083.1: Craig Santos Perez:: “Nånan Tåno` is calling for you”: Four Contemporary Chamoru Poets 083

In “Signs of Being: A Chamoru Spritual Journey,” acclaimed Chamoru writer Cecilia “Lee” Perez writes: “I always come back to the idea of cultural survival. We are here. We are now. But what is it that brought us, as a people, to this point? Despite years of governance by colonial powers, our language and our ways persevere. We are not pickled, preserved, or frozen in time. We are not measurable or validated by blood quantum, ethnic breakdown, physical characteristics or DNA. We are vital, and vitalized by our tenacity and joined inner strength." Join us this week as guest editor Craig Santos Perez presents a contemporary Chamoru poet each day this week, Monday through Thursday. The Offending Adam

“Nånan Tåno` is calling for you”: Four Contemporary Chamoru Poets


Guahan (Guam) is the largest and southernmost island in the Marianas archipelago, located in the region of the Pacific Ocean known as Micronesia. The indigenous people, and our language, are known as Chamoru/Chamorro. Lala’chok.

Guahan was a colonial possession of Spain from 1665 to 1898. Thatʻs why some of us have Spanish surnames; that’s why some of us are Catholic; that’s why Spanish words have entered our language. Lala’chok.

As a result of the Spanish-American War, Guahan became a possession of the United States, governed by the U.S. Navy. That’s why we speak English; that’s why we use American currency; that’s why we imitate U.S. hygienic and educational practices. Lala’chok.

Shortly after Pearl Harbor was bombed, Japan bombed, invaded, and occupied Guahan for three years. Remember the poster for the 1984 American movie Red Dawn, in which the U.S. is invaded by the Soviet Union. The poster reads: “In our time / no foreign army / has ever occupied / American soil. // Until now.”

The foreign army of the United States returned to Guahan in 1944. They too bombed, invaded, and (re-)occupied the island. Some call the day they invaded our shores “Liberation Day.” Lala’chok.

In 1950, the Organic Act of Guam was signed, solidifying Guahan’s political status as an “unincorporated territory” of the U.S., a status unchanged to this day. The U.S. military occupies a third of our islandʻs landmass. Lala’chok.

According to the United Nations, Guahan remains one of the last remaining sixteen non-self-governing territories in the world. Lala’chok.

In “Signs of Being: A Chamoru Spritual Journey,” acclaimed Chamoru writer Cecilia “Lee” Perez writes: “I always come back to the idea of cultural survival. We are here. We are now. But what is it that brought us, as a people, to this point? Despite years of governance by colonial powers, our language and our ways persevere. We are not pickled, preserved, or frozen in time. We are not measurable or validated by blood quantum, ethnic breakdown, physical characteristics or DNA. We are vital, and vitalized by our tenacity and joined inner strength” (1997: 24).

Perez believed that “an increased presence of Chamoru literature in Guam’s community can help to stimulate thought on the politics of culture, and cultural identity.” She also believed that creative writing could be a “tool for this process of decolonization; a process that comes over time through a development and nurturing of intellectual and sensory acuity” (1997: viii-ix). Finakmata.

While voices of contemporary Chamoru literature have remained on the margins of the study and formation of Pacific, American, and World literature, new Pacific voices are beginning to coalesce into waves, moving across great distances to sound against the shores of our attention. This feature is one such arrival. I Senedda.

These four Chamoru poets present a wide range of Chamoru experience, aesthetics, and cultural identity. However, they do have a few things in common. They are all strong Pacific women, and they all have earned graduate degrees at various U.S. institutions in the past few years: Clarissa Mendiola received her M.F.A in Writing from California College of the Arts; Lehua Taitano received her M.F.A. Creative Writing Program at the University of Montana; and Kisha Borja-Kicho’cho’ and Angela “Anghet” T. Hoppe-Cruz received their M.A.s from the Center for Pacific Islands Studies at the University of Hawai‘i, Mānoa.

These four writers currently reside in very different locales, reflecting the diasporic reality of the Chamoru writing community: Kisha lives in Guahan, Anghet lives in Hawaiʻi, Clarissa lives in San Francisco, and Lehua lives in North Carolina. The Organic Act of Guam granted Chamorus U.S. citizenship; since then, there has been a continual out-migration of Chamorus to the states (they say there are more Chamorus living in San Diego than on Guahan). While we may be separated by thousands of miles of ocean and land, the work of Chamoru writers always remain rooted to our Nånan Tåno’, our motherland and home island.

I hope you enjoy this feature of Chamoru poetry, and that you will keep an eye out for these writers in the future-all of whom I believe will have full-length collections published in the coming years.

Special thanks to Andrew Wessels and The Offending Adam for the opportunity to edit this feature.

-Craig Santos Perez

Monday:: Lehua Taitano
Tuesday:: Clarissa Mendiola
Wednesday:: Kisha Borja-Kicho’cho’
Thursday:: Anghet Hoppe-Cruz

Work Cited


Perez, Cecilia C. T.. Signs of Being: A Chamoru Spiritual Journey. Honolulu: Pacific Islands Studies Plan B Paper Series, 1997.