening, he ran to the church and told a priest:

Do not come out, dear Father, because they will kill you. Stay inside. We will defend you.

He noticed that the rebels had set fire to the offices attached to the church and went immediately back to the church to remove two devotional statues, St. Michael and of the Guardian Angel, so they would not burn. He then went into the house and arranged for the priests to withdraw to the fort. He personally helped to carry those who were wounded. Once he saw that they were all safe, he returned to his village and gathered fifty men with weapons. They marched to Hagåtña and surrounded the fort.

To prove that he was there to fight for the Spanish, Hineti stepped aside from his squadron and began to cry for the havoc that had been wreaked on the church and governor. He went to the fort with his sword hanging from his belt, and staff in hand, to apologize to the governor and priests for the attack. Hineti then offered his life to defend them.

In Spanish reports Hineti was to have said with tears and sighs:

Here I am to prevent the enemies of God to set fire to His house and that of His ministers, and I am ready to give my life for this, and for all those who are in this fort. So I ask you, O Governor, to give me permission to go now with my men to fight with those forty traitors, and burn their town, and to bloody our weapons on them, the same way that they have bloodied their weapons on your persons, killing those who are the Fathers of their souls.

At one in the morning on July 27, the Chamorro army returned accompanied by men from two other districts. They came from among a wooded area toward the church guarded by Hineti’s army. Hineti went out to meet them with spears. The Chamorros responded in kind, and Hineti signaled to the fort to ask for firearms, but the governor did no grant him even one man, although he had seventy-five with him. Thus, two of Hineti’s men were wounded and eventually killed. But Hineti did not retreat until he won the battle.

Hineti and his troops were initially charged with the protection of the school, church and missionaries’ homes. Convinced that he could kill the remaining fighters, Hineti pleaded for Spanish troops to follow him into battle. But Hineti was called back to the fort by Governor Esplana, where his soldiers received cover from the musket’s fire. Noticing that the Chamorros threw themselves to the ground when they expected gunfire, Hineti timed his attacks from the fort accordingly.

On August 19, Chamorro fighters from across the island came at the Spanish, attacking from all four sides, but they were met by Hineti and the artillery of the Spanish. They could not break through. They eventually retreated and resorted to pleading with Hineti. They told him he had offended his people by siding with the Spanish. They asked him to consider that the Spanish could not maintain themselves in the islands, and that it would not be long before they would all have to die, on the one hand for lack of sustenance and on the other because the neighboring islands were in readiness to join in the revolt and finish the Spanish off once and for all. Hineti was also asked to kill the governor and deliver them his head. He responded that he was a Catholic and proud of it, and that even if he had to lose his life one thousand times he would do so to protect the Spanish.

Eventually Quiroga and his army returned to the island, stifling all remaining resistance. Hineti continued to fight for the Spanish for the rest of his life.

By Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero, MFA and Nicholas Yamashita Quinata

For further reading

Aguon. Katherine B. Commentary. “Ancient Chamorro Leaders of Guahan.” Guahan Magazine (June 2007).

Benavente, Eddie L.G. I Manmaga’lahi yan I Manma’gas – Geran Chamoru yan Espanot, 1668-1695. Mangilao, GU: Eddie L.G. Benavente, 2007.

Hezel, Francis. “From Conversion to Conquest: The Early Spanish Mission in the Marianas.” Journal of Pacific History 17 (1982): 3-4; 115-37. Also available online at Micronesian Seminar (accessed 22 April 2013).

Le Gobien, Charles. Histories des Isles Marianes. Paris: 1700. A manuscript translated into English is available at the University of Guam Richard F. Taitano Micronesian Area Research Center.

Political Status Education Coordinating Commission. Hale-ta – I Manfåyi: Who’s Who in Chamorro History. Vol. 1. Hagåtña: Political Status Education Coordinating Commission, 1995.

Rogers, Robert. Destiny’s Landfall: A History of Guam. Honolulu: University of Hawai`i Press, 1995.