Friday, March 21, 2014


Chamorro politics traditionally has been, like the Spam above, hot and spicy.

Political meetings were a form of entertainment, back when less people were lucky to have a TV to watch the one channel we had in those days, which went off the air dutifully at midnight after the playing of the National Anthem.

Political speakers were supposed to attack the opposition; the more fiercely, the better.  But what really scored points was when you made the audience laugh when you attacked the other party.

People judged a speech on its content, eloquence and humor - all in Chamorro.

Guam politics has become more Americanized, which means much (not all) of the humor is gone.  Very few speeches are said in Chamorro, as there are fewer candidates who can speak Chamorro.

But in the Northern Marianas, much of the campaigning continues to be in Chamorro, and speakers are expected to be combative yet humorous at the same time and entertain the audience.

On one of the northern islands, a certain politician's intials were PAM.  As he was a senator, they added S to PAM and he became known as SPAM.

So the opposing party milked this for all it was worth, habitually referring to this politician as SPAM.

Said one speaker, "Magåhet na SPAM hao.  Ya bai hu nangga asta ke måkpo' i election ya bai hu aflito hao ya bai hu na' dokngos!"

"It's true that you are SPAM.  And I will wait until the election is over and I will fry you and I'll make you burnt."

The thing is SPAM took this in stride.  He and his party also fired the same kind of shots back at the opponents.

My grandmother's brother-in-law was also a politician in Guam in the 1950s and 60s.  A man told me he went to one of the campaign rallies and heard a politician attack my uncle fiercely.  Later that night, he saw my uncle and the politician who attacked him sitting at the same table in the same restaurant having a meal together and having a great laugh.  While this was not true in every case, it was true that such attacks, often humorous, were just part of the natural and expected course of Chamorro politics in those days and up to now in the northern islands.

Our politics today is much more serious, and perhaps for good reason.  The issues of the past did not include many of the deep philosophical divisions we have going on today.

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