Traditional Fiesta in Guam
Taste how cultures have converged at a Chamorro fiesta table
The United States territory of Guam is the largest island in Micronesia, as well as the region’s primary tourist destination. More than one million tourists visit Guam each year, drawn by year-round sun, beautiful beaches, great scuba diving and world-class golf courses. Guam’s main tourist district of Tumon is home to luxury resorts and high-end shopping, as well as American chains like Hard Rock Café and TGI Fridays.
A walk through Tumon might remind the visitor of Waikiki in Hawaii, but venture beyond the main tourist district and you’ll find a unique culture shaped by Guam’s indigenous Chamorro heritage, years of Spanish colonialism, a brief Japanese World War II occupation and more than a century of American influence. The cultures converge throughout the island, but perhaps nowhere more clearly than on a traditional fiesta table. There, you’ll experience the magic of Chamorro cuisine, a dynamic fusion of tastes and textures from around the world.
Fiestas are held nearly every weekend to celebrate the feast days of village patron saints, a legacy of the Catholic faith that was brought to Guam by the Spaniards in the 16th century. Most fiesta celebrations are hosted by churches and local families, but tourists can arrange visits through tour agents and the Guam Visitors Bureau. A fiesta will often kick off with a church mass and procession through the village and continue with cultural activities like music and traditional dance performances. Then, of course, there’s the food.
A typical fiesta table might consist of red rice, coloured with achote seed; fina’denne, a soy sauce-based condiment with vinegar and onions; titiyas, a tortilla-type flatbread made from corn or flour; keleguen, a ceviche-like meat or seafood dish seasoned with lemon and peppers; and barbecue marinated in soy sauce, garlic and the chef’s secret ingredients. You’ll also find imports like Filipino lumpia, Japanese sashimi, Spanish suckling pig and even buckets of American Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Officially an unincorporated territory of the United States, Guam’s 209 square miles holds a population of nearly 180,000. The island is also home to a sizeable military presence, with Navy and Air Force bases covering nearly a third of the island’s total land mass. Located in the middle of the Pacific, just over the International Date Line, Guam is about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to the Philippines, giving it the slogan ‘Where America’s Day Begins’.