Thursday, September 6, 2012


Chamorro Women tending the Spanish Governor's Tobacco Plants
Palåsyo, Hagåtña

My grandmother, born in 1899, had an unusual daily habit; one that no one else in the family had.

Every day around 3pm she would go out to the laundry room.  In those days, washing machines were generally kept outside the main house.  She would unroll a large wad of newspaper wherein hid dried tobacco leaves.  She would take one, roll it up, and clip it to about a 2 inch cigar with a pair of scissors.

Then she would sit down, still outside, light it and smoke for about 5 minutes in blissful calm.  She wouldn't talk; she'd just puff and look at the sky.

She lived to be 81.

Was I surprised several years later while at UOG (she had died by then) to read the accounts of foreigners visiting Guam in the 1800s talk about how tobacco was grown on Guam and that the women, especially, were really into smoking cigars (chigålo in Chamorro, our version of the Spanish cigarro).  My grandma was continuing a Hispanic Chamorro tradition from the 1800s!

Tobacco was imported to the Marianas by the Spaniards.

Grandma used to buy her dried tobacco leaves from a lady named Nining Guzman, who owned a bar in Mongmong.  I'd go sometimes with another aunt, who drove (my grandma didn't) to buy it.  We never went at night when the bar was in operation.  We'd go in the afternoon when Nining was getting the place ready. 

When, for whatever reason, Nining didn't have tobacco, my grandma resorted to Micky Twist.

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