3 Chamorro people

Chamorro people

Latte stones 2.jpg
Depiction of latte stone colonnades on the island of Tinian
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Guam, Northern Mariana Islands

Chamorro and English


Christianity (mostly Roman Catholic)

Related ethnic groups

Other other Austronesian people including Micronesians, Melanesians and Polynesians

The Chamorro people, or Chamoru people, are the indigenous peoples of the Mariana Islands, which include the American territory of Guam and the United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in Micronesia. Today, significant Chamoru populations also exist in several U.S. states including Hawaii, California, Washington, Texas and Nevada. According to the 2000 Census, approximately 65,000 people of Chamoru ancestry live on Guam and another 19,000 live in the Northern Marianas. [1] Another 93,000 live outside the Marianas in Hawaii and the West/Pacific coast of the United States. The Chamoru are primarily of Austronesian stock.

Most Chamorros are Roman Catholic[2] and few in the Marianas still maintain some customs and beliefs from the time before the first European conquests; some residents of the Marianas will still ask permission from ancestral spirits before entering parts of jungles. Traditional healers called suruhanas are still greatly respected for their knowledge of herbal treatments and spirits. Before Spanish colonization, Chamoru life centered on one's clan.  Chamorro culture is strongly influenced by Spanish, Filipino, Japanese, and American customs; in addition, Chamorro food is also influenced by the various groups mentioned previously. Today, large extended families remain central to life in the Marianas.


Chamorro language

Chamorro performers in traditional dress

The Chamorro language is included in the Malayo-Polynesian subgroup of the Austronesian family. Because Guam was colonized by Spain for over 300 years, many words derive from the Spanish language. Linguist Donald M. Topping states in his introduction to the Chamorro-English Dictionary that "it is most closely related to the languages of the Philippines", although at the time the dictionary was published, it was indeterminate which of those languages it was most closely related to, because "it shares common grammatical features and vocabulary with many of them". This may be due at least in part to considerable immigration of Filipinos to Guam during Spanish colonial times, when the Mariana Islands were ruled as part of the Spanish East Indies from the Philippines. The numerous linguistic similarities include the numbers used by the ancient Chamoru, which resemble those of other Austronesian languages. After colonization by Spain, the traditional Chamoru number system was replaced by Spanish numbers.[3] chamoru is often spoken in many homes, but is becoming less common. However, there is a resurgence of interest in reviving the language, and all public schools on both Guam and the The Northern Mariana Islands must legally teach the Chamoru language as part of the elementary, middle, and high school curriculum.

Ancient Chamorros

The Chamorro are commonly believed to have come from Southeast Asia at around 2000 BC. Based on appearance and culture, they are most closely related to other Austronesian natives to the west in the Philippines and Taiwan, as well as the Carolines to the south. They were expert seafarers and skilled craftspeople familiar with intricate weaving and detailed pottery making. Early European explorers noted their unique houses and canoes. The latte stone, a megalithic rock pillar topped with a hemispherical capstone, was the foundation of ancient Chamorro architecture and is a "national" symbol. Chamoru society was based on what sociologist Dr. Lawrence J. Cunningham termed the "matrilineal avuncuclan", one characteristic of which is that the brother(s) of the female parent plays more of a "father" role than the actual biological male parent.[citation needed]

According to ancient Chamorro legend, the world was created by a twin brother and sister, Puntan and Fu'uña.[4] Upon dying, Puntan instructed his sister to make his body the ingredients for the universe. She used his eyes to create the sun and moon, his eyebrows to make rainbows, and most of the rest of his parts for various features of the Earth. After she was done, she turned herself into a rock on the island of Guahan/Guam, and from this rock emerged human beings. Some believe that the rock was once located at the site of an Agat Church, while others believe it is the phallic-shaped "Laso de Fua" located in Fouha Bay in Umatac. Ancient Chamorus engaged in ancestor veneration, but did not practice "religion" in the sense that they worshipped deities. However, there is at least one account, provided by Christoph Carl Fernberger in 1623, that human sacrifice was practiced to curry the favor of a "great fish". It was a "great fish" that threatened Inarajan Bay as an ancient legend tells that women were very important because they weaved a giant net containing their hair to capture the fish after all the men gave up.

Chamorro society was divided into two main castes and continued to be so for well over a century after the Spanish first arrived. According to the historical records provided by Europeans such as Father Charles Le Gobien, there appeared to be racial differences between the subservient Manachang caste, and the higher Chamorri/Chamurre, the Manachang being described as shorter, darker-skinned, and physically less hardy than the Chamorri. The Chamorri caste was subdivided into the upper-middle class Achoti/Acha'ot and the highest, administrative Matua/Matao class. Achoti could graduate to Matua, and Matua could be reduced to Achoti, but Manachang were born and died as such and had no recourse to improve their status. Members of the Manachang and the Chamorri were not permitted to intermingle. All three classes performed physical labor, but had different specified duties. Le Gobien theorized that Chamorro society comprised the geographical convergence of peoples of different ethnic origins. This idea may be supportable by the evidence of linguistic characteristics of the Chamorro language and social customs. Father Pierre Coomans wrote of the practice among Chamorro women of teeth blackening/dental lacquering (also a custom among the Japanese and Vietnamese), which they considered beautiful as a distinction apart from animals. Fernberger wrote in his account of the Chamorro that "penis pins" were employed as a chastity measure for young males, a practice similarly employed by inhabitants at least as far south as Indonesia.[citation needed]


