Can GovGuam really afford a day off on a cultural holiday? - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Can GovGuam really afford a day off on a cultural holiday?

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Reserved for the first Monday of March, Guam History and Chamorro Heritage Day commemorates our island's history and culture. In 2014 the day was renamed by Legislature from its former "Discovery Day" and declared a government holiday. But with the ongoing budget cuts occurring in GovGuam and at a cost upward of $800,000, can the government really afford to take off?   

It was in 1521, Spanish Explorer Ferdinand Magellan first arrived on Guam's shores in the Umatac Bay. It would be an encounter that would forever change the island's history and culture as soon after, Guam and its natives became colonized by Spain. Centuries later, Guam History and Chamorro Heritage Day serves as a reminder of that fateful event and a celebration of Chamorro culture.

The village of Umatac hosts festivities every year to commemorate Magellan's Landing including a reenactment and to raise cultural awareness. Umatac Mayor Johnny Quinata says it's about keeping tradition, saying, "It's about Magellan discovering our village of Umatac and that's why we celebrate this event every year is because we follow our former, my former colleagues, the mayors of Umatac a long time ago and that's how we kept celebrating and celebrating every year."

The same story which has been told since 1933. And all village residents, regardless of age, want to partake in showcasing all that the southern village has to offer. "We have a lot of historical sites. We have our own Humatak Foundation, which our kids from Umatac is out there explaining to them each site about the village, the history of the village," added the mayor.

Senator Tommy Morrison originally introduced the legislation to declare the first Monday of March as this holiday, and he commends the youth's participation in the event. "We now see the children telling the story about what's significant in our community and I just hope this kind of passes on to other communities where our children can actually share the stories," he shared.

According to 2014's legislation, the cost would amount to $810,147 paid by the Department of Administration. Senator Morrison said, "We certainly know our country the United States goes through many crises, but we don't see them eliminate Independence Day. We know this day is very important because we celebrate many federal holidays, don't get me wrong they're very important, but this is a day that was defined by our people."

And Joe Quinata of the Humatak Foundation believes this day is an expense the government should spend on, saying, "The government can afford to do anything and a day such as this it should afford to have this day off so that people can know their history. When you know your history, you know yourself. When you know yourself, you have self-confidence. When you have self-confidence, you do a really, really good job and perhaps maybe our leaders should have been down here."

It's apparent that budget cuts and taxes won't triumph over the festivities of Mes Chamorro. But what lies in store for our island's government, may become another fateful event to change history.

But for now, Mayor Quinata said, "It's all about the culture, Chamorro culture, and we can't forget about it."

The Guam History and Chamorro Heritage Day Festival is ongoing until midnight tonight.

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