indigenous dancers.
Cultural dances prior to contact with outside world
Tan Elena weaving
Tan Elena master weaver at 95 years. The leaves are soaked, stripped, pounded, dried, flattened, rolled and dyed.

The modern Chamoru culture is visually manifested in dances, sea navigation, unique cuisines, games {batu, chonka, estuleks and bayogu}, songs and fashion influenced by the transmigration of Pacific peoples. Guahan was administratively taken over by the U.S. in 1898 as spoils of the Spanish American War. In 1521, Guahan's first European encounter manifested with Magellan's tragic visit. In 1565, Legazpi unilaterally claimed the island under Spain's governance. In 1668, the Jesuits, under Father Luis Diego Sanvitores colonized the Marianas inhabitants which shortly resulted in the Spanish Chamoru Wars (1668-1698) (Hezel, Francis SJ, 1982, From conquest to Colonization; pg 1). The rational for holding Guahan as a Spanish colony had been to protect or preserve the lucrative Spanish galleon trade routes (articulated by the Council of the Indies in Madrid) (Barratt, Glynn, 2003; pg 255). The 30 year Spanish-Chamoru War, euro-pathogens, and a policy of population roundup called the Reduccion, had reduced the original inhabitants of Guahan from many tens of thousands to a few thousand (Cunningham, 1992; pg 170). The culture endured nontheless through the survival of the Chamoru language.

The Spanish policy was one of conquest and conversion to 'save' the 'heathen' souls. The canonical history attributed to the Spanish Jesuits tell of the elimination of Guam's indigenous male warriors through war, landtaking, displacement of the Northern Marianas population by concentrating them (Reduccion) into mission villages on Guahan (note: the alleged decimation of male population in comparison to females is not corroborated by the Census of 1710). Rather than ending the Chamorro culture, Spain ignored that Chamorro social clan bonds were dynamically avunculans (matrilineal)(cunningham, 1992; 170) and strongly matriarchal. The strength and fortitude of the Chamorro women - the matriarchs - "I Maga Hagas", successfully kept continuous the indigenous culture and traditions, in the face of everwhelming foreign acculturation {and the imposition of a foreign language} to expunge it.

The core culture or Kostumbren Chamoru is comprised of complex social protocol centered upon respect: From the kissing of the hands of the elders, passing of legends, chants, courtship rituals, canoemaking, making of the Belembautuyan {a string musical instrument}, fashioning of slings and slingstones, spear and tool manufacture, burial rituals, preparation of herbal medicines by suruhanas, to a person requesting forgiveness from spiritual ancestors when entering a jungle. These "invisible ceremonies" as coined by Cecilia Perez, an indigenous Poet, are often bypassed in the scholarly and leisurely search for authentic visual island culture.

Specialized weavings include plaited work (coconut and pandanus leaf baskets, mats, bags, food containments and hats), loom-woven material (hibiscus and banana fiber skirts, belts and burial shrouds), body ornamentation (bead and shell necklaces, bracelets, earrings, belts and combs made from tor toise shells).

Historian Lawrence Cunningham (Ancient Chamorro Society, 1992; pg 86) wrote, "In a Chamorro sense, the land and its produce belong to everyone. Inafa'maolek, or interdependence, is the key, or central value, in Chamorro culture ... Inafa'maolek depends on a spirit of cooperation. This is the armature, or core, that everything in Chamorro culture revolves around. It is a powerful concern for mutuality rather than individualism and private property rights."

"The very essence of inafa'maolek is compassion. It's about caring, accepting and helping one another with open hearts and open minds. Inafa'maolek is the inner strength and the treasure of our families and our island community. We live it daily, the warmth, the generosity, the deep and abiding respect for our elders. It lives in the hearts of our people." Gov. Carl Gutierrez Feb. 14, 2000.

"Reciprocity, I believe, is (also) the foundation of the Chamoru culture. It underlies the various cultural aspects of:
Chinchule - Present (money), donation, thing that is given away, gift to institutions, relatives, or strangers who are perceived to be in need.
Ika - gift given to the family of a deceased person. The receiving of ika carries with it an obligation that the recipient will reciprocate to the donor at a later date.
Respetu - respect, veneration, reverence.
Ayuda Familia - help, aid, assist, succor, to extended family as a duty with no questions asked. A form of family love. Example, for thousands of years Chamorus celebrate fiestas whereupon by duty, extended families contribute food and man hours to cook dishes for the village guests. Another example is raising a baby to adulthood whereby entire relatives participate and view themselves as actual parents to the baby. This shows how civilized the Ancient chamorrus really were." Richard Wyttenbach-Santos Nov 1999.

"Ina'gofli'e," one of the core values of the Chamoru people, is loosely translated as caring for one another or working together. "Inimi'di," another social code dear to this group of people, refers to the concept of belonging and collectivism (Inos, Rita, 2006 Mar 31, Marianas Variety; pg 1).

Father Luis de Sanvitores, in the late 1660s wrote: "...they incorporated into their traditions that all lands and men and all things had their origins in their land, and that all had first come forth from a part of the island of Guam, which was first a man, and then a stone, which gave birth to all men, and from there they scattered to Spain, and other parts. They add that when others parted from their people and origin they forgot their language ..."

Historian Anthony P. Sanchez wrote, "Of all the skills they possessed, the most important was the skill of maintaining peace. Despite the fact they were trained in war, promoted public debate, had a three-tier class system, hundreds of different villages and individual councils, while under no one government, they maintained peace. They were not apathetic, nor uncaring, but worked diligently out of love and to the benefit of all -- something that should not be lost in today's people of Guam, regardless of our individual ancestry. (Pacific Daily News, Fri, May 18, 2001, page 34)."

"There is an old Chamorro proverb, "I erensia, lina'la', espiritu-ta," which means "Our heritage gives life to our spirit." Michael Phillips.

Guam is promoted among travellers as a point of familiarity or exploration for those seeking contact with American popular culture. Peoples from other Island nations have recently migrated to Guam as a result of the breakup of the U.S. Trusteeship of Micronesia and bring with them cultures from their homelands. This is evidenced in the Guam Visitors Bureau slogan that promotes Guam as the "Gateway to Micronesia". Author: Rudolph Villaverde. 1st version 1994. Revision 2010 Oct 4.

fiesta food table
Fiestas represent a culinary ethnography of
indigenous tastes and flavors. Guests are
encouraged to take home foods which are the
essense and blessings of ina'gofli'e
(caring for one another).
Building relationships with the young.
Quiet moments on the Beach are used
to strengthen bonds with the most
valued members of the family --
the children.


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