Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Repositioning the Missionary

Repositioning the Missionary: Rewriting the Histories of Colonialism, Native Catholicism, and Indigeneity in Guam

Vicente M. Diaz
Copyright Date: 2010
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Repositioning the Missionary
    Book Description:

    In the vein of an emergent Native Pacific brand of cultural studies, Repositioning the Missionary critically examines the cultural and political stakes of the historic and present-day movement to canonize Blessed Diego Luis de San Vitores (1627–1672), the Spanish Jesuit missionary who was martyred by Mata'pang of Guam while establishing the Catholic mission among the Chamorros in the Mariana Islands. The work juxtaposes official, popular, and critical perspectives of the movement to complicate prevailing ideas about colonialism, historiography, and indigenous culture and identity in the Pacific. The book is divided into three sections. The first, "From Above, Working the Native," focuses exclusively on the narratological reconsolidation of official Roman Catholic Church viewpoints as staked in the historic (seventeenth century) and contemporary (twentieth century) movements to canonize San Vitores, including the symbolic costs of these viewpoints for Native Chamorro cultural and political possibilities not in line with Church views. Section two, "From Below: Working the Saint," shifts attention and perspective to local, competing forms of Chamorro piety. In their effort to canonize San Vitores, Natives also rework the saint to negotiate new cultural and social canons for themselves and in ways that produce new meanings for their island. "From Behind: Transgressive Histories" shifts from official and lay Roman and Chamorro Catholic viewpoints to the author’s own critical project of rendering alternative portrayals of San Vitores and Mata'pang. Theoretically innovative and provocative, humorous, and inspired, Repositioning the Missionary melds poststructuralist, feminist, Native studies, and cultural studies analytic and political frameworks with an intensely personal voice to model a new critical interdisciplinary approach to the study of indigenous culture and history.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6046-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  5. Prologue
    (pp. 1-7)

    In a transaction that can already be considered customary by this time, Chamorros aboard outrigger canoes sail out to greet the Manila-boundSan Damian. Seventeenth-century Jesuit historian Padre Francisco Garcia explains that the Chamorros sought to “exchange fruits and other island products for iron, knives and other articles of metal” (Higgins 1936b, 10). Indeed, a lay minister would later observe, “Iron is an irresistible attraction to the islanders, more precious than gold or silver” (Ansaldo 1971, 16).

    Customary, too, are European commemorations of perceived transgressions attached to such exchanges. The first and most notorious in this part of the world...

  6. Introduction
    (pp. 8-32)

    This book queries the multiple and competing cultural and political stakes—things potentially won, and lost—in the historic and contemporary effort to canonize the seventeenth-century founder of the glorious (or notorious) Spanish Catholic Church on Guam. Why have modern-day Chamorros revived the effort to canonize San Vitores? More pointedly, what does the effort tell us about highly political processes of indigenous cultural and identity construction and historical consciousness, particularly in highly colonized places like Guam? Does it express only the acculturative forces of colonialism—in particular, the tragic demise of indigenous society at the hands of foreign forces? Or...

  7. Part One From Above:: Working the Native

    • Chapter 1 The Mission Positio
      (pp. 35-54)

      There is a curious inversion or circularity in the report by the Historical Commission of the Sacred Congregation for the Causes of Saints that accompanies the officialCause of Beatification of Ven. Diego Luis de San Vitores, hereafter referred to as the Positio (1981b). In a summary of the centrality and the veracity of the terms of San Vitores’s martyrdom, the Historical Commission chairman, Father Agostino Amore, first writes: “The human and spiritual figure of the Servant of God, as well as the circumstances of his death,should stand out from the [supporting] documents” (1981, 23). Two pages later, however,...

    • Chapter 2 The Oral Cavity Providential Historiography and the Silencing of Native Witnesses
      (pp. 55-72)

      In the previous chapter, I argued that thePositio’s narrativizing remakes Matå'pang as an agent of the devil in ways that allow him to be used as a kind of negative witness to the authenticity of San Vitores’s martyrdom. In turn, the martyrdom is said to bear witness to God’s hand in the life and death of the saint. In this chapter, I continue to argue that the production of the historical documentation used to authenticate the veracity of San Vitores’s killing by Matå'pang also involves the simultaneous invocation and elision of Native voices in ways analogous to Matå'pang’s symbolic...

  8. Part Two From Below:: Working the Saint

    • Chapter 3 The Sweet Spot
      (pp. 75-111)

      Matå'pang and Hirao return to the village only to discover that Padre San Vitores has already baptized Matå'pang’s newborn, against his explicit order.¹ Affronted earlier by the priest, and in the presence of his children and villagers no less, an enraged Matå'pang and his accomplice first attack San Vitores’s Filipino assistant, and then turn on the priest, yelling blasphemies. In the vernacular, San Vitores replies serenely,si Yu'os ma'åse'(God bless you), a phrase that to this day continues to circulate as a colloquial form of expressing gratitude but whose other form,si Yu'os in fanbinendisi, continues to constitute a...

    • Chapter 4 Traffic on the Mount
      (pp. 112-144)

      Påle' San Vitores Road embraces the gentle curve of a calm and picturesque Tomhom Bay (map 2). On a knoll at the road’s southern end, above the Hilton Guam Hotel, there is an upscale neighborhood whose homeowners are miffed. Government of Guam (GovGuam) public works crews are again expanding the road, bringing too much noise, congestion, and even danger to those backing out of their driveway. GovGuam officials ask for patience; this road is the main artery that carries the island’s economic and social lifeblood. Sometimes called “Guam’s Waikīkī,” Tomhom Bay through San Vitores Road is also “hotel row,” a...

  9. Part Three Three From Behind:: Transgressive Histories

    • Chapter 5 Disrobing the Man A Second Peek
      (pp. 147-173)

      Looking down, Padre San Vitores squirms in his seat. The person with whom he meets is first amused, then annoyed, and now impatient: “Padre please! Sit up and keep still!”¹ In his biography of San Vitores only two decades later, Francisco García wrote that the priest was “so confused … so embarrassed … that they had to give the painter the authority of a superior to command him to raise his face and open his eyes so that they could get a good likeness” (2004, 74).² García wrote that later, when San Vitores returned to Mexico from the Philippines in...

    • Chapter 6 Kinship with Matå'pang
      (pp. 174-203)

      Something like this must have been thought sometime, somewhere, by at least some Native person in the Mariana Islands shortly after 1668:

      Okay. So he can’t sing and dance. And he smells bad. He talks funny, and, for the ancestors’ sake, man, lose the outfit. But about this Yu'os business. As the all powerful and all mighty, who is also good and loving. Who lives in such a special place that I am supposed to want to go there. And can, but only if I change my so-called evil ways. And what of this Queen Maria, sitting next to him....

  10. Epilogue In the Shadow of Mass Destruction
    (pp. 204-208)

    In Guam, as in Rome, the official Catholic Church’s position on San Vitores is that he is a virtual vessel whose life and death served “the greater Glory of God,” as understood by the Jesuits, who take pride in their rigorous ministry that has made them perhaps the most powerful, and sometimes the most controversial, of the Catholic religious orders. For rank-and-file Chamorro Catholics, including non-Chamorros like myself whose families emigrated to Guam and consider it home, San Vitores’s story is a relatively recent one, whose climax with his formal beatification in the mid-1980s plunged the saint into island consciousness...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 209-222)
  12. References
    (pp. 223-246)
  13. Index
    (pp. 247-256)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 257-262)