Historical dictionary of Guam and Micronesia

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Inflation: 3. Arable land: 2. Agriculture: black pepper, tropical fruits and vegetables, coconuts, cassava tapioca , betel nuts, sweet potatoes; pigs, chickens; fish. Labor force: 15, ; agriculture: 0. Industries: tourism, construction; fish processing, specialized aquaculture; craft items from shell, wood, and pearls. Natural resources: forests, marine products, deep-seabed minerals. Major trading partners: Japan, U. Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 8, ; mobile cellular: 27, Internet users: 17, Transportation: Railways: 0 km.

Highways: total: km; paved: 42 km; unpaved: km est. Airports: 6 Major sources and definitions. The islands vary geologically from high mountainous islands to low coral atolls, with volcanic outcroppings on Pohnpei, Kosrae, and Chuuk. They are located 3, mi 5, km west-southwest of Hawaii, in the north Pacific Ocean.

The islands, inhabited by Micronesian and Polynesian peoples, were colonized by Spain in the 17th century. Germany purchased them from Spain in In Nov.

Historical Dictionary of Guam and Micronesia

Culture in court : notes and reflections on abortion in Guam. Donald H. Guam's recent anti-abortion law PL enacted in March is perhaps the most restrictive example of such legislation in any US flag area. Although the social, legal, and political aspects of the abortion debate in Guam provided a microcosm of the wider " Pro-Choice " vs " Pro-Life " confrontation in the US, in cultural terms the Guam debate was unique. The defense of Guam's anti- abortion law was presented in large measure as a protection of Guam's " special identity and heritage ".

In the defendant's memorandum in support of a partial motion for summary judgement, there were at least eight allusions to culture.

Culture in court : notes and reflections on abortion in Guam

The implicit argument was that the Guam Legislature, in passing the anti-abortion law, acted " to protect the indigenous Guam " in regard to abortion. Social and religious leaders of Guam have presented the cultural argument in very explicit terms, by insisting that the Chamorro language lacks a term for " abortion ", and that abortion was non-existent in indigenous Chamorro culture.

In other respects, the controversy surrounding Guam's anti-abortion law followed the form of such debates in the US mainland. Public rallies were held to endorse both sides, professional advocates from outside the community appeared soon afterwards to promote one cause or the other, and public leaders were called upon by the media to answer questions and define their position.

Despite the insistence of island leaders that the issue was strictly a local matter, without legal or political implications outside of Guam, the debate quickly received national media. Not only was it seen as a potential legal test at the US Supreme Court level of the current abortion rights guaranteed under Roe vs Wade, but the Guam law also had significant and unforeseen political repercussions for the territory, by seriously undermining, at least temporarily, US Congressional support of Guam's movement for self-determination North, The introduction of " culture " as a term in Guam's abortion debate is part of an increasingly prevalent process in the Pacific : the objectification and idealization of culture, and its rhetorical use in local and national level political discourse Keesing, In this process, culture — including history and language — is mythologized and reformulated, in order to serve as rationalizations of contemporary social movements.

Culture, custom, and tradition become powerful symbols in political discourse, and are molded and manipulated by local elites. Traditional culture is " reinvented " ex cathedra to legitimize new social ideologies or political structures, and to resolve contradictions between ancestral practices and current Christianity Keesing, While this process is a normal one of cultural inventiveness, it is nevertheless useful to reflect critically upon the resultant beliefs and statements. This paper offers a review of historical and ethnographic references to abortion in Guam and Micronesia.

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The material reviewed here is offered not as a way of " setting the record straight ", but rather as a basis for a more informed and critical approach to cultural and historical understanding. Abortion in chamorro culture. The earliest historical reference that was found to abortion in Guam is in an 18th century centennial history of the Philippines Province and the Society of Jesus, published in and written by Pedro Murillo Velarde, a Jesuit priest and historian stationed in the Philippines excerpt cited in McGrath, : Velarde was evidently quoting an earlier writer's statement, but that source has not been located.

