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As Guam buildup revs up, the former Sumay Village offers a look at island’s past military-civilian relationship

What’s left of the once flourishing and prosperous Guam village of Sumay is behind the well-guarded gates of Naval Station Guam [‘Big Navy’], rarely seen by any island residents, except those granted full-time access by the Navy.

Sumay was known as the “Pearl of the Island” before the war. It evolved from a small fishing village to an important agricultural and commercial hub for ships in the mid-1800s. But the arrival of the Americans and their military in 1898 as well as developments such as trans-Pacific aviation made it an economically rich village by the 1930s.

In 2018, scattered rubble and a standing cross are the only remains of what was once Sumay’s Santa Guadalupe Church. Sumay was once Guam’s second largest Catholic parish and its priest became the last Spanish bishop on the island. There’s a cemetery that served the village. Many of its weathered stones are toppled, illegible or missing.

Otherwise, Sumay largely lives on in yellowed records, photographs and the memories of those few surviving who actually lived here and their descendants.