I consider it a privilege to have to choose which Fiesta’s I can go to because there are just so many… especially since I live not on Guam, but in San Diego. A few years ago I never would have guessed it.
This last Fiesta was something a little different because it is actually not held on Guam in quite the same way. You’ll have to read the article to see how. I thoroughly enjoyed this special San Diego celebration and some lovely young ladies who graced it on their way to vie for Miss Liberation Day Queen. Click on the PDN photo at the bottom to see Heather, Kaylen and Ashley.
A Celebration of Mary
Saturday, May 11 was the San Diego celebration of Santa Marian Kamalen, the patron saint of Guam. The mass and fiesta were done in the traditional way with all the Catholic and Chamorro traditions in tact. Jess “Bataik” Cruz, president of the Sons and Daughters of Guam Club (SDGC) joked that if you were somehow dropped blindfolded into the party, you could believe that you were on Guam. Yet this event is something unique to the Chamorro San Diego community. The Feast of Santa Marian Kamalen is normally observed on December 8.
Mrs. Nicolasa “Sas” Garrido, who many know as Auntie Sas, provided me with the history of this May celebration.
Forty years ago, in commemoration of Guam’s Santa Marian Kamalen, or Mother Mary, the Sons and Daughters of Guam Club commissioned a statue of the saint from Spain. Although they originally wanted to install her in the nearby Santa Rita Church, the Bishop of San Diego believed that Mother Mary belonged with her husband and should have her home at St. Joseph’s Cathedral. As a result, the Guam community celebrates the Mass of Santa Marian Kamalen at the downtown San Diego Cathedral.
Later, a fiesta for Mother Mary was established in May on the Saturday before Mother’s Day. It was chosen because May is the month of Mary and because weather in the traditional month of December might be too cold to hold the feast in the SDGC pavilion. The first May fiesta was in 1976. That was also the month of the infamous Typhoon Pamela on Guam, Auntie Sas reminded me. At the time there was some talk that the devastation was due to Guam’s Patron Saint being “taken” in May. “But of course, that’s not true”, laughed Auntie Sas.
Because Mother Mary is a saint of Guam and not any particular village, many groups participate in putting the fiesta together. The food was a combined effort. The Island Rain ukulele band and Ben “Magalahi” Lizama provided the entertainment. The timing of the event is also ideal for the Sons and Daughters of Guam Club to show off their Liberation Day Queen candidates. The young women made the rounds, enjoying the Chamorro cultural experience. The day ended with a lot of dancing, cha-cha style. It was a perfect San Diego fiesta day.