My Dying Breed

A poem by Coloma Castro

I am Chamorro, a dying culture with history so rich, but it will all be forgotten. I grew up speaking Chamorro before I started speaking English. Most of my cousins and friends that I would play with had a hard time trying to converse with me. I felt bad, as if I was an outsider, because I had to speak through an adult in order to talk with my friends. I did not know it yet, but I was an example of keeping the Chamorro culture alive. When I started speaking both Chamorro and English fluently, I spoke mostly English to my friends. I would always go to my cousin’s house and he understands Chamorro, so I asked him,

“Håfa para un cho’gue pågo?” which in English means, “What are you going to do today?”

Instead of replying in Chamorro, he replied, “I would probably do some yard work.” At the time, I felt confused. He understands Chamorro but he won’t speak it. I feel somewhat disrespected and ashamed of what our youth has become.

When I was 14, I published my first story. It was unintentional, but it was meant to happen. The First Lady Diann Torres, created the Young Author’s Project to encourage the preservation of the Chamorro and Carolinian languages within our youth. My bilingual teacher decided to make the contest a special project for her class. I created my story in Chamorro focusing on a big matter with the militarization of the northern island, Pågan. My story is called “I Lina’lå-hu” which in English means “My Life”. I turned in my story expecting to get s good grade. Not only did I get a good grade, but my teacher decided to enter my story in the contest. When I found out that my story was getting published, I was ecstatic and grateful for this moment. There should be more movements like these in order to preserve our ancient cultures and languages. We, the youth should interact with the land and learn how to prolong and increase its longevity.

This is what the horizon will look like…wood on water, fiberglass on water. Canoes big and small. Carolinian or Chamorro. Skimming across the vast ocean. Sails expanding across the horizon. An ancient revival. The next generation does not mean forgetting ancient practices. It means more fresh minds that are willing to preserve their culture. We are the people. The people of the land.

TIPIYEEW, A CAROLINIAN WORD THAT MEANS TO COME TOGETHER AND UNITE. WITH THESE SAILS ON THE HORIZON, WE WILL UNITE.

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