For years the particular conversation has always swirled around me, sometimes coming so close, I get tangled up in it, and I find it moving me in new sometimes exciting, sometimes irritating directions. It is not something unique to me or to Chamorros, but something all peoples with a significant diaspora population experience. What I am referring to is the dialogue over the difference between Chamorros from off-island and those that live on-island or in the Marianas.
As someone who has lived much of my life outside of Guam, I have experiences that give me a variety of insights into this debate. Growing up on Guam, I constantly heard references, amongst those young and old, to the Chamorros from the states or sanlagu just being different. They were stuck up, they were more Americanized, they were greedier, they didn’t know their language and culture. As I grow however and lived for a time in the United States, in areas where my family was often the only Chamorros around, this didn’t quite make sense to me. Guam seemed to be very Americanized to me. Chamorros on Guam could be stuck up as well and be greedy, especially over land, in ways that still hurt my heart to think about. And finally, while living on Guam gave most Chamorros a general higher level of exposure to the Chamorro language and aspects of Chamorro culture, those on Guam seemed to have very high levels of spoken pride, but in terms of actual knowledge or experience, the majority of Chamorros didn’t seem to have anything special or significant that made them so much better than those in the states.
When I lived in California for graduate school, I was finally in a place, San Diego, where there was a sizable Chamorro population and an established Chamorro community. I worked with various groups there and organized events and conferences. It is during this time, when I began to speak out more forcefully on issues. I had started becoming more involved in Chamorro rights activism prior to leaving for my Ph.D. program, but once I left island I began to put myself out there more through letters to the editor of the PDN, message boards and websites/blogs. It was interesting how people responded to this, those who were critical of me or my ideas, tended to couch their problem with it as being because I was from “offisland.” This somehow made what I was saying less important or something to be taken less seriously, because I wasn’t breathing in Guam air or hitting Guam potholes everyday.
I have been back living on Guam since 2008 and have no real plans to ever live anywhere else. But it is intriguing now to look back at that time and see how I was constantly called into question because of that.
Below is part of a thread from a Chamorro-focused message board I used to help run named Fanatgue’yan. It is on this very topic. I came across this the other day and found it very interesting to reflect upon.
Sahuma: A discussion is brewing in one of the less frequented categories so I just thought I’d bring it up here, where more people post.
What is everyone’s opinions on Chamorros stateside and on island? Alot of the people in this board are not on island right now, in fact demographically more Chamorros are offisland than on, so what’s up? Do you lose a piece of yourself and your culture when you leave? Are Chamorros raised in the states just biologically more annoying and clueless? Can you re-connect to something you’ve probably never known? These are some of the issues involved.
Living in the states for half of my life I can tell you that you can re-connect, but its not as easy as everyone thinks it is. When most people talk about reconnecting to the island and their culture, it means they are learning to pronounce their Chamorro chatfino’ properly, nothing much more than that. I guess this connects to another thread we had in here, and can Chamorro culture be saved? Because what we are taking about here is Chamorroness and who is really Chamorro or more Chamorro, and for most people from Guam who see the Chamorros stateside, they are noticeably less Chamorro. Is this true? Or is this just us trying to feel superior to them?
All interesting questions, what do you guys have to say about them?
Kaluko671: I honestly disagree about the Chamorus off-island are losing there language and culture. I was off-island for 3 years in those years I gained so much chamoru knowledge than if I was on island. I took me to leave to actually recognize my roots and my cultures history. If I never left, I wouldn’t be writing articles about Chamoru Heritage, language, and culture, or I wouldn’t be proud of who I am. When I moved to the mainland it gave me more time to think of what I want to do, as also to think and realize who I am and that “I AM CHAMORU” and I do not give a hell if anyone calls me CHAUD or discriminates me and labels me as an idiotic fool. I do not care, I am proud to be CHAMORU and I love everything about it. I LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE BULA BULA BULA TIMES I WILL SHOUT IT (SHOUTS)))))))))))))))))))))))) HU GUAIYA HAO TANO GUAHAN HU GUAIYA HAO TAOTAO GUAHAN HU GUAIYA HAO TANO SAIPAN, LUTA, TINI’AN I LOVE YOU PEOPLE THAT PROTECTS AND PRESERVES OUR HERITAGE, LANGUAGE, AND CULTURE. I love GUMA PALU LI’E I love PA’A TAOTAO TANO COALITION, I love you NATIBU CULTURAL DANCERS, I love you JESSE & RUBY, JJ CONCEPCION, JD CRUTCH, and all the CHAMORU SINGERS who promotes our CHAMORU LANGUAGE. I love you and thank you for all you’ve done for our people. I love you all for inspiring me to learn the ancient and keep the ancient rather than the Spanish. I love you all for inspiring me especially my uncle Angel Santos who inspired me to write songs about our heritage, language, and culture. Angel may you rest in peace and may Fu’una yan Puntan, Chaifi, Anufa’ bless your lives, you are the one that has made the biggest impact in our Chamoru society… BIBA SINAHI BIBA CHAMORU BIBA TAOTAO GUAHAN BIBA TAOTAO’MONA ISLANDS……
Chamoruborn: I’m a Chamoru who is from the states! I hate to say it, but there isn’t much out here! I didn’t know anything until a few years ago, and I still don’t know much now.
