What is Chamorro? Searching for Cultural Identity in the Christian U.S. Territory of Guam
Schiff, K'tanaw L.
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Ancient Chamorros are believed to be Melanesian in origin. Their traditional society was matrilocal and emphasized ancestor veneration. The Taotaomo’na, “the before people,” command admiration, reverence, and fear even today. Guam was first colonized by the Spanish in 1552. Padre Sanvitores’ mission built the first church on Guam, Dulce Nombre de Maria, “the Sweet Name of Mary” and converted many Chamorros. This caused many rebellions. The United States won colonial authority over Guam, Puerto Rico and the Phillipines with the Treaty of Paris in 1898. Japanese occupied the island from 1941-1944, killing many Chamorros in work camps. July 21, 1944 the United States liberated Guam from the Japanese. Guam became an unincorporated organized territory of the United States with the Guam Organic Act of 1950 and remains so today. Research was conducted over a seven week residence in Tamuning, Guam (July 12 to August 29, 2009). Field work included participant observation during Liberation Day, Chamorro Village, Sunday Mass at the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Agana and meetings of the I Fanlalai’an Chamorro Chanters group. Nine interviews were conducted with individuals from various generations and religious communities on the island. University of Guam Micronesian Area Research Center (MARC), Agana Public Library and Library of Guam Community College were used to research primary source materials, records, archives, scholarship on Pacific Island religious communities and other resources. Performance dance groups have incorporated and romanticized dance styles from the colonizing cultures surrounding them; namely those of Spanish dance and American Hawaiian Hula. The attempts to reconstruct traditional practices and create a Chamorro Mass work to reify and establish the cultural values and Chamorro identity for I Fanlalai’an and the average Chamorro today.