“The land is sacred,” Mr. Ron Laguaña tells us. The land invokes family memories, carries cultural knowledge, and it has the power to sustain life from generation to generation.
Mr. Laguaña’s earliest recollections is on his grandparents’ farm where he, with his siblings and cousins, learned their first lessons of Chamoru culture and language. His grandparents had been farmers during the pre-World War II days, and even farmed during the Japanese occupation. In the postwar years, they taught their children and grandchildren how to grow their own food.
Mr. Laguaña told us that his mother showed him how to cultivate food using deep Chamoru words that described particular stages of plants and crops. He also learned not to waste a day – to plant at least one tree to ensure that at some point he and his family can always have food.
The farm is also integral to inafa’maolek, the core tenant of Chamoru culture. For Mr. Laguaña, inafa’maolek is more than “reciprocity.” To him it means “helping by giving.” Mr. Laguaña’s chenchule is the produce from his farm, especially when there is an abundance that can be shared with family and friends. He sells the surplus to make sure others can have local foods and to make sure his produce isn’t wasted. What he gives and sells is “all from natural earth.”
Beyond the Chamoru language, traditions, and farming techniques he uses today, Mr. Laguaña shows us that the land and the farm hold vital cultural knowledge passed from generation to generation. The farm is both a site of remembering the past and seeing the future. He recalled a time when his grandmother was alive to see their family carry on the tradition of farming coffee trees and loads of yams in the village of Sinahånña (Sinajaña). Mr. Laguaña revealed to us, “Sinahånña comes from the word chinahan (to cook down under) or chinahan-ña as in possessive that ‘he or she cooked it underground,’ which is a traditional way in cooking yams and foods during ancient times.”
My family was “farming these properties and we would pick off the ground already. Mangoes, guavas, avocados by abundance. I mean hundreds. I mean loads. And we can tell that my grandparents had been farming those lands for the longest times. So they thought about us. So that is now how I think about my children and my grandchildren. My mom always emphasized that. Plant it now so that children and your grandchildren will eventually reap the fruits of that labor.”