HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Feb. 24) - The Chamorro culture is alive and evolving. "It's not all about grass huts and speaking Chamorro," said to Jlawrence Cruz, director of the Department of Chamorro Affairs.

March is Chamorro Month, and the department started the celebration of the island's culture yesterday with a Family Day celebration at the Chamorro Village in Hagåtña. A schedule of Chamorro month events will be available this week.

"The Chamorro culture has evolved over time. We started off with grass skirts and huts, yes. But we as a people and our culture have been influenced by the Spanish, Asian and now the modern American culture," Cruz said.

"We are all these things come together, and that's what we're celebrating."

Cruz said it is important for residents to celebrate the culture. "

If we don't (celebrate) it, then we might lose it," he said.

Children need to know their culture, and what outside influences helped mold the Chamorro culture that exists today.

"Today and the entire month (of March) is a great opportunity to pass all that down to the children," Cruz said.

"The older people are taking part of the occasion to teach our young people."

Cruz said several manamko', or older Chamorro people, will coordinate some Chamorro Month activities, such as coconut husking relays. They also will be on the panel that will judge Chamorro oratorical contests.

Most of the events are geared to take place on Saturdays. Residents can look forward to dancing and singing, games and contests, Cruz said.

Tourist attraction

Also, Cruz said he is hoping the festivities attract tourists.

"It's also important that they know what we're about, and this is the perfect venue," he said.

"There's the local Chamorro food with a mixture of other cultures that is representative of our island ... and now we're going to have all this great entertainment."

Cruz added the department was able to connect with a tour company.

"There's a group of people from Germany that we're expecting today," he said yesterday.

Cruz said the department is not spending any government money on the month of events.

"Like today: everyone we have here is working on a voluntary basis. And all the entertainment is being donated by these local groups," Cruz said, likening the donations to "chenchulé," the Chamorro gift- giving tradition.

"That's a big part of family, and family is a big part of what the Chamorro culture is."

February 24, 2003

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