What is Chamorro? What does it mean to be Chamorro? How will it be represented and can a historic venue like the Chamorro Village in Hagatna really undergo a mind-shift into promoting the native culture?
Defining exactly what the idea of being “Chamorro” or being “local” means, remains a gray area for so many, including for Department of Chamorro Affairs President Anne Marie Arceo, at least with regard to her plans to shift the Chamorro Village in Hagatna — from being an all-inclusive venue that has never been defined by cultural barriers — to a venue where promoting and encouraging moments to showcase, share and also transmit to our youth the Chamorro culture and language is the goal.
“To evolve, it’s ok, but whatever we can keep that’s ours to help us keep our self-identity as a Chamorro people is very very important and also for the reason that people love Guam for our people, for the experience, for the taste, for our culture, for the way our people are. So in order for us to keep that, Chamorro village is one of the places we can do that,” Arceo said.
Moving away from the status quo of what Chamorro Village has become and rediscovering its roots — as well as the original intent of the village’s construction decades ago — is the underlying premise of the department’s ongoing shift to establish a Chamorro-centric Chamorro Village. However, in order to do so, the issue of what is Chamorro, enough to be featured at the village grounds, must be addressed.
“Well, that’s actually the controversy right now over what is local, compared to what is native. I think that’s gonna be one of the works of the Department of Chamorro affairs — to establish that — and that might also be the work of the task force that was recently established by the executive order that the governor put out. That’s an area that we definitely need to look at but there haven’t been any formal committees established to do that yet. But that’s certainly one of the things that we have to concentrate on,” Arceo said.
Despite the lack of a clearly defined idea of what is Chamorro, the attempts to shift all the features of the Chamorro village continue.
According to Arceo, a couple of merchant businesses at the village grounds have already chosen to translate their names into Chamorro or changing them entirely.
Some are also installing signage that is written in Chamorro, encouraging Chamorro, and promoting island music with Guam content (even if they are sung in English), and even prohibiting entertainers from performing dances that aren’t representative of the Chamorro culture.
“So basically, what we’ve asked is for the performers that were doing for example, just as an example, Polynesian dancing … meaning coconut shells and the hula and the Tahitian costuming … we’ve asked them to shift their shows and try to consider doing local Chamoru dances … you know native dances,” Arceo said.
There remain two ultimate goals for the village, according to the DCA president.
“We definitely want to come to achieve two aims. One is to stay with the mission of the village and its intent in revitalizing our language and culture and keeping it here which is what our visitors are always looking for. And then secondly, to be able to work with the vendors and the merchants who have sustained the village to come to a compromise, a comfort level,” Arceo said.
There are various options for the village presented by Arceo, one of them being the establishment of separate sections — an inclusive area designated for various heritages and an exclusive area for all that is Chamorro.
Another option would be to schedule nights where various cultures are welcomed but also other nights where it would just be Chamorro vendors and entertainment.
Nothing is set in stone quite yet, said Arceo, but she has committed to continue work with the vendor and merchant committees established to bring clarity to the gray areas, in hopes of being able to proceed with the shift of becoming a Chamorro-centric Chamorro village by the year’s end.
Arceo added: “Our Government has a responsibility to create and provide those critical moments in the preservation of the Chamorro language and culture. There is so much other kinds of entertainment elsewhere in hotels, clubs and elsewhere. As a government, we need to ensure that there is at least one place where it is consistently present.”