The camareras spent the day decorating Santa Marian Kamalen’s carosa today.
Guam – December 8 is a big day for the island’s catholic faithful for the annual procession to honor Guam’s patron saint, Santa Marian Kamalen. We spoke with the camareras of Our Lady of Camarin to find out how they’re preparing their queen for her big day on Thursday.
Thousands of catholics flock to Hagatna to commemorate her legendary landing on Guam. But how is Our Lady of Camarin prepared for her annual procession? Laura Souder is one of the women who’s tasked with this honorable duty.
“The tradition of the camarera, it has been in our Torres family for centuries, really, since the first, since the priest–maybe San Vitores, maybe someone else–since one of the priests asked the first Torres woman to take care of Santa Marian Kamalen, and to prepare her for the procession. Our family members, the women of the Torres family have done that ever since,” explained Souder. “Now you remember that my mom, Mariquita Torres Souder, was the camarera for 75 years and so she was the longest timer, we believe, but when she passed away 13 years ago, then myself and Geri Gutierrez, Geri Torres Gutierrez and Debbie Souder Frades, my sister, we stepped in mom’s shoes and have become the camareras.”
Today, the camareras were decorating Santa Marian Kamalen’s ‘carosa’ or a type of carriage where the Santa Maria will be placed tomorrow.
” [It’s] the tradition of preparing Santa Maria before she comes up, much like hand maidens of a queen do, because she is our queen and we are her hands. So that is the tradition and it’s a very honorable, a very special honor and privilege to be able to do this. But also it’s our ‘promesa,’ it’s our sacred vow to Santa Maria that we will always do this for her–we will always take care of her,” Souder said.
Souder explains what the process is like for bringing the patron saint out for the annual procession.
“After the 11:30 mass, she’s brought down in order for us to prepare her. So she’s cleaned, her jewelry is cleaned, her hair is done, all of that wonderful stuff that goes toward preparing her to come out to meet her people and then after we’re done with that–and it’s a private thing, because no lady likes to be exposed when she’s dressing–we bring her out and then the formal ceremony of the celebration, the procession begins. At 3:15 she’s taken out to the front so that everybody’s able to see her,” explained Souder.
Next is the rosary, the novena, the proclamation of the word, the homily and finally the procession. Our Lady of Camarin is then brought into the church where catholics can go in to pray and pay their respects.
While the tradition has been going on for centuries, Souder says this process if very dear to her, her family and the catholics of Guam.
“People who don’t know the tradition, both catholics, but non-catholics especially, sometimes wonder why we make such a hullabaloo about our lady. Well first of all, she’s our mother in heaven and on earth. So that’s why. She’s the lord’s mother and in our way of expressing our joy and our celebration of our faith in the lord, we celebrate—what better way to honor someone than to honor their mother,” noted Souder.
“The other thing is that we don’t adore her. A lot of people think that we engage in adoration. We venerate her because she’s a holy person. But we always recognize that her sole purpose was always to bring us to our lord and she continuously brings us to her son. And so people don’t seem to understand that, that Santa Maria bring us to her son and to glorify her son and to adore her son and to ask him for blessings. So that’s what this celebration is all about,” she added.