Who in your life do you consider an important role model? Think about that for a moment. What characteristics or qualities do they hold that cause you to consider them as such? You may have thought of common qualities such as regard for respect, ability to lead, and willingness to cooperate: all of which are found in many CHamoru women today. The month of March is doubly celebrated as CHamoru Month and Women’s History Month, which means it’s a great time to learn about the history of powerful CHamoru women.
From the old legend of CHamoru women sacrificing their hair to save the island of Guam to our present-day society where CHamoru women are rising in political empowerment, there is no doubt that women have represented an undeniable foundation when it came to structures such as family, education, and creativity.
Ancient Society: A Legacy
Ask any CHamoru, “who runs the household?” Their answer will most likely be, “my mother.” This customary response can be attributed to the fact that the matriarch is often revered as head-of-household. In Ancient CHamoru society, women were distinguished in that they held the authority of decision-making regarding matters such as finances, child-rearing, and cultivation of land resources. Additionally, the society was matrilineal which means lineage was traced through the mother’s family clans. This was important to note as land was passed through the generation of the mother’s side. It was important to know who your mama was!
The earliest example of a CHamoru role model is Fu’una in the CHamoru legend, Puntan yan Fu’una. Fu’una held the role of creator, where she carefully and creatively constructed the world using the resources of her brother’s body. This legend speaks volumes of CHamoru women’s resourcefulness, creativity, and orderliness. To learn more about Puntan and Fu’una, click here!
With the arrival of the Spaniards, CHamoru women were especially key in keeping the culture and tradition alive in the minds and hearts of famagu’on (children). Despite the hardships they faced, CHamoru women courageously carried on the legacy of what it means to be CHamoru which can be seen in the traditions and concepts still prevalent in CHamoru culture today.
Modern Society: Rise of a Maga'haga
Today, young girls and women in CHamoru culture can live by the phrase “the future is famalao’an (women).”
In 2003, Madeleine Z. Bordallo was selected as the first female delegate to the US congress. In 2008, the first female legislative speaker was Judith T. Won Pat. In 2018, Guam made history by electing the first maga’håga, Lou Leon Guerrero. Currently, all three branches of Guam’s government have women in power.
Guam has also seen a rise in businesses run by females as the economic structure shifts. Businesses such as Fundforte, Vidalocalguam, Threads, and more represent just a small handful of what CHamoru women are capable of. CHamoru women are also making moves to create opportunities to build up future generations. Groups like the Guam Women’s Club and nonprofit organizations such as Island Girl Power and Breaking Wave Theatre Company are run by women who are in the business of creating a brighter future, not just for famalao’an, but for all famagu’on of Guam.