GUAMIAN CHAMORRO CULTURAL CELEBRATION
Vsitors to the island of Guam in the northwestern Pacific are given this traditional Chamorro welcome as they step off the aircraft and into the island’s rich cultural heritage.
The island territory of Guam is one of the United States’ five habitable island territories, and it is located in the Western Pacific Ocean between Japan and Australia. Located in the Micronesian area, just 900 miles north of the equator, it borders the Marianas trench, the deepest surveyed point on Earth.
More than 4,000 years ago, people from the western Philippine Islands and later the eastern Caroline Islands and the southeastern Asian islands, including Indonesia, settled in the Mariana Islands, where they have maintained their ancient Chamorro culture to this day.
CHAMORRO CULTURE OF GUAM
Guam’s night markets and village festivals bring locals and tourists together to honor the island’s culture by showcasing the cuisine, music, and arts and crafts of the Chamorros.
On Wednesdays at night, Chamorro Village hosts one of the island’s most well-attended night marketplaces. Located in Hagatna, the capital, it is open seven days a week. However, the center court, where Guam food trucks and stalls offer a veritable buffet of local foods and fresh fruit juices among the Spanish-inspired buildings, is especially lively on Wednesday evenings, when the aroma of barbeque fills the air.
CHAMORRO VILLAGE IN GUAM
Handmade jewelry, clothing, food products like locally produced honey, bath products like fresh-pressed coconut oil, arts and crafts, and more can all be found for sale at the many stalls and shops that make up Chamorro Village.
The resilient ifil tree, with its rich, dark red wood, is the territorial tree of Guam, and some of the island’s master wood carvers offer their artwork and furniture made from the wood.
The genuine Ancient Chamorro sinahi, or moon, necklace can be found in a variety of sizes and materials, such as giant clam shell, whale bone, and basalt, and is shaped like a crescent.
Look for the “Made on Guam” sticker and talk to the helpful locals to find out more about the production process.
Each of Guam’s 19 villages also celebrates its patron saint with a lively yearly feast day, or fiesta.
MALESSO’ GUPOT CHAMORU-CRAB FESTIVAL
The Malesso’ Gupot Chamoru/Crab Festival in the southern town of Merizo is a must-attend event.
During its three days, this annual event celebrates the local land crab with delicious barbecue, lively music and dancing, carnival activities, cooking competitions, and even a crab-catching contest.
Participants of all ages (8+) try to capture as many of the more than 2,000 crabs that are released. The parents get to keep their winnings while the kids take home some pocket change.
The filled crab and crab cakes are popular and tend to sell out early in the day, so plan accordingly.
The symbolic fruit of Guam is celebrated over the course of three days at Agat’s annual Mango Festival at the end of May. The juicy, red-gold fruit is celebrated in all its forms at this celebration, from pickled to juiced to eaten fresh off the tree.
The fiery red pepper, or donne’, is an essential ingredient in Chamorro cooking, used in everything from pickled mango and papaya to barbecue marinades and the region’s distinctive dipping sauce, finadene. In September, Mangilao hosts its annual Donne’ Festival, where everyone competes in a variety of cooking contests to see who can handle the heat the best. More heat is always welcome.
MORE FUN GUAM FESTIVALS
Hikers love the area around Talofofo because it has lush valleys, waterfalls, and rivers that flow past stalagmites and old paintings in caves.
The Talofofo Banana Festival honors the town’s namesake produce and takes place every year in April at Ipan Beach Park.The deep-fried bananas in crispy lumpia wrappers with caramelized brown sugar on top are a fan favorite.
Agana Heights celebrates the coconut (or niyok) in March, and Inarajan celebrates it in May. The Guam seal and flag both feature the fruit because it is such a significant natural plant on the island.
The historic neighborhood of Inarajan features cobblestone streets lined with homes constructed well over a century ago.
Residents pack sidewalks and balconies with loud music as they make their way to Gef Pa’go Cultural Village, a seaside marketplace, tour hub, and recreation hub. Get yourself a young coconut, bursting with deliciously refreshing coconut liquid.
At the height of the festival, a Coconut Queen is crowned and given center stage on a Coconut Throne, which is towed behind a truck to the cultural village, where people watch their family members participate in various contests and cheer them on.
Adults compete in a sport called “coconut husking,” in which they use a pointed wooden tool called a “husker” to rip apart coconut husks as quickly as possible.