Seventh annual Chamorro Cultural Festival celebrates Pacific Islanders

Festival takes place at CSUSM for second year

Lexy Perez, Arts & Entertainment Editor


On March 19, the Chamorro Hands in Education Links Unity (CHE’LU) organization presented the 7th annual Chamorro Cultural Festival (CCF) at CSUSM. CHE’LU is a non­profit, San Diego based organization focused on preserving the Pacific Islander culture of Chamorro people.

The CCF is an annual event that celebrates Chamorro culture, arts, customs and indigenous peoples of the Mariana Islands, which include people of Guam, Saipan and islands of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. By including musical and cultural dance performances, cultural foods and educational workshops, visitors are able to accentuate the Chamorro culture.

Danny Blas, Chairperson of the CHE’LU Board of Directors, said, “This is our seventh festival and the whole purpose for the festival is to bring people of our culture, the Chamorro culture, together to celebrate, to preserve, to promote and just have a great opportunity to celebrate the culture.”

Although the festival was originally based at the Jacobs Center in San Diego, CHE’LU found a more accommodating, accessible location at CSUSM.

“When we were looking for a place to expand, this place was recommended and we looked at it and thought it was perfect. It has everything we need and more, “ said CHE’LU Entertainment Chair David Atalig, “Another thing about this location is that the Inland Empire and people from Long Beach and Irvine come down and join us. It’s not [as] far as San Diego. We found a middle ground.”

What first began as a small event in which CHE’LU had to seek talent, vendors and performers to join the festival has now grown to a festival that attracts over 5,000 people and performers eager to be a part of the event.

“It’s a one­-day festival and we have so many time-slots available and now there’s like a demand to get exposure. Performers over the last six years have been calling and asking if they could perform again. We prioritize newcomers and then rotate the talent so it’s not the same show [every year],” said Atalig.

This year’s entertainers and guests included Chamorro native and Channel 10 broadcaster Robert Santos, the Kutturan Chamoru Foundation (cultural dancers), stand­up comedian Nic Flair, singers Felix Sablan, Rheat Yutig and Nakii Moala and many more.

While the festival is filled with fun entertainment and popular food from local Pacific Islander restaurants, the main focus is to spread cultural awareness of the Chamorro people, a culture that lacks recognition.

“We definitely need more [awareness]. We need more in the schools, we need more organizations in different places like in San Diego,” said Blas. “In San Diego, 70 percent of our students are students of color, so it’s so very important to tell their stories and the most important part is by allowing the telling of all cultural stories … students have an opportunity to hear something, feel something and move on with their education. That’s one of our organization’s main focus and our mission is to do stuff like that and educate Chamorro people, as well as non-Chamorro people, on our very proud history.”

With 4,000 years worth of history, it can be surprising that the Chamorro culture is often overlooked when it shares many similarities with other cultures.

“I had an opportunity to listen to a historian [who] has produced the “I am Chamorro” DVD. It talked about this trade the Spanish had with the Marianas to the Philippines and to Acapulco for hundreds of years and so you think about those cultures and for hundreds of years cross-
pollinating and sharing… I think that’s a positive colonization…but when I look at my Filipino brothers and sisters and my Mexican brothers and sisters, we have so much in common,” said Blas.

Although the festival is a celebration of Chamorro culture, visitors of all cultures enjoy attending the event, for a proud custom of the Chamorro people is their ability to convey family­-unity.

“If they get an opportunity to connect with it, and see it and taste it and smell it and be a part of it, my feeling is that, for me, to take away some knowledge and to be able to explain to other people… these are the people from the Mariana Islands whom have 4,000 years of history and for some reason they ended up thousands and thousands of miles eastward in the Pacific islands. That’s amazing,” said Blas.

To learn more about CHE’LU and future events, visit