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Remembering Sumay: residents honor the past

by Michele Catahay

Guam - Former Sumay residents and their families gathered today to reconnect and share stories about where and how they once lived during pre-World War II.  It was an emotional event for most who will never forget the history. Former Sumay resident Maria Guzman lived in the village before she was even a teenager. She woman later relocated to Piti. 

Maria, now 88, remembers vividly what it was like to live in Sumay where her family grew crops.  She said, "I still remember the cross...I still remember and next to the cross is where my husband's parents lived. We had a lot of crops, a lot of fish...I like this place."

Maria's daughter, Carmen Hensley, says while the family visits Sumay regularly to attend memorial masses, it's nice for families to reconnect. With the help of the mayors of Piti, Santa Rita and Agat and Naval Base Guam, the "Back to Sumay" event came to fruition.

Hensley says it's a great feeling to have families come together to share stories and history that will forever live on, saying, "It's so nice for the younger kids to see that there are a lot of historical significance and connection and it's so nice that we can come out and celebrate. I'm really glad that she was able to see this, too. But [my mom] says it is emotional because she thinks about the times when they would do a lot of growing of crops down here and stuff and I can only hear it."

The all-day affair not only featured story telling from former residents, it also displayed archived photos from the past.

Guam historian Tony Ramirez says pictures depicted the type of houses constructed at the time, and the way of life residents once lived. He says Sumay was where these people stayed until they branched out to the other three villages prior to WWII.  "After Agana, the capital of Guam, Sumay is the second most-populated area here on Guam," he explained.  "But the difference between Agana and Sumay that people don't understand is that Sumay was the economic lifeline of Guam in prewar and even today with the military infrastructure."

While Sumay was known to provide economic stimulus for the island prior to the war, it also remains a place where families were formed and relationships were fostered. These stories told by the elders will remain a part of history forever.

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