Chamorro cultural presentations

by Guam Visitors Bureau
Stripes Guam

If you do nothing else when you visit Guam, discover the essence of Chamorro culture through the intriguing array of cultural presentations available on the island. This living heritage is at the heart of the friendly, welcoming atmosphere that makes vacationing on Guam the ideal travel experience.

Historical Background
Today, Chamorro people make up about 37 percent of Guam’s population. Their ancestors were the first inhabitants of Guam, expert seafarers who probably traveled from Southeast Asia by canoe to the island more than 3,500 years ago. They built fast-sailing outrigger canoes called proas for travel and trade with the surrounding islands, and navigated by the stars, waves, and ocean flora and fauna with ease. In addition to their seafaring tradition, early Chamorro people were expert weavers and pottery-makers, evidenced in cultural artifacts and architecture that remain today.

A Living Culture
Guamanians and our visitors from around the world are benefiting from an ongoing cultural resurgence here. A desire to reconnect more deeply with the past is awakening.

This is significant because although there was a degree of cooperation and friendship between the original Chamorro inhabitants of Guam and the Spanish newcomers who arrived in the 16th century, the conflict and disease that followed European contact took a heavy toll on the local population. These deaths eroded Chamorro customs, traditions, and knowledge of the old ways. Many Chamorros converted to Christianity, took up Spanish customs, and intermarried.

Storytelling
Storytelling in Guam is an important method of passing knowledge from one generation to the next. The Chamorro culture is rich in myths and legends that trace roots through several millennia. This oral tradition is an affirmation of existence that carries on today. Storytellers have long been respected members of society because of their ability educate and entertain. That tradition continues with storytelling events throughout March, when Guam celebrates Chamorro month.

Architecture
You can witness Chamorro builders’ ingenuity firsthand amid the thatch-palm roofs of historic monuments designed to transport you back in time as if by magic. As you stroll the grounds, consider how, through millennia, the Chamorros crafted unique structures such as the latte stone (a support pillar carved of limestone or basalt), built traditional huts known as Guma’ Higai, and raced through warm ocean waters in speedy proa canoes. Their distinct architectural innovations are only found within the Sinahi archipelago, the crescent-shaped island chain in which Guam is both the largest and southernmost island.

Eco-Cultural Sites
A number of privately owned eco-cultural retreats are located along Guam’s northwestern beaches and jungles. Each site offers a unique perspective as to what eco-cultural tourism is all about.

An Invitation
Respect for the past runs strong on Guam. It brings us joy when our visitors can learn firsthand how traditional respect coexists here alongside cosmopolitan ideals. Many local Chamorros go to great lengths to unearth the secrets of the past, preserve them for future generations, and share them with people from beyond the island. So please, join us!

Gef Pa’go

Staffed mainly by elder Chamorros who demonstrate traditional Chamorro arts, crafts, and cooking to visitors, Gef Pa’go Chamorro Cultural Village is modeled after a community from the 40s and 50s, when the Chamorro lifeways were more prevalently practiced. Gef Pa’go is maintained by the historic Inalahan Foundation in an effort to preserve local culture and pass down traditions to younger generations.

A visit to Gef Pa’go, located about halfway down the coastline of the southern Guamanian village Inarajan, will take you back to the time when ropes were handwoven from tree bark and hats and bowls were handmade from natural fibers.

Try your own weaving project or make a batch of delectable coconut candy. Enjoy the smiles of the local schoolchildren who also flock to Gef Pa’go to reconnect with the history of their island’s first people. However you choose to enjoy one-of-a-kind Gef Pa’go, the friendly historic preservationists here are eager to teach you and all who come about the “Chamorro spirit.”

Near the entrance stands a dramatic statue of Chief Gadao, a powerful and well-respected leader who according to legend challenged a rival chief in a contest of strength. The two men climbed into a single canoe and began rowing furiously in opposite directions, breaking it in half.

Gef Pa’go is open daily from 9 a.m.-noon.

For more information: 671-828-1671, info@gefpagoguam.org

Inarajan Shores

A natural system of swimming holes just off the main road near Inarajan village’s Catholic church, Inarajan Pools is a popular spot for both visitors and residents. An old diving board serves as a jumping off point for thrill seekers.

If you’re out for a day of sightseeing in southern Guam, you might plan a stop here between visiting Chief Gadao Statue and Gef Pa’go Chamorro Cultural Village to the north and Bear Rock and a somber but worthwhile World War II-era site to the south.

Dry off from your swim and enjoy family time at the picnic shelters. Grill up your new favorite local dish at the on-site barbecue pits. Admire the white crescent of the ocean break visible between the trees bordering the pools. Or just soak in the sun to the sound of laughter and splashing while locals and travelers alike enjoy a favorite hangout.

Guam Visitors Bureau website

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