Thursday, April 14, 2016


When our diet was corn-based before the war, drought would lead to hailas (ha - i -las) or food shortages.

It has been very dry these past few months in our islands.

We expect them to be, as this is the dry season (fañomnagan).

But, usually, in April we start to see a change. Chamorro farmers used to be on the look out for the primet ågua de Åbrit (the first water or rain of April). It was critical that farmers plant at the right time, when April showers water the fields. If farmers planted too early, the seeds would die from lack of rain.

But it is now the middle of April and there has been little rain at all. So, this has been an even drier dry season than usual and the cause is attributed to the El Niño weather pattern that comes and goes every two to seven years.

The Chamorro term for drought is inaglo'. It is simply the noun form of the adjective ånglo', or "dry."

Our islands have experienced very bad periods of inanglo' in the past.

In the early 1790s, the drought in the Marianas was so prolonged that the people were in very desperate conditions. Crops wouldn't grow and one Governor had to buy supplies for the people from the very ship that brought him to Guam.

In March of 1793 (March is one of the driest months in the Marianas), a fire swept through Hagåtña, destroying 31 homes.

When hundreds of Spanish convicts deported to the Marianas arrived in 1875, the islands' food supply was severely depleted by their arrival in addition to the drought that plagued the islands at the time.

Because we import almost all our food nowadays, we do not face the threat of starvation today, even when in a drought, as our ancestors did.

But, our water supply in the north of Guam risks becoming salty as the fresh water levels drop too low in the underground lake that provides us with the water. In the south, dependent on river water, homes will have dry fawcets for periods throughout the day if water rationing is implemented. Grass fires, especially in the south, will increase, promoting soil erosion and threatening wild life, plants, power lines and homes.

Let us all pray that this period of inanglo' comes to an end with the commencement of the rainy season (fanuchånan).

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