Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Lone Ranger

Not many people remember who Guam's version of the Lone Ranger was.

He was someone who in a time of terrible crisis and injustice, with great risk to himself, stood up for the Chamorro people.

Juan Mala or Juan Malo might be someone you would consider to fit this category. In some of his stories he does wear a mask to hide his identity when he is tricking and defrauding the Spanish on the island. But alas, Juan Mala stories were popular long before the Long Ranger even existed.

Agualin could be a wishful candidate. During a time of terrible warfare and atrocities he worked to organize the Chamorro people to fight against Spanish colonization. He did not shy away from a fight but in the speech attributed to him he called on them to rise up, and that he would lead them with his lance that has killed many and will kill them all. Metgot na sinangan. But once again Agualin lived long before the Lone Ranger was created.

If you were a drinking man than someone from prewar Guam who was kind of a folkhero amongst the people was Juan Aguayente. The Navy during that period had banned the making of aguayente and also taxed the making of tuba. Chamorros would hide their stills deep in the jungle, far out of the regular routes that the Navy or the Insular Patrol marines would travel. There are plenty of stories of Juan Aguayente, who is most likely an amalgamation of several different bootleggers, evading and eluding the Navy in the jungles and cliffs of Northwestern Guam.

The prewar period was a time of injustice and racism, and Chamorros would have truly appreciated a Long Ranger type figure standing up for them, but a bootlegger hardly meets the criteria to be a true people's hero. He was definitely someone to cheer for and feel vicarious power through, but to see him as a Lone Ranger figure would be have been more a joking connection.

The answer for those who haven't guessed it yet might surprise you.

It is Pale' Jesus Baza Duenas, the second ever Chamorro priest.

During World War II, I Tiempon Chapones, the Chamorros were very much in need of heroes and inspirational figures. Tweed was a symbol in hiding. Someone who represented the chance and the hope that the United States would return some day and kick out the Japanese. He did not offer much on a daily basis however. He did not make rounds in the villages telling people to keep watching the skies since American planes would be flying over anyday now.

Most Chamorro resistance to the Japanese happened through underground networks and in invisible ways. They hid American flags, secreted food away to the American holdouts, built radios to listen to news and vocailized their hatred for the Japanese only when it was safely cloaked in Chamorro. Few Chamorros ever dared to publicly admonish the Japanese in the name of the Chamorro people. To do so would mean to court torture, imprisonment or dearth. As the Japanese beat people, stole from people, lied to the people and committed other terrible acts, Chamorros could do little but watch and endure.

Pale' Duenas however did not back down. Many of the stories of Pale' Duenas are not doubt exaggerated, and they are exaggerated in different directions. While all point to him being reckless in terms of how he dealt with the Japanese, all nonetheless point to him being an outspoken protector of Chamorros. While other cowered in the midst of the Japanese, he spoke his mind to them. Telling them the truth of how he or the Chamorros felt about the Japanese. On several occasions he rejected the orders of the Japanese to their faces, refusing to bow to their will. He chastised both Chamorros and Japanese who acted immorally during the war, incurring the wrath of the Japanese and the Chamorros who collaborated with them.

He was called the Lone Ranger however, not solely because of his fight against the Japanese. In truth, him being referred to as the Lone Ranger was primarily about the mode of transportation that he used during the war. Sometimes he would have the luxury of being driven around in a car. Sometime he would get around by walking or by taking a bicycle. But his most infamous ride was horses. He would borrow horses and ride them from village to village in the Southern half of Guam.

When he would ride into town people would cheer him and wave at him. He would seek out those who needed help, guidance or religious rites and sometimes he would move on to the next village within a couple of hours. One of the horses that Duenas rode was white akin to the Lone Ranger's horse Silver.

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