Traditional beliefs among the Chamorro include tales of taotaomo'na and birak, as well as the Spanish-introduced concepts of duendes and hauntings in places such as in Yona, other old buildings, schools, hotel elevators, and the Maina bridge.[5] Taotaomo'na are spirits of ancient Chamorros. Birak is a broader term that may refer not only to the undead, but also to demons or general elemental types.

Foreign rule

Over the centuries, the Marianas have been occupied by several foreign countries (Spain, Germany, Japan, USA), and present-day Chamoru society is almost entirely racially mixed (miscegenation), with the inhabitants of Luta/Rota being the least so. The Chamoru are primarily of Austronesian stock, but began to significantly intermingle with Spanish during the Spanish Colonial Era (1600–1898 AD). Primarily since the late 19th century onward, many Chamorus have intermarried with other Pacific Islanders, Mainland Americans, Polynesians, Filipinos, Chinese, and Japanese.

During the Spanish Colonial Era, the Chamoru population was greatly reduced by the introduction of European diseases and changes in society under Spanish rule. The Spanish killed many Chamoru men and relocated most others to Guam where they lived in several parishes to prevent rebellion. Some[who?] estimate that as many as 100,000 Chamorus may have populated the Marianas when Europeans first settled in 1667. By 1800, there were under 10,000. Within the parishes, the Spanish eventually focused their efforts on converting the natives to Catholicism. Through this, they were given Spanish surnames through Catálogo Alfabético de Apellidos or Alphabetic Catalog of Surnames. Father Frances X. Hezel stated that Chamorus caught or reported engaging in pagan "sorcery" were publicly punished. Thus, a multiracially mixed Chamorro with European descent and a Spanish surname may not necessarily have Spanish blood. 

Because the Marianas are a part of the United States, the Chamoru people enjoy greater economic opportunities than many other Micronesian peoples. "Cosmopolitan" Guam, where Chamorus make up approximately 37% of the island's population, poses particular challenges for Chamorus struggling to preserve their culture and identity in the face of acculturation.[citation needed] The increasing numbers of Chamorus, especially Chamoru youth, relocating to the U.S. Mainland, has further complicated both definition and preservation of Chamoru identity. On Guam a Chamoru rights movement has developed since the United States gained control of the island. Leaders of the movement seek to return ancestral lands to the Chamoru people, and attain self-determination

The remaining islands of the Northern Marianas are the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and have many economic privileges (such as being exempt from federal income tax) while maintaining rights to control much of their own immigration, trade, and domestic policies. While this has led to controversy over some of the commonwealth's labor practices, it has provided rights to Chamoru people that residents of Guam do not enjoy.[citation needed]

"Chamoru" & "Chamorro"

The two different spellings of the term are both appropriate. Chamoru is a word that is used by the ancient people. Chamorro was a name given to the people of Guam by the Spaniards when they were first contacted by European people. A majority of the men, especially the high ranking Metao class, normally had shaved heads, leaving a small topknot on the crown.[6] Thus, the Spanish word "Chamorro," meaning shorn or shaven, was used to name the people.[citation needed]

Modern Chamorro Culture

Chamorro culture today is an assimilation of Chamorro, Spanish, American, and fellow Pacific Island groups (mostly Micronesian), most especially present in the Marianas Islands. Certain Chamorro values such as inafmao'lek (which could be translated as interdependence) and practices such as balutan (the taking of leftover food from fiestas and parties to be eaten later) are still a part of the culture (usually seen in the Marianas), and are regularly expressed within families, and openly at gatherings such as village fiestas, parties; however more solemnly at nobenas where reverence and respect are expected of attending persons. Respect for ones family, community, and the elderly (manamko) are a part of Chamorro culture, although this varies from person to person and family to family. The modern culture is strongly influenced by American customs and values, partly because the Marianas (Guam and the CNMI have different political standings) are currently under the possession of the United States of America, as organized but unincorporated territories; in addition, persons of Chamorro descent live in several states, mentioned in the introduction at the beginning, and as such are also influenced by the American culture. The American Military (mostly Navy, Air Force, and Army Reserves) has a strong cultural influence to Chamorros on Guam, reflected in the recruitment of people from Guam, which is about 14 people per 1000 [7] compared to the closest US state, which is Montana with 8 people per 1000. (See the Guam page for more details about this topic.)

