One highlight from the recent play “Pagat” is the dance “Hula yan Hineti” performed by Inetnon Gefpago. In the context of the play, the dance appears at a moment when the question of unity and divisiveness is being discussed and the actors are wondering if it is possible for the Chamorro people to unite, when they seem to determined to divide themselves. The story of Hula and Hineti is a historical tale, meant to be an example of the tragedy when people fail to unite.
The 1670s was a period of turmoil in the Marianas and in particular on Guam. The decade began with Maga’låhi Hurao’s army attacking Hagatna in 1671, Maga’låhi Mata’pang killing Påle’ San Vitores in 1672, and the remaining years were filled with sporadic resistance. The Spanish had their own campaign of terror meant to quell resistance to their rule. Chamorros were tortured, publicly humiliated, executed villages burnt among other atrocities committed in the name of preparing Chamorros for Christianity. By the end of the 1670s much of the conflict was not between Chamorros and the Spanish but between Chamorros and other Chamorros. The Spanish rewarded those who killed the enemies of their God on their behalf, and this led to villages turning against villages and families turning against families. Heroes of Chamorro resistance such as Agualin, Mata’pang and Chelef all fell victims to betrayal by other Chamorros.
The drama between Hula and Hineti takes place in 1684, after the Spanish had come to believe that Chamorros on Guam were finished resisting and had accepted their colonization and conversion. By this time those who detested Spanish rule had either fled to the northern islands, were dead or had now chosen to silence themselves to avoid retaliation. There were however many Chamorros who passionately accepted the rule of the Spanish and their God. When the Spanish fought against Chamorro rebels, it was now Chamorro Christians who were the vanguard. When they went north to pacify islands like Saipan, Tinian and Rota, it was in Chamorro sakman that they traveled and Chamorro human bone spears that flew ahead of them.
In 1684, the best of the Spanish soldiers were fighting in the north and the garrison in Hagatna was very vulnerable. Maga’lahi Hula took advantage of this and organized men in a daring assault on the capital, where they killed priests, soldiers and set buildings on fire. Maga’lahi Hineti, who had been given the name Ignacio after being baptized stood in defense of the priests and the Spanish.
Historians argue that part of their differences came from their backgrounds within Chamorro culture. Hula was a high caste Chamorro, able to enjoy everything the island had to offer. Hineti came from a low caste and along with his family were limited even to the point of not being able to touch the ocean. With the new religious regime Hineti and Hula were both equal in relation to their new masters and the new deity. It is assumed that many like Hineti who converted did so out of a desire to improve their social standing.
The accounts contain fiery speeches from each of the, advocating the expulsion of the invaders and also the defenders of those who represent the true “God.”
The ones who are healthy or strong are not here in this land, and those who remained in Hagåtña are the cruel, the disabled and sick. It is not difficult to attack and eradicate them. If we do not make use of ourselves now, we cannot triumph over them tonight and they will crush us in an unfavorable place, and we can no longer live our own way of life, because if they succeed to control the other islands to the north, our hopes are gone. Where else are we to flee? Follow me and be praised forever, because we will be able to enjoy our land.
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.
The daring attack by Hula and his men did not work. After their initial success the fight bogged down into a stalemate until the Spanish reinforcements from the north returned. Hula himself was most likely killed during the initial invasion of Hagatna. Hineti would survive and be praised by the priests for the zeal with which he fought.
Chamorros, as with any people, will come to moments such as this where we are fiercely divided as these Maga’lahi were. These moments generally emerge over the relationship to those outside of Guam and the gifts that they bring with them. Hineti believed in the promises of the missionaries, and as a result was willing to kill and subjugate those who he shared language, culture and blood with, in their name. Hula rejected the promises arguing that submitting to the regime would cost them their freedom and their sovereignty. Each of them were right in their own way. Hineti had the right, like others to follow the Spanish and accept a new religion. Hula had the right to defend his way of life against those who were seeking to destroy it. But just because history is filled with grey areas such as this does not mean that there is no right or wrong.
This was the conflict at the start of Guam’s colonization by Europeans, but this debate constantly reappears. It is a dynamic that we still find even today with firing ranges and military spending replacing the saints and Santa Marias of the past. Chamorros remain divided over whether salvation comes from without or within. Do we possess the ability to empower ourselves and chart our own destiny or is that something that must always be imported in colonial quantities, brought special delivery by missionaries, Federal officials or Marines. The resolution to this conflict is not equal, even if we can look at Hineti and Hula and say that each of them had the right to their choices, each carried with it different consequences and set the island and the Chamorro people on different paths. As we discuss the consequences of firing ranges in places like Pagat, Pagan or Litekyan, the stakes remain the same. Do we like Hula, stand up to protect things that are sacred and the things that have long sustained us even if it isn’t the most popular thing to do? Or do we like Hineti make choices on behalf of others, that open up our island and our lives to the interests of others and pray for the potential gains?