My Maternal Great Grandmother Carmen Salas; or was she a Salar?
I often wondered about my maternal Great Grandmother Carmen Salas’ parents. For many years I have been in search of her ancestry, which is why I am unable to find out her middle name; rather, her mother’s maiden name. Typically when I research names and come to a seemingly dead end, I tend to table any further research until new information arises. Later on, when new information surfaces, particularly with people with hard to find middle names, I have observed that many result in identifying people being born out of wedlock.
Such seems to be the case with Carmen. It took a while before one of my aunts finally confided in me in 2010, and told me that Carmen was born out of wedlock. Allegedly her biological father is “Tun Felis Torres,” recalled my Aunt. According to my Aunt, Carmen’s mother, was a housekeeper of a Torres family. She and her children resided in the Torres’ house and were pretty much not allowed to go outside.
Finding Carmen: Salas or Salar?
The earliest document I was able to trace Carmen was in the 1897 Census conducted by the Spanish government. According to this Census, she was 32 years old, married to Nicolas de Leon Guerrero and had two children at the time: Jose and Maria. The Census also indicated that they were living with Nicolas’ father (Matias de Leon Guerrero), mother (Maria Tello) and siblings (Maria, Juan and Rosa).
**I Pinipu yan i Pilan (Pendant Necklace)
Pinipu yan I Pilan: Historical Significance
Pinipu are perforated shell disks by ancient Chamorro crafted into bead strung together and used as necklaces. The perforated orange-white bead shells crafted from the Spondylus Oyster shells were used as ornaments and also as an ancient form of currency. Interestingly, many other cultures including some Native American tribes value the Spondylus Oyster shells to make contemporary jewelry. The seashells were vessels of life that pre-date the arrival of the indigenous people of the Mariana Islands.
Pulan has two significant meanings in the Chamorro language and culture: 1) it not only refers to the moon; but, 2) it also means to watch over or take care of someone or something. The moon, watches over us nightly. Our ancestors have used its characteristics as a calendar of seasons (13 months) for farming, fishing, and harvesting. The white clam shell is a symbol of the moon (pulan).
I Pinipu yan i Pilan. Therefore, within this particular jewelry (alåhas) that I have crafted, the combination of shells as a pendant signifies prosperity (in terms of flourishing mentally and physically in life) and to strive to live in harmony with our environment: we must take care of and watch over not just ourselves and our people, but also includes the air we breathe, the land and waters and the resources they naturally provide for us so that our children’s children may be able to enjoy the same to sustain future generations to come. These shells and conceptual values passed on from our ancestors become a part of our children’s wealth (guinahan famagu'hon).
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Toka’ (spelled “Toca” in Fray Juan Pobre’s 1602 account) was a “native principal” who lived in Guaco, Rota.
Marjorie Driver. 1988. Fray Juan Pobre de Zamora: Hitherto Unpublished Accounts of his Residence in the Mariana Islands. Journal of Pacific History, Vol. 23, No. 1, 86-9, April.
(Note: As a reminder or in case you started following my research tidbits, many of our ancestors from the Mariana Islands are either nameless or are vaguely described with their name in historical documents. I have plans to one day publish an index names I do come across from the 1600 and 1700s. The photo above is not a picture of him; only a representation of him.)
Chamorro Roots Genealogy Project Snapshot