In a recent conversation with someone recently in Colorado, they asked me what my race was. I said I was Chamorro – a people from the Pacific Islands of the Marianas. With a smile, they said, “You are a what? Chamorro? That’s interesting”. I said, “Why?” They said that they have never heard of that race before. Now…I’m not passing judgement on this individual’s lack of knowledge. It was just interesting that this person was not aware of the existence of the Chamorro race. Granted, we make up a fraction of the world’s population. However, it heightened my belief that we still have much to do as a people to share who we are with the world.
Learning About My Past from Ancient Chamorro Archeologically
While I’m not an expert in Chamorro studies – be it the language, culture, or people; or in archaeology. I did enroll in Chamorro language classes in high-school and in college. Furthermore, I involved myself in higher-education academics in the field of archaeology at the University of Guam, as a student under Dr. Hiro Kurushina. Dr. Kurushina was an expert in conducting fun and dirty digs, in the most interesting places around Guam. We did all this to uncover the Chamorro people’s past, and to understand more about their society, lifestyle, and rituals, among other things.
We trekked through jungles and beaches that most people didn’t normally seek out. We found pottery, bone shards, wood pieces, and tool implements. We even uncovered latte stone relics overgrown with weeds. We measured, sectioned-off dirt, dug, sifted, washed, studied, theorized, and discussed what we uncovered. In all, we were trying to piece together a clearer picture of who we were as a people in the past.
It was interesting – to me at least, that I could dig a few feet deep, and uncover artifacts that were buried there for a long, long time. It was a surreal experience to know that uncovering something like an ancient pottery shard could allow my ancestors to talk to me (from the past), and tell me a little about how they lived. My experience with Dr. Kurishina began to teach me that these things told stories not only about them, but about who I am as a Chamorro. Something about this stuck with me for all these years.
From an academic perspective, Dr. Kurushina was one of several people (including Dr. Rosa Palomo, a language expert) who impacted me the most. He sparked in me the “little fire” to discover my past. As a Chamorro native, many decades older, I’ve had a constant desire to understand as much about who I am and who my ancestors were. So much has been uncovered about the people of the Marianas Islands – that it intrigues me – even to this day.
Actively Seeking to Give Back to Perpetuate and Educate About My Culture
Everyone has passions and interests. Mine happens to be in technology, art, and in my culture. In a haphazard way you could say, I’ve been involved in a variety of projects to create things that are useful and unique to people, but mostly to my Chamorro and Guamanian folks.
I get inspired. Sometimes by the most mundane things. Take for example, my trip to my neighborhood Colorado bookstore. I stumbled over a National Geographic magazine, and began thumbing through the pages. I was looking at a page that illustrated many facts about a rocket. It fascinated me. The thin lines pointing to a specific part of the rocket, with small descriptions to teach me just a little more about something I didn’t already know. Looking at this, my mind was already racing to determine how I could leverage such a technical and academic illustration to give back to my own culture through an educational and cultural way.
With this spark, I hyper-focused on wanting to direct and illustrate a technical illustration to tell of the story of my ancestors and their past, to show the engineering and architectural skills we possessed, and to illustrate about the uniqueness of how we once lived. The result is the Latte Stone House (guma’ åcho latte) poster shown below. While much of the design was inspired from past drawings and other cultural research academic writings on this topic, this work of art could not have been created without the help of others including Fermina Sablan, a Chamorro language speaker, and Dr. Michael Bevacqua from the University of Guam who reviewed this for accuracy.
My hope is that this educational illustration about the Latte Stone House and Chamorro society long-ago, can be shared with many others who have the desire to perpetuate the language, culture, people known as the Chamorros. Hopefully, by sharing about our culture with others, one by one, we can further educate others about who we are as Chamorros.
How We All Can Promote Chamorro Cultural Education
While there are many people in the Marianas and abroad who are actively promoting our culture, be it through education, cultural arts, history, or song, I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that each of us can do more to create greater synergy toward this end.
We encourage you to obtain a copy of one of our posters to display in your home, office, or at an upcoming event. These posters were made to share the Chamorro culture with others, and to educate others.
We have illustrated the Latte Stone House in two colorful themes below. To purchase your own copy of this poster in a variety of sizes and mediums (including 18×24 inches, 24×36 inches, non-laminated and laminated), click the picture below to be taken to our online store. If you would like a larger illustration for an event that requires a larger display size, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can offer this in sizes as big as 10 feet by 20 feet.
Gerard Aflague is the blog author, Chamorro native, and long time resident of Guam, who now resides in the Denver metro area of Colorado. His passions are in the arts, writing, and exploring and perpetuating his culture in a variety of ways. He has written various childrens’ titles and has an online store that offers a variety of home and office island-themed products, among others.