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Santa Rita

Catholic Church: Our Lady of Guadalupe
Fiesta: May

The village of Santa Rita proper, not including the military housing areas, Naval Station and Naval Magazine, is one of the smallest, quietest, and least modernized villages on Guam. There are two small stores – D’s Corner Store and Santa Rita Store – and a more recent addition, the Santa Rita Video Store adjoined to the Santa Rita Store within the main village. The village is surrounded by natural water sources. It’s boundary with Yona is marked by Tarzan Falls, while it’s border with Talofofo is in the vicinity of Fena Lake. Santa Rita’s border with Piti lies along the Guatali river, while it shares a border with Agat along the Namo River. The village flower, previously the gardenia, has recently been changed to the ginger because of its present abundance throughout Santa Rita.

Most of the village’s activities revolve around the church, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, as well as the Mayor’s Office and new Senior Citizen’s Center, and the baseball field that lies between them. Most of the families in the village have been there since it was built, just after the war, so most of the residents know each other or at least see one another at church every Sunday.

The Fena Reservoir in Santa Rita, located within the gates of Naval Magazine, was completed in 1951 with the intent of providing a dependable water supply to the U.S. Navy on Guam. It now serves as the main drinking water supply to a considerable portion of the southern region of the island. The reservoir is also home to a large population of carabao, once valued as an important animal for farm labor and transportation that has now become a cultural and historical icon on Guam. To support growing demand for water, a $1.5 million upgrade was completed in 2007 on the Santa Rita Springs Booster Pump.

Village history

The history of Santa Rita starts in the ancient village of Sumay, a small village on Orote Peninsula, whose residents were evicted from the village during the Japanese occupation of World War II before eventually being relocated by the Americans to the current village of Santa Rita to make room for the construction of Naval Station. Being the first village bombed during the invasion of Guam by Japan on December 8, 1941, the residents of Sumay took refuge in the outlying area of Åpla where many families had ranches. Most would remain there for the duration of the occupation.

As American troops made advancements toward the retaking of Guam in 1944, many of the Sumay residents, as well as many from neighboring Agat, took shelter in the Fena caves located in what is now the municipality of Santa Rita. As American forces built up in the waters near Guam, Japanese soldiers one day forced more than one hundred Sumay and Agat people taking refuge at Fena into the caves, many of them in their late teens and early twenties. Many of the women were repeatedly raped, and many of the men and women were killed in the caves by hand grenades, machine guns, and bayonets. On the next morning, dozens of prisoners escaped into the jungle, although some were killed as they fled.

A memorial Mass was held each year at the Fena caves to commemorate those who died there, but post-9/11 security has closed the area off as it is located within the perimeter of Naval Magazine. The annual memorial Mass is now held at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Santa Rita.

In the battle to recapture the island, the American forces completely destroyed Sumay. When the U.S. forces regained control of the island, the people of Sumay were still to be moved, resulting in the naval government’s construction of a temporary settlement of wooden houses with thatched roofs for the Sumay residents at the Santa Rita site. Although this site was supposed to be temporary, the majority of Sumay residents chose to remain in Santa Rita because they were exhausted from being forced to constantly relocate during the war. They were also forbidden to resettle in their old village by the Navy, which expropriated Orote Peninsula and all other property in and around Apra Harbor, including the entire village of Sumay. The land where Sumay once sat is now part of Naval Station.

The once coastal people of Sumay now made their home in the foothills of Mount Alifan, which are not well suited for farming or fishing. The contour and slopes of the mountains made lot apportionment difficult. Many of the postwar houses can still be seen today within the edges of the precipices and deep chasms of Santa Rita, raised on stilts to avoid the floods during heavy rains and to keep pests and other animals out of the house.