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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Keep the Chamorro Culture Alive

Written by: Ray Tenorio , Guam PDN, Feb 28, 2012.

There was once a little boy who moved to Guam. He didn't know much about the island he was going to, but he knew he would be living with his mother. As soon as he arrived, he was met with open arms from the family his mom married into.

He grew up like everyone else did -- playing outside, helping the family with chores and following the customs of the people. He really enjoyed using the fusiños to help garden and the kamyo to grate coconut, always careful not to get any husk or shell into the mix.

He didn't know it at the time, but there would soon be machines to perform the work he enjoyed doing. Fusiños would be replaced by "weed eaters" and bush cutters. Kamyo would seemingly become a decoration and occasionally used. The times would change, and parts of the culture would drift away, parts of the culture he fell in love with.

For as long as I can remember, we have celebrated every March as Chamorro Month or, Mes Chamoru. This is a time to celebrate as Chamorros, to remember how unique we are. We eat all the good food, we enjoy Chamorro song and dance, and there are various activities throughout the island to showcase our culture. However, celebrating our culture should not only be subject to one month throughout the year -- it should be a way of life.

Our Chamorro heritage is one of the richest and most diverse in the world. We have been influenced by many other cultures that have blended into our tiny island, but we always manage to put the unique Chamorro touch into all that we do. Times are changing and, with the influence from various factors, it is unfortunately becoming easier for our culture to slowly disappear.
One of the cultural characteristics that I see disappearing is respect. When I was growing up here, I knew right away that if there was somebody older than me, I was supposed to go and fanginge' them by kissing their hands. It was important for me to do this. I don't see this much anymore, and it's unfortunate.

 Another important part of our culture that I don't see as strong is the language. I remember my dad and his friends getting together and speaking fluent Chamorro. I picked up a lot from his conversations, but a lot of emphasis was placed on English. English was important for success in society, or so my dad thought.

Because the Chamorro language is still struggling on the island, members of the community have created projects for language learning, exposure and use. It is inspiring to see these programs begin, and I am happy to see the Chamorro language-speaking community flourish.

The concept is not so much about learning in school, but using it -- practicing it at home. I encourage everybody to use whatever they know of the Chamorro language, and build on it.
Like we must do with our language, we should also protect and respect our land. Land is so precious for the Chamorro people, especially since we have so little. When I was growing up, the fact that any family had land was a good thing. It was a way for people to provide for their families, to take care of them. They could build houses, they could farm the land, and pass it down to their children. We all need to remember that our land is precious and that we must respect it.

For centuries we have seen our culture change. Westernization and other cultural influences aren't new to the island, but as our island continues to grow and change, and as we marry into other cultures, let's not forget our customs and culture carried down from our forefathers.
We have to remember where we came from, and to remember what was important then is still important now. Let's keep our culture alive every day for us and the next generation who can be proud to call themselves Chamorro.

Biba Mes Chamoru!
Ray Tenorio is the acting governor of Guam.


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