Monday, August 24, 2015


Chamorros are a welcoming people.

Some Chamorros think we welcome too much! As in, they say, we welcome foreign countries who occupy our islands!

Nonetheless, so we are and we often welcome people with song.

In 1935, the U.S. Secretary of War (what we now call the Department of Defense) George Dern visited Guam, an important naval outpost for the U.S.

The Governor of Guam, Navy Capt. George A. Alexander, got a committee together which included the main players among Guam's elite.

Among the many songs sung in Dern's honor was this Kåntan Chamorrita :

Biba Sekretårion Gera,
(Long live the Secretary of War)
sa' måtto hao gi tano'-måme;
(because you have come to our land;)
bai in fata hao ni guaha,
(we will show you what we have,)
kon todo i minagof-måme.
(with all of our happiness.)

Kao para minaulek tåno',
(Is it for the good of the land,)
håfa mohon finatto-mo?
(what is the reason for your arrival?)
Pat para un li'e hechuran-måme?
(Or is it to look at our appearance?)
Håfa guaha gi hinasso-mo?
(What is on your mind?)

Pues adios, Sekretårion Gera,
(So farewell Secretary of War,)
uttimo ha' ali'e-ta på'go;
(this is the last time we will see each other;)
hahasso ham gi puesto-mo,
(remember us in your position,)
ni minagof-måme nu hågo.
(our happiness with you.)

In desea hao maolek biåhe,
(We wish you a good trip,)
an un dingo este na puetto;
(when you leave this port;)
ya i man ali'e-ta på'go
(and our meeting today)
in konsidera un rekuetdo.
(we consider something memorable).

The Secretary of War, George Dern, was the great grandfather of Hollywood actress Laura Dern.

Great Grandpa Dern

Laura Dern in her role in the movie Jurassic Park


In the second verse of the Chamorrita song above, I can detect a bit of old-fashioned Chamorro self-deprecatory humor.

Here is this big-shot from Washington coming to little ole Guam in the middle of the huge Pacific Ocean.

So the Chamorro singers ask him, in so many words, "Have you, such a VIP, come all the way here just to see our Chamorro faces?"

"Pot para un li'e hechuran-måme?"

"For you to see our appearance?"

But more to the core of the question would be, "For you to see what we look like?"

This reminds me of the "natives on display" type tourism of the past.

But there could be a twist according to this Chamorro logic.

Who is the greater fool?

The native on display? Or the foreigner who travels so far and with great effort to see people who, in their own eyes, are just ordinary people.

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