Guam History & Chamorro Heritage Day Festival March 3-6

Guam History & Chamorro Heritage Day Festival March 3-6

by Takahiro Takiguchi
Stripes Guam

If you are interested in learning more about the history and people of Guam, March is a great month to get started.

Each year, Guam celebrates Chamorro Month with festivals and other special events throughout March. This year Umatac Village is getting an early start by kicking off its annual festival Feb. 24.

Held in conjunction with the March 8 Guam History and Chamorro Heritage Day, this seven-day festival celebrates the history, progress and evolution of the rich Chamorro culture.

This year’s event is scheduled for Feb. 24-26 and March 3-6.

Along with Liberation Day on July 21, which commemorates the U.S. liberating the island from Japan’s occupation in 1944, Guam History and Chamorro Heritage Day is considered one of the most important holidays on Guam, with most government facilities, schools, companies and shops closing.

“This holiday is equally if not more important than other holidays,” says Joe Quinata, chief program officer of the Guam Preservation Trust. “The community of Guam is small and most often we celebrate with food as we showcase the importance of a given holiday.”

And the Umatac festival is a great way to get a taste of the Chamorro culture. Along with food booths serving up scrumptious local delicacies, the festival includes a walking tour, historical reenactments, various band and choir performances and fireworks.

The Umatac Mayor’s Office conducts the Guam History and Chamorro Heritage Day events every year because it all started when Ferdinand Magellan landed near the village March 6, 1521, according to the Umatac Mayor’s Office.

The heritage walking tour and reenactment of Magellan’s landing will really give you a glimpse into the village’s rich heritage and history, officials said.

“The community of Umatac will continue to tell the stories as told by our ancestors,” Quinata said. “The community has developed a Heritage Walking Tour for groups to experience the village and its people.”

The historical reenactment is also a must-see, although it must be noted that it is not a pleasant scene. Umatac locals in traditional attire reconstruct the historical events of March 6, 1521. Guam natives greet Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan after his three ships anchor in Umatac Bay. Magellan and the ships’ crews are welcomed with water and food.

However, things took a turn for the worse when Magellan, angered after the natives took possessions from one of his boats in compensation for the water and food, had his men slaughter some of them and burn the village before leaving the island.

During the festival, over 100 cultural performers will entertain the crowds, as will about 20 professional bands, school bands and soloists. Sports competitions will include motor cross, volleyball, basketball, spearfishing as well as outrigger paddling race.

“In an effort to reinstate the once celebrated Discovery Day holiday, the local residents requested that the change be made to reflect Guam’s culture in general and not just Discovery Day in the village of Umatac,” Quinata explained.  

According to the Umatac Mayor’s Office, the village’s goal is to provide their children with a life-long learning experience in the conservation and preservation of their natural and cultural resources.

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