DCA president clarifies efforts at Chamorro Village

BARBECUE: Paolo Degoma and Loida Lacap prepare spicy squid barbecue in the back of their food truck at the IFIT Run and Block Party in March at Chamorro Village in Hagåtña. Ann Marie Arceo, Department of Chamorro Affairs president, said she wants to promote the CHamoru culture and find ways to maximize the community's exposure to it at the Chamorro Village, but not at the cost of excluding displays of cultural diversity. Post file photo

The island community is invited to the Chamorro Village on Wednesdays to do the "Electric Slide" with Department of Chamorro Affairs President Ann Marie Arceo.

Arceo said there’s been a misconception of her intent to showcase the CHamoru culture at the Chamorro Village, saying, “I apologize for the misunderstanding.”

“My intention is very pure, very simple: We want to celebrate our CHamoru culture and maximize the opportunities for our visitors – our tourists and military partners – to see and experience the local culture. But not to the exclusion of all other cultures that make up Guam as we know it today,” she said. “I want to celebrate the diversity of our island.”

Recently, there was confusion regarding her efforts to promote the indigenous culture. She said people were asking her why they couldn’t play the "Electric Slide," or why lumpia couldn’t be sold. “I want to clarify, we’re not excluding anything. Again, we just want to maximize exposure to the local culture,” she said on Friday.

Following the confusion over the promotion of the CHamoru culture, Lt. Gov. Joshua Tenorio believes that the Chamorro Village has served as a small-business incubator. However, he said, "we will not force CHamoru culture on anyone, (but) we do encourage the vendors and performers to promote it."

In 1978, Public Law 14-154 created the Chamorro Village and the Public Market Revolving Fund under the Department of Commerce. According to audit reports, the purpose of the Chamorro Village is to encourage, promote and provide a centralized support facility for local entrepreneurs wishing to sell Guam’s local arts and crafts, agricultural/fisheries products and products bearing the Guam Product Seal.

During a recent public hearing, Arceo noted the mission of the village as both an incubator for small businesses and a place to help showcase the CHamoru culture and local products.

“As a small-business incubator, I think we’re doing well and it’s important to maintain that portion (because) we are encouraging and supporting entrepreneurs,” she said, adding she supports the administration’s decision to shift responsibility of the village to the Guam Economic Development Authority. 

Her recent effort to increase representation of the CHamoru culture was with regard to the other half of the Chamorro Village’s mission.

“How each merchant wants to get there is up to them,” she said, referring to how merchants sell and promote their local crafts and culture. “What we were offering were suggestions.”

During the public hearing, Arceo noted that the Chamorro Village has entertainment, primarily dancing, that is Polynesian.

“So to clarify, I don’t want to do away with that, but maybe there’s a way for us to better distinguish Polynesian dancing so our visitors don’t confuse it for CHamoru culture,” she said. “And that’s one of the things we’re still working out. Maybe we have nights for different regions, so one night it’s CHamoru, the next night it's one of our Micronesian neighbors, and then another night it's Polynesian.”

Whatever the outcome, she said, Chamorro Village continues to attract many people – as noted by a recent Stars & Stripes award of "Best Off Base Event of the Year.”

“And we have an opportunity to maximize their exposure to the local culture – and that’s all I wanted,” she said, reiterating, “I am not trying to exclude other cultures. Our diversity is something that should be celebrated and I'm all for that."