When the Americans took over Guam at the turn of this century, they retained the Spanish and Chamorro names of the streets in Agana, a few of which were: Calle Isabel La Catolica; Calle San Juan de Letran; Calle Magallahes; and, Calle San Nicolas. Rather surprisingly, they also retained the name by which the residence of the Governor of Guam was known, Governor's Palace, an allusion to royalty totally out of character with established American sentiment at the time.
After World War II, our local leaders discarded the name Governor's Palace in favor of Government House, the name by which the residence of the Governor of Guam is known today. At about the same time, however, they also removed centuries-old Spanish and Chamorro names in favor of names like Aspinall, Seaton, O'Brien, and Murray. It was as though we were closing the book on our historical past and starting a new one.
As the population increased, the villages expanded and new roads were built to service them. More street names were needed and there was literally an avalanche of suggestions for names for streets, predominantly Chamorro, reflecting the revitalization of pride in our culture and legacy.
On a sightseeing drive recently, I wondered if there were Latte stones on a street called Latte Stone Street. I drove a mile, then drove a while, and then another mile, but did not find any evidence of Latte stones. What I did find, however, was a building covered with graffiti near a street called Chalan Sinetsot, or Street of Regret. And not too far from the Street of Regret was Chalan Langet, or Street to Heaven. I did not see any restrictions on who could drive on it. So, if you are ready to go, Chalan Langet may be the right road for you.
Within an hour, I found a short street (Chalan Kadada) and a long one (Chalan Anaco). I also found an upper street (Chalan Sanhilo) and a lower street (Chalan Sanpapa). I got a little industrious when I found myself on Bumachachu Street but decided to slow down when I reached Chalan Despacio.
We stopped for lunch and had some deer meat (Binadu) marinated in vinegar (Binakle) which was served with plaintains (Chotda). After lunch, we ate some star apples (Bilinbines), bananas (Aga), and watermelon (Chandiha). Of course we chewed betel nuts (Pugua) and drank Tuba, a tough combination under a hot sun. Fortunately, we had this nice place on Snowball Street where we could cool off for a while.
Toward the end of the day, we got together with some friends (Los Amigos) and we were startled (Mahognang) when we saw a street called Dodo. In either English or Chamorro, that is a word difficult to pronounce properly and to define so I will let it pass!
While this little excursion was made interesting by the names of the streets we found, it was somewhat distressing to discover that about 25% of the streets we visited had no signs on their posts. In one neighborhood, a resident got so tired of having his street sign stolen by souvenir hunters that he made one out of a spare tire. Believe it or not, he lives on NeverMind Road.
Also of interest: there is a Baba (bad) Street, but no mauleg (good); There is a bonito, but no bonita; There is a street for the little people (Duendes) but none for the big ones (Taotaomona). Remarkably as much as we hate snakes since they are not native to Guam, there is a street named after them (Kolebbla). And, as proud as we say we are of our ancestral past, we have yet to honor our prominent Chamorro Chiefs such as Quipuha and Matapang. We have even forgotten to memorialize the proa and the galaide which were so prominent in our early history.
There was a time on Guam when, instead of saying, esta y otro biaje, esta y birada, or esta nai, we said, esta y birada gi as Tan Marian Dak. It was a special place and that Birada was where we wanted it to be. Maybe we should name one particular street Biradan Tan Marian Dak.
On second thought, maybe we should not. Let's keep that Birada special by leaving it alone, for old times' sake. Would you believe it? As the day ended, we found ourselves watching the sun set in the west on a street called, East Sunset Boulevard.