Herreron Chamoru

un taloani

My grandfather, Tun Jack Lujan, passed away a little more than a year ago at the age of 94. He was recognized for decades in the Pacific (and elsewhere) as a Master of Chamorro culture through his work in perpetuating aspects of traditional Chamorro blacksmithing. He received numerous local and regional awards, lao i mas takhilo’ yan prsisu para guiya, annai ma kombida gui’ para Washington D.C. ya ma nå’i gui’ ni’ National Heritage Fellowship para i fina’tinas-ña.

My grandfather blacksmithed almost every day from the age of 9 to the age of 25. He took a break from regular blacksmithing for close to 30 years as he worked as an Immigration Officer on Guam. But he started up again in the 1970s after he retired and my great-grandfather (Mariano L.G. Lujan) implored him to start up the trade in earnest.

Although my great-grandfather was considered to be a “jack of all trades” within the family, blacksmithing, humererrero was his passion. Today, you might say it was in his DNA. It was the core of his identity, like it was for many artisans in his generation. After the war many things changed, but my great-grandfather refused to let his passion be something that “changed” pat “mumalingu.”

I wrote about this recently in my tribute to my grandfather and his World War II experiences in the book Families in the Face of Survival. Here is a passage from that chapter:

Prior to the war, the island had many blacksmiths. My family was just one of many who practiced the art of tool-making. These blacksmiths helped sustain the vibrant farming community of the era. But, after the war, for a variety of reasons, manma’pos ha’, these blacksmiths disappeared. They didn’t pass on their skills to their children. They stopped making tools, and took up other careers. My great-grandfather saw that the art he had dedicated his life to was being lost and he could not stand to see that happen. When my grandfather was close to retiring from US Immigration, my great-grandfather made him promise not to let that loss happen.

“Estågue i estoria-ta, estågue i taotao-ta.” My great-grandfather told him that this trade was the story of the Chamorro people. It was a story of how they saw the metal and technology of outsiders and took it and learned it in order to sustain themselves. During the war, it was what kept them alive, what made it so that people could survive. It was after this conversation with his father that Grandpa began to refer to the traditional Chamorro tools as “survival tools,” because, as he said, if you have these tools, you can survive. My great-grandfather insisted that this trade must not be lost. Grandpa made a promise to keep it alive.

My grandfather in turn taught more than a dozen apprentices, including myself and my brother Jeremy Lujan Bevacqua. The tools that are in the image below are pieces that we have made, representing our desire to continue to perpetuate the trade that gave so much meaning and life to grandpa and his father. For those unfamiliar with Chamorro tools, the two pieces on the left are kamyo, used for grating coconut so it can be used to make milk, coconut candy or kelaguan. The third tool is a soh’soh, a tool used to extract the meat from a coconut after it has been halved. It was used a great deal prior to World War II, in order to make sineh’soh (copra) to be sold or extract coconut meat to be fed to livestock. The final piece is a simple knife, smaller than the traditional machete. One of the shapes and styles that grandpa liked to make, inspired by American frontier blades, which would keep him fresh and excited despite his age.

Annai måtai si grandpa, guaha ma sangani yu’ na “må’pos i uttimo na magåhet na Herreron Chamoru.” Hu siente i minagahet gi este na sinangan, lao hu tungo’ lokkue’ na put i bidan-ñiha iy0-ku grandfather yan i bisaguello-hu, ti måmatai trabiha i tiningo’ yan i kustumbre.


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