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Simply Chamorro: Telling Tales of Demise and Survival in Guam

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Title:Simply Chamorro: Telling Tales of Demise and Survival in Guam
Authors:Diaz, Vicente M.
LC Subject Headings:Oceania -- Periodicals.
Date Issued:1994
Publisher:University of Hawai'i Press
Center for Pacific Islands Studies
Citation:Diaz, V. M. 1994. Simply Chamorro: Telling Tales of Demise and Survival in Guam. The Contemporary Pacific 6 (1): 29-58.
Abstract:In 1945 the American folklorist Mavis Van Peenen justified her interest in collecting
Chamorro folktales from the island of Guam with the lesson of an impending
demise of native folk and lore. Referring to the Chamorro in the ever-present
masculine pronoun, Van Peenen wrote, "He walks the precipitous ledge of past
and present, with an abyss of Americanization waiting below to engulf him." The
ledge consisted of over two centuries of Spanish Catholic subjugation capped by
the ravages of a recent war. The "abyss" was the materiality of American liberation
and benevolence, a profound set of postwar changes in terrain and psyche
that she felt would surely extinguish any bid at Chamorro survival.
"Simply Chamorro" situates Van Peenen's modern-day lament within a larger
canon of historical discontinuity in the Marianas, namely, the persistent tragic
view of the demise of indigenous culture, especially in the island of Guam. Van
Peenen's own text is remarkable, moreover, for her listing of eight reasons why
the Chamorro was headed to "his" grave. Against this particular plot, "Simply
Chamorro" inverts Van Peenen's tale to spin stories not of death but of troubled
life and contested identities. The essay uses her eight reasons as points of departure
(or arrival) for writing histories of indigenous survival, through the messiness
of colonial entanglements that characterizes the politics of the Chamorro past and
present, as well as constructing representations of pasts and presents in the island
of Guam.
Appears in Collections: TCP [The Contemporary Pacific], 1994 - Volume 6, Number 1

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