Thursday, October 27, 2016


Preparing for the evening's fandånggo
Early 1900s

Wedding customs have changed dramatically over the years.

When I was growing up in the 1960s and 70s, a fandånggo was the party or dinner held after a wedding, paid for by the groom and his family, including the godfather of the groom.

Only later did I come to learn that, before the war, the fandånggo was actually held the night before the wedding. What stayed true to custom before and after the war was that it was hosted by the groom's side of the wedding party.

Then I came across the word fandango as a Spanish dance. How did a word meaning a Spanish dance become, among the Chamorros, a word meaning a wedding party?


Usually we think of Spain influencing its colonies, but at times it is the other way around.

In the case of the fandango, this seems to be the case.

African slaves brought their cultures and languages with them to Latin America. Many of the dances, music, vocabulary and foods of Latin America find their roots in Africa. Scholars think that the word fandango may come from a Bantu language in Africa, possibly Kimbundu in modern-day Angola.

Fandango came to mean a kind of dance, performed in different styles depending on the country in Latin America. From there, the word went to Spain, where it also described certain dances, which again differed from area to area in Spain. The fandango of Huelva, in Andalucía in southern Spain became one of the best known flamenco dances.

But the fandangos of Latin America continued on their own and are still danced there. The Marianas received a lot of influence from Latin America, especially from Mexico, since, in the early period of Spanish colonization, Spain ruled the Marianas via Mexico. Mexican soldiers moved to Guam in good number. But the Philippines also developed their own fandango dances and Filipino influence on the Chamorros increased in the 1800s.

Safford says that, at a Chamorro  fandånggo (party), a Spanish fandango (dance) was sometimes danced. Somehow I wonder if Chamorros were actually dancing the very technical Spanish version of the fandango dance. Perhaps it was really a Latin American or Filipino version, called by the same name. It is also possible that Chamorros danced both versions; perhaps a Latin American or Filipino version more, and the Spanish flamenco version less.

A Mexican fandango dance

In any event, I think it is very likely that the pre-wedding nighttime party and dance hosted by the groom was called a fandånggo by our mañaina because a dance called a fandango was performed at these parties. What is less clear is which type of fandango dance it was. I think, in time, no fandango dance was performed at these parties, but other dances, such as the båtso (waltz) and square dancing were, as Safford also states.  Up to now, a small number of people can still dance what is called the båtso and even the chotis, but I have never seen anyone, since the 1970s, dance something called the fandånggo. Yet, the name fandånggo stuck.

A Filipino fandango dance
Pandanggo sa Ilaw


No matter the version, the fandango dances of Spain, Latin America and the Philippines more or less had a feeling of flashiness and liveliness.

Among Chamorros, the word fandanggero (someone who dances the fandånggo) came to mean someone who is showy, flashy, extravagant, a lover of good times and a spender of money.

In Spanish, the verb fandanguear (to make fandango) can mean "to live it up," "to go all out" with a party. In some Spanish-speaking places, a fandango can also mean a "wild party."


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