Elders, parents, ancestors

Parents and other elders are important in Chamorro family and culture. Chamorros gain respect and status as they age. Younger relatives and friends show deference and respect to elders by sniffing or kissing the right hand or a cheek while saying ‘ñora or ‘ñot (for señora or señot) when arriving and leaving, or as part of an event. This may elicit the elder’s praise or a blessing. To not do so is considered ill-mannered, though some today are embarrassed to perform it or expect it.

The word, saina or its plural form, mañaina may refer to one’s parents, to all elders or to Chamorro ancestors depending on the context. Mañaina value their independence and they are sources of support, guidance, protection and wisdom for their families. Parents’ reputations hinge on raising families that abide by Chamorro mores of respect, reciprocal responsibilities and obligations including the duty of caring for their parents.

By Kelly G. Marsh, MA

For further reading

Craig, U. Senior Long-term Care on Guam: Policy Options for a Transitional Society. Honolulu: University of Hawai`i, 1988.

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

Poehlman, J. “Culture Change and Identity among Chamorro Women of Guam.” Ph.D. diss., University of Minnesota, 1979.