Skilled artisans

In ancient Chamorro society, each Chamorro was expected to possess knowledge and ability in a wide range of skilled, but unspecialized tasks, generally dictated by gender. For example, women were expected to be skilled in the weaving of many objects, and men were to be skilled at fabrication of basic tools. All Chamorros were expected to know many different fishing and farming techniques.

Mangkalamya could be anyone who was well versed in the trades assigned to their gender, but would more appropriately describe someone who was proficient in the tasks of the opposite gender, such as a man who was good at weaving.

With the Spanish introduction of specialized trades such as herrero, or blacksmithing, a Chamorro could be a kalamya if they were skilled in this trade as well as those expected from anyone else in the community. During the American period, this type of person would be called a “jack of all trades.”

By Michael Lujan Bevacqua, PhD

For further reading

Cunningham, Lawrence. Ancient Chamorro Society. Bess Press, Honolulu, 1992.

Political Status Education and Coordinating Commission. Hale-ta- I Manfayi: Who’s Who in Chamorro History, Vol. 1. Political Status Education and Coordinating Commission, Hagåtña, Guam, 1995.

Russell, Scott. Tiempon I Manmofo’na: Ancient Chamorro Culture and History of the Northern Mariana Islands. Saipan, CNMI: Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Division of Historic Preservation, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, 1998.

Topping, Donald, Pedro M. Ogo and Bernadita C. Dungca Chamorro-English Dictionary. University of Hawai`i Press, Honolulu, 1975.