“The honor and dignity of your name is so important, and for me it is, ‘You are your father’s daughter, and you honor his name and you honor his memory.’”
Those are the words and thoughts that keep Senator Mary Camacho Torres grounded. She is the daughter of Guam’s first elected governor, the late Governor Carlos Camacho, and the sister of two-term Governor Felix Camacho. And while her family name is prominent in local politics, she’s made a name of her own serving in the Legislature and in other high-ranking positions in government.
“I love being able to get the issues out,” the two-term senator said. “It really is a privilege to be in that position, to be a senator, to be elected, so I try to do my best, and I try to echo what the sentiments are of the people.”
Before her tenure as lawmaker, Torres served as the general manager of the Port Authority of Guam, the executive manager and deputy executive manager at the Guam International Airport, the deputy general manager at the Guam Visitors Bureau, and has also held various positions with many of the island’s civic and non-profit organizations.
Torres even worked at the Legislature long before her term as a senator. It was her first part-time job, working a few hours a week after school while attending the Academy of our Lady of Guam across the street. “I remember it very clearly, but what is sentimental to me is not so much the experiences of the building but just the whole governance,” she said. “Understanding the Organic Act and the genesis of that, and understanding the Elective Governor Act and what it took to get certain milestones accomplished.”
She is a self-proclaimed daddy’s girl, the only daughter of the late governor and her mother, First Lady Lourdes Perez Camacho. “I was the middle child, but because I was the only daughter I was like an only child, and I often joke that when you grow up with six brothers you grow up being picked on by the elder three and so they toughen you up, and they give you a sense of place, and I ended up nurturing the younger three, so I had a good mix of both,” Torres chuckled.
She was just 15 years old when she met her high-school sweetheart, now Supreme Court of Guam Chief Justice Robert Torres. Three years later they would get married and eventually become parents to Vanessa, Carla, and Pele. The couple raised their young family while attending college and law school.
“We were married young, and we couldn’t both be in school so we had to take turns. While one worked, [the other] went to school, and at that time we had two babies, so our daughters were raised while we were students. And then in my last year of college I gave birth to my son,” Torres recalled.
But she never saw raising her young family as a challenge, even proudly calling it “a happy existence.” She spoke fondly of her husband, whom she admires as resourceful, thoughtful, and by far the smartest person she knows. “He is what keeps our family so vibrant,” she said. “We’re a great tag team—I’m great at marinating, he’s great at barbequing. He loves to plan things, and I’m great at executing them.”
The couple has nine grandchildren, and Torres spoke of them with pride—clearly a doting grandmother. “Oh my God, that’s the best part of my life, that really is the best part of my life,” she said, beaming with joy.
When she isn’t crafting and defending legislation, Torres’s time is dedicated to her grandchildren. Last summer they went to the Yellowstone National Park. This summer, grandchildren from Seattle came home, and Torres helped the older grandchildren get scuba certified. “I try to give them all the best qualities of life,” she said. “The grandma love, the sleepovers at the house, the dinners whenever they want, and we take them around the garden, and make them work around the house, stuff like that. But we also spend a lot of time teaching them stuff.”
Just as she teaches her children and grandchildren, many of her life lessons came from her mother and grandmother as well. As a child she learned how to sew and make her own clothes through her teenage years, her mother supplying her with endless amounts of fabric. Her mother also taught her how to get the best cuts of meat from a chicken. All life lessons the senator took to heart, applying even the hidden lessons of self-discipline, how to deal with disappointment, independence, and hard work.
Torres is rarely ever seen without a string of pearls around her neck. She is hard not to notice, always poised and well dressed—a delicate balance of femininity and strength. “I was raised to be a lady, my parents treasured that one daughter, and they raised me to be a lady,” she said.
But this has never stopped her from defending what she is passionate about. “People applaud me for being brave,” Torres said. “To be in a climate where things are so politicized and the tendency is to play it safe and that I can actually speak up and echo the thoughts that they’re feeling, that to me is very gratifying.”
She has a deep love for the island and hopes to continue serving. “What’s so special about Guam is it’s so concentrated, the good and the bad,” Torres said. “But the fact that you can experience that, it gives you a richer perspective. You’re a better person for living here.”
“To be in a climate where things are so politicized and the tendency is to play it safe and that I can actually speak up and echo the thoughts that [the people] feeling, that to me is very gratifying.”