Most likely he was citing either a comment from Jesuit letters written in the early s from Guam, or from official reports around the time of the governorship of Lieutenant General Juan Antonio Pimentel The Jesuit historian Joannis Joseph Delgado was probably using Velarde's or the earlier source in a document he wrote in Delgado refers to abortion in a discussion of the catastrophic depopulation of the Chamorro people. There is in said [Mariana] islands a governor appointed by the King, [which is] a useful and easy occupation since he has little governing to do, inasmuch as today, all the residents, including the Spaniards and the people from Manila who are living there, barely reach 3 According to some peple, the cause of this diminution was a great epidemic from which many died.

But others give other reasons, such as that they cannot abide the yoke of the Spaniards because of their great pride and haughtiness, and that they would like to live as they did in the past, in freedom and [following their] barbarous customs. Because of this, many hang themselves and others kill themselves [each other? The women, likewise, purposely sterilize themselves ; or if they conceive, they find ways to abort, and some kill their children after birth in order to save them from the subjugation of the Spaniards , Folio 83, trans, by M.

A possible allusion to Chamorros' self- inflicted deaths and abortions appears in a letter dated September 20, , sent to the viceroy of New Spain Mexico , reporting on the " Indians of the Marianas ". This letter was written shortly after the repressive governorship of Pimentel, and was protesting the abusive administration. Velarde's observation was repeated in the multi-volume study by the Spanish historian Juan de la Conception, another Jesuit priest based in the Philippines.

Facts & Figures

This very large diminution of population comes from the subjugation imposed upon them by the force of arms. As lovers of liberty they could not tolerate a foreign yoke. This became so painful for them that, not being able to free themselves of it, they preferred to lose their lives by hanging and by other desperate means.

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The women purposely sterilized themselves, and they threw their newborn children into the sea, convinced that an early death would free them of travails and a painful life — [in death] they would be fortunate and happy. Subjugation was so despicable that, for them, it was the ultimate and most deplorable calamity Volume 7 : , by M.

This statement evidently is the basis for several other historical references to abortion in Chamorro culture. None of these writers disputed the earlier observation. Freycinet, who visited Guam in , added his own contemporaneous observation that some Chamorro women aborted : , quoted in Devereux : Early twentieth century ethnographic accounts reflect a knowledge of abortion methods among Chamarros.

Shizuo Mat- suoka, a Japanese ethnographer in Saipan in the s, wrote that " The Chamorros drink Ephedra vulga- ris, pinebark, and the root of abas a tree which they soak in water.

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They do this within three months after conception " : , quoted in Devereux, : Laura Thompson, an American anthropologist who conducted extensive studies of Chamorro culture and history in the s, summarized four contemporary techniques of abortion in Guam. Several means of bringing on abortion are known. Drink one cup from this brew three times. This is the most effective dose. Occasionally abortions are induced artificially by one of the methods described on page After an abortion the foetus is usually buried near the house Thompson, : Abortion in filipino and 17th century hispanic culture.

The knowledge and cultural acceptance of abortion methods in Filipino culture has relevance to evaluating the issue of abortion in contemporary Chamorro culture, owing to the long and close relationship of these two cultures in Guam. Chamorro language and culture during the past three centuries has assimilated innumerable items of Filipino origins.

General histories

One might argue that the imprint of Filipino culture has been at least as pervasive if not more so than that of Hispanic culture on Chamorro culture. Population numbers are one rough measure of cultural influence. Mixed Chamorro-Filipino marriages by the mid's were more common than Chamorro-Spanish marriages, and by the early 1 s, Filipinos outnumbered Spanish in Guam by nearly two to one Thompson, : There is a large cultural repertoire of folk abortifacients in the Philippines.

