Wednesday, January 31, 2024



The Chamorro penchant for giving people nicknames, and it sticking to his or her children and descendants, continues to this day. In olden days, nicknames came from the Chamorro or Spanish languages, but now even English can be used to give new nicknames.

Take for example the familian Camel.

Having been a priest in Malesso' in the 1990s, I remember a family there better-known-as familian Camel, and particularly the name "Ben Camel."

Some people thought they were named after the cigarette brand Camel. One person said that a family member was known for not drinking a lot, as he was never thirsty, like a camel. Close, but not quite.

I went to a son of the deceased Ben Camel to find out the story.

Vicente Reyes Cruz from Malesso', who was very close to the Church, took members of his family on a hike one day.

Naturally some started to get thirsty and they asked Vicente if they could drink from the canteen.

Vicente told them, "Nangga nåya," "Wait a while," probably to preserve as much drinking water as possible on the hike so they wouldn't run out.

So the thirsty ones retorted, "Dalai hao, kalan hao i camel," "My goodness, you're like a camel," because camels are well-known for being able to journey through arid deserts for days on end without the need to drink water, since they are able to store water in their bodies.

So, Vicente got identified with the nickname Camel and it was passed down to the next generation in his family.

This shows us a few things about Chamorro mentality.

First, we will notice something about you. Whether it be something about your body, appearance, mannerism, behavior or speech. Or something you did or that happened to you. You fell down. You hid under a table.

Second, that one little piece of your life we will make your entire identity. That's your nickname and claim to fame for the rest of your life. And it will probably be inherited by your children.

Rest in peace, Ben Camel. U såga gi minahgong.

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