Is it just that we’re too spread out here in the states? That we can’t all get together and help each other out? I think if you grow up around more Chamorus you have a better shot.
taotaomona: I know we aren’t supposed to name call in here, but Chamorus from the states are too white alot of times. I KNOW, you can find coconuts on island to, don’t need to go all the way stateside to find them! But still, they are different, they don’t thinka nd understand things the way we do. Too uptight, too hip hop. All my cuzins from the states are to damn hip hop, they don’t know how to keep it real.
Kapak: I think this thread is retarded and proves you guys don’t have anything much to say. I’m a Guamanian raised in the states and frankly I don’t care much for learning about Guam when I see people like you guys, dissing us without even knowing us. I can be just as Guamanian as you guys, doesn’t mean I gotta wear it on my sleave or tatoo it to my arms. I’m from Guam just as much as you guys are.
Sahuma: Thanks for not reading my questions very carefully…and for deciding to answer in a “retarded” manner yourself. I don’t have time to post much now, but I’ll be back to tangle with you later.
Why don’t you just hush your mouth? It’s a big fact that alot of CHAMORUS residing in the states are too white. matter of fact too black. I can back my statement up. I’ve stayed in the mainland for 3 years in Phoenix, Arizona let me tell you the CHAMORUS there are too WHITE and they lost there culture and language big time, including there heritage. They honestly don’t care about GUAM. I don’t care about them, they can kiss my hard-core CHAMORU ASS… hahahaha
I LOVE BEING CHAMORU AND EVERYTHING ABOUT IT, SO DON’T HATE BECAUSE WE’RE MORE INTACT WITH OUR HERITAGE, LANGUAGE, AND CULTURE and you don’t even have knowledge of your own identity. I advise you to learn it and stop posing and be who you are when you find the time to learn about your identity and your culture.
Otherwise hush it about this topic. I like this topic.
Gachong671: I want to be a punk and say, that this topic is stupid because its just another way to divide our people, but I know this isn’t true. Kaluko is right and so is Taotaomona, Chamorros nowadays aren’t Chamorro, they are either white or they are black. When I say this I mean they don’t know language, history culture, and most importantly THEY DON”T CARE!
Kapak dude, so you’ve siad you are just as Guamanian (please don’t use that word in here) as the rest of us, well please back it up. Where is your love? Does is exist, or are you just talking without thinking or feeling? Lana, I keep tjhis up I could write a song for Black Eyed Peas…
Kaolunggahao: I think the word Guamanian should be banned from here, I can’t stand the sound of it. and Speaking of which, why thing I can’t stand about Chamorros stateside is that although they know its wrong, they still use Guamanian! when they talk!
If you guys are so in touch with your Chamorro side, then get with the program and throw away that terrible word!
Kopbla: I was raised int he states and have never even been to Guam, but even I agree with cabesachick that the word “Guamanian” should be banned from this forum. Its a word with a bad history, one of making our people less than what they are, meaning indigenous to Guam and the Marianas.
If Guamanian is what we are, its also what ANYONE who live sin Guam can be as well!
Mari2384: I agree with cabesachick and kopbla as well. “Guamanian,” as well as having a bad history, is becoming too generic and we Chamorus are often just thrown into the bunch, which denies our heritage. For example, the other day, I was reading through the opinion section of the PDN (I’m a masochist, what can I say?), and at the bottom of my FAVORITE brainwashed pinoy’s column was his description, which said “Filipino-Guamanian.” What the hell is that? Well, I figured that Guamanian is no longer some cultural term everyone thinks it is. Like “Filipino-American,” it refers to the ethnicity first, then the CITIZENSHIP. So, I guess Guamanian now means you are a citizen of Guam. Of course, people aren’t thinking that way, and use Guamanian interchangeably with Chamoru when describing us. In addition, many of the people here who are not Chamoru came because the US allowed the floodgates to open in the 60s and thousands of immigrants to come here (and they still come), including my own Filipino father and his family. My dad is the first to say that this is one of the main things that is contributing to the difficulty Chamorus are having regarding self-determination, including trying to PROVE themselves as Chamorus. I mean, the minute you say “Chamoru-only vote” all these “Guamanians” (Filipino, White, etc.) come out and scream “Racism!” Well, everyone in here knows (at least I hope) that it IS NOT because ORIGINALLY, Guamanian referred only to the people of Guam at the time the word was first used and these people were ONLY Chamoru and the rights stated in the Organic Act only referred to the Chamorus, which is why I am mystified when the government applies it to everyone. Well, thanks to the US, Guam immigrants, and even some Chamorus themselves, we’re in a stinky pickle right now. I just hope that by the time my kids are older (Note: I have no kids yet, so you can see how far in the future I’m looking), Guam will no longer be under the beck and call of the United States.
Sorry for the rambling and pointed history, I just had to get that out.
cabesachick: Just wanted to let you guys know, it was kaolunggahao who said that we should ban the word “Guamanian.” But I totally agree though. The only problem I have, is what happens to the all the manamko who use the word? In the states everyone who left and settled out here before the 1980’s uses that word and get embarassed using Chamorro (sadly, because they usually don’t think they exist, or because to them, Guamanian is more “American.”
How can we respect the elders who use that word and still fight against it?