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Over three dozen techniques have been described Damo, , Demetria, These have been summarized Yu and Liu, : under seven categories, including 1 external applications with herbal concoctions ; 2 external pressure, including combinations of forceful massage and squeezing of the abdomen, applying a poultice to the woman's abdomen, and applying weight to a bamboo pole placed across the woman's abdomen ; 3 internal instrusions, including the insertion of wires or fingers into the vaginal canal, or the application of a hot enema ; 4 use of chemicals ingested orally, including a variety of locally produced pharmacological agents, quinine, ergot tablets, paregoric, and alcoholic drinks ; 5 use of inanimate objects, such as infusions made from magnetic stones that are soaked in water or ground and mixed with water ; 6.

It is noteworthy that abortion techniques are culturally elaborated in the Philippines, despite their illegality, the disapproval of the Roman Catholic Church, and the " restrictive sexual mores " op cit, Also, it appears that the practice is equally common in rural and urban areas, and among the low, middle, and upper class Filipinos op, cit, Chamorro society underwent a period of profound and rapid restructuring following the Spanish invasion and conquest in the latter third of the seventeenth century.

It is relevant therefore to consider historical attitudes and practices regarding abortion in Hispanic society of the period, which may have influenced Chamorro attitudes that emerged from the early cultural contact with the Spanish, and the enormous disruption that ensued. Payne's recent historical overview of Spanish Catholicism makes the point that seventeenth century Spanish sexual mores were " rather relaxed " and that the cities were characterized by crime, prostitution, vice, and a " cynical attitude toward common morality " op.

The institution of marriage was often mocked, and even clerical guidelines on abortion were " remarkably tolerant " Kamen, : , cited op. Abortion and infanticide were both practiced as the common post-conception means of family size limitation for centuries in Europe Gies, 13 ; Flinn, : 46 , and neither contraception nor abortion were terribly controversial subjects Gies, : It does not seem likely, therefore, that Chamorro society would have encountered and assimilated strong anti-abortion cultural values from seventeenth century Spanish administrators, relocated prisoners, or even clerics.

Abortion in other micronesian cultures. The numerous references indicating cultural knowledge and practice of abortion in Micronesian societyies outside of Guam bear on the issue of abortion in Chamorro society in two ways. First, Micronesia is a " culture area " which, though composed of a number of distinct societies, shows some common cultural patterns including matrilineal transmission of land rights and clan descent group membership, ranked social classes based on inheritance and presumed priority of settlement in particular estates or villages, similar material.


On the basis of the widespread presence and cultural rationale of a practice such as abortion throughout the Micronesian area, one may infer that the practice also had a place in Cha- morro culture prior to the Spanish invasion. Secondly, the frequent contacts between Chamorro people and the peoples of the Caroline Islands provided ample opportunities for Chamorro exposure to and familiarity with abortion practices among related cultural groups. Carolinians from the Woleai-Satawal- Puluwat area were making frequent trading voyages to Guam in ancient times, and by the early to mid- s there were permanent settlements of Carolinians in Saipan and Guam.

Likewise, significant numbers of Chamorros migrated to the Caroline Islands in the first two decades of the twentieth century. Today there are an estimated 3 Palauans living in Guam, and an estimated 5 Micronesians from the Caroline Islands. Many marriages between Chamorros and other Micronesians have taken place, as well as daily informal contacts. The traditional knowledge of abortion among these Palauan and Carolinian residents in Guam is another source of cultural knowledge about and familiarity with abortion in contemporary Guam society.

In Palau, abortion techniques have been described in detail by several anthropologists who collected information from Palauan women. Abortion occurs during the second or third month of pregnancy, generally by recourse to poisonous plants Kramer, : , quoted in Devereux : Traditional " medicines " were once used to abort an unwanted child Modern attempts to abort include using traditional medicines, drinking a quart of soy sauce or alcohol in the belief that the resultant nausea will abort the fetus, and deliberate jumps or falls Smith, : The usual method is to take some potion orally.

This potion may be derived from the bark of the ngas tree.

After drinking it the individual is encouraged to exercise strenuously and later is massaged. The final phase of this method is to sit in cold sea water for a while.