The People of Guam – Chamorro

  • May 08, 2017      Friendly Borders Staff

Hagåtña – See the beautiful island wonders of Guam that lies at the southernmost region of the Mariana Islands. Learn about the stunning landscapes and appreciate the distinct local culture. Anyone who steps into this unique destination can also witness the colorful culture of the indigenous people, the Chamorro. Just a short flight away from Japan, Taiwan, Philippines, and other Asian nations, accessing Guam is a breeze for travelers, tourists, and even researchers who want to understand the unique practices of the island’s indigenous group that has been in the region for thousands of years.

First People; Colonized but Strong

The Chamorro are known as the earliest inhabitants of the Marianas and are thought to be of Malayo-Polynesian descent. They are believed to have occupied the islands over 4,000 years ago, predating by many generations the European colonial records in 1668 established with the arrival of Spanish settlers and a Catholic missionary, Padre San Vitores.

Since the arrival of the settlers, the Chamorro people and the island were changed and controlled by Spain until 1898, when the United States took over during the Spanish-American War. However, this wasn’t the only time in their long history that the Chamorro witnessed such a painful struggle.

Being the largest island in Micronesia, the United States Navy built a facility near Piti village in 1899 and even a United States Marine Corps (USMC) in 1901 at Sumay which serve as ideal locations to have a strategic views of the surrounding countries. Moreover, with this in mind, Guam was occupied by the Japanese in 1941. This period was marked with fierce battles with the American troops in a bid to recapture the island. Then, in 1944, they were finally able to get the island back under US rule. Still, after these wars, the Chamorro remained a strong community that shares various traditional practices alongside the colonial cultures that they have acquired throughout the years.

Modern Cosmopolitan Struggles and Strengths

Even though the Chamorro culture is still in practice, the cosmopolitan changes in Guam pose some distinct challenges for the traditional communities. The people and their culture are visibly manifested through their songs, unique cuisine, games, dance, and even fashion. However, as global influences come to play in their lives, the Chamorro are struggling to preserve their identity and their culture.

Their country is known as “America in Asia,” which makes it more difficult to establish the indigenous group’s place in the growing Western modernization of their local regions. With a population of around 19,000 in the Northern Mariana Islands alone, they have a recorded global population of over 100,000. Their numbers help in the continuation of their traditions and communal practices. Despite this struggle, the Chamorro remains a lively group of individuals who are happy to share their traditions and beliefs to people who visit their places.

As part of global development, Guam has become a popular destination, with tourist hubs, indoor aquarium, a duty-free shopping district, and even some Las Vegas-style entertainment. This is especially an interesting piece of culture that they are known for, as their economy continues to grow through tourism and the US military bases. The locals are trying to lessen the gap between their ancient identity and the one that they are building now. Moreover, the Chamorro can easily communicate with visitors as they are equally conversant in English and Chamorro.