Catholic Church: St. Joseph, Husband of Mary and Catholic Church: San Isidro
Fiesta: March Malojloj and May
To the outside eye, the village of Inarajan seems to have been untouched by the hand of change. It is known as the most distinctly Spanish-style village on the island, with the village proper on Inarajan Bay, remaining basically intact over the decades.
A visitor could drive through the small Spanish barrio-style streets, which until recently were one-way streets, and see the history of Inarajan in its old houses. The houses reflect a mixture of architecture influenced by the Spanish period and the early American period (early 1900s).
The village retains many of its traditional ways, with the St. Joseph Church still at the center of many activities, including the village’s annual fiestas. Residents of the village are still a small number of families whose roots are deeply entwined in Inarajan. Very few outsiders have moved into the village, and very few modern structures have been erected.
Part of what gives Inarajan its heritage-rich flavor is one of its more recent additions: the Gef Pa’go Cultural Village, which sits right on the bay. The village, which consists of ancient-style thatch-roofed huts, is staffed mainly by elder Chamorros who demonstrate traditional Chamorro arts, crafts, and cooking to visitors.
Not much is known about the early inhabitants of Inarajan, which was a village before the Spanish arrived on Guam. The village was officially established in 1680 by the Spanish, along with St. Joseph Church, and was one of the main villages on Guam during the Spanish era. The village was designed in the Spanish custom with the church as its focus.
The Spanish were also responsible for an unusual addition to the residents of the village, as the residents of the northernmost Mariana Islands, known as Gåni (including Anatahan, Sarigan, Alamagan, Pagan, Agrihan, and Asuncion), were relocated to Inarajan and Merizo in the late 1600s. The Spanish relocation of the Chamorros, including the consolidation of the villages of Guam, was done to better control the local people during the Spanish-Chamorro wars that were going on at the time. There is still a section of Inarajan known as “As Gani” today.
The St. Joseph Church is named after the village’s patron saint of San Jose or St. Joseph. It contains a large statue of St. Joseph that, according to oral tradition, was brought to Guam by the Spanish, who intended to bring it to Umatac. But a storm prevented the ship from going to Umatac, and it ended up landing in Inarajan, where the statue remained.
The church has been rebuilt several times, and the current church was built in 1939. It was damaged during the bombing of World War II, and in the earthquake of 1993, the church’s steeple fell to the ground. It was rehabilitated in the late 1990s by the Parish Council, the church Pastor, and parishioners.