Chamorro cuisine is strongly influenced by various cultures, such as finadenne, empanada from Spain, steamed rice from Asia, and strongly prevalent is red rice, which is a distinct staple food that strongly identifies Chamorro cuisine among the many dishes of fellow Pacific island cultures. Red rice is often reserved for special events, such as parties, nobenas, fiestas, and specific celebrations such as a high school or college graduation. Chamorro food is often made for these celebrations and also within families as well, although this isn't limited to these, and Chamorros in the Marianas have Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and American cuisine to consume as well. Common fruits such as breadfruit, mangos, coconut, and bilimbines (starfruit) are also added to this mix as well.


Chamorros on Saipan rank third on the world’s list of indigenous people with diabetes. The disease afflicts 25% to 30% among all Chamorro on Saipan.[8]  

The cosmopolitan nature of Guam, as well as Saipan, poses challenges for Chamorros struggling to preserve their culture and identity amidst forces of acculturation. The increasing numbers of Chamorros, especially Chamorro youth, relocating to the U.S. mainland has further complicated both definition and preservation of Chamorro identity.[9]

See also


  1. ^ http://www.census.gov/population/www/proas/pr_ia_hist.html
  2. ^ "Northern Mariana Islands Travel - Guides & Reviews - Travel Library". Travel-library.com. http://www.travel-library.com/asia_pacific/northern_mariana_islands/. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  3. ^ Rafael Rodríguez-Ponga. Del español al chamorro: Lenguas en contacto en el Pacífico. Madrid, 2009, Ediciones Gondo, www.edicionesgondo.com
  4. ^ Guampedia.org, "Puntan and Fu’una: Gods of Creation"
  5. ^ Guampdn.com, Ghost stories: Taotaomona and other spirits inhabit Guam[dead link]
  6. ^ Ancient Chamorro society, Lawrence J. Cunningham, ISBN 978-1880188057
  7. ^ "Total Military Recruits: Army, Navy, Air Force (per capita) (most recent) by state". StateMaster.com. 2010. http://www.statemaster.com/graph/mil_tot_mil_rec_arm_nav_air_for_percap-navy-air-force-per-capita. Retrieved 2010-05-25. 
  8. ^ Emmanuel T. Erediano (15 Dec 2006). "Chamorros on Saipan no. 3 on world diabetes list". Marianas Variety. Archived from the original on December 21, 2005. http://web.archive.org/web/20051221051453/http://www.mvariety.com/localpage/lnews21.htm. Retrieved 2006-12-17. 
  9. ^ Robert A. Underwood, "Language Survival, the Ideology of English and Education in Guam." Educational Research Quarterly, v8 n4 p72-81, 1984.

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Chamorro — may refer to: Chamorro language, an Austronesian language spoken on Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands Chamorro Party, a 19th century Portuguese political party (See Portuguese Prime Ministers) Chamorro people, the indigenous people of the… …   Wikipedia

  • Chamorro — /cheuh mawr oh/; Sp. /chah mawrdd rddaw/, n., pl. Chamorros / mawr ohz/; Sp. / mawrdd rddaws/, (esp. collectively) Chamorro for 1. 1. a people inhabiting the Mariana Islands. 2. the Austronesian language of the Chamorro. * * * ▪ people       the… …   Universalium

  • chamorro — chəˈmȯ(ˌ)rō noun (plural chamorro or chamorros) Usage: usually capitalized Etymology: Spanish, literally, man with a shorn head, perhaps of Iberian origin; akin to Basque samur, samurr tender 1. a …   Useful english dictionary

  • Chamorro — indigenous people of Guam and the Marianas Islands, from Sp. Chamorro, lit. shorn, shaven, bald. Supposedly because the men shaved their heads, but the name also has been connected to native Chamoru, said to mean noble, so perhaps Chamorro is a… …   Etymology dictionary

  • Chamorro — [chä môr′ō] n. 1. pl. Chamorros a member of one of the indigenous peoples of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands 2. the Austronesian language of this people …   English World dictionary

  • Chamorro — /tʃəˈmɔroʊ/ (say chuh mawroh) noun 1. an indigenous people of Guam. 2. (plural Chamorros or Chamorro) a member of this people. 3. the Polynesian language of this people. –adjective 4. of or relating to this people or their language …   Australian English dictionary

  • Chamorro — [tʃə mɒrəʊ] noun (plural same or Chamorros) 1》 a member of the indigenous people of Guam. 2》 the Austronesian language of the Chamorro …   English new terms dictionary

  • Guam Department of Chamorro Affairs — Chamorro Village, a division of the Guam Department of Chamorro Affairs The Guam Department of Chamorro Affairs (Chamorro: Depattamenton I Kaohao Guinahan Chamorro) is an agency of the government of Guam dealing with the Chamorro people and… …   Wikipedia

  • Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Cardenal — (September 23, 1924 – January 10, 1978) was a Nicaraguan journalist and publisher. He was the editor of La Prensa the only significant opposition newspaper to the long rule of the Somoza family and husband of Violeta Barrios de Chamorro who later …   Wikipedia

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