The latte has become a key symbol in expressions of contemporary Chamoru identity and a key means by which they have come to establish a meaningful connection to their ancient ancestors.
Following centuries of colonization, Chamorus had their connection to their ancestors was severely disrupted and felt little intimacy with regards to their ancestors prior to Spanish colonization. They had come to accept that they and much of their culture and beliefs were primitive or savage.
The study of the latte and its promotion as a historical artifact in the 20thcentury helped create the everyday possibilities for Chamorus to form new positive connections to their ancestors. The latte is no longer a discarded remnant from a primitive past, but an icon of ethnic identity, empowerment and sacredness.
As the Chamoru people have undergone significant cultural shifts over the past four centuries, primarily due to colonization, the latte has become a quiet but important symbol of the fortitude and resiliency of a people. As the latte have endured natural and human disasters in the jungles of Guam, so too have the Chamoru people endured much. While some have been toppled, the stones nevertheless remain.
The latte is a central icon that first enables Chamorus to reimagine their ancient past, after centuries of colonialism, and see themselves as more than primitives. The latte becomes an anchor that enables them to forge a new foundation of consciousness for seeing their past and their place in the world.
The latte become more than simple rocks in the jungle, but artifacts of Chamoru lifeways and something to which they can feel pride. Chamorus had primarily negative perceptions of those artifacts and their ancestors, but now feel positive potential. The existence of their ancestors stops being something that was sacrificed for them to become modern or civilized, but something to feel pride in and give them a sense of belonging in the world.
In this way, the latte allows for Chamorus to develop contemporary notions of sacredness as the latte moves from being ancient cultural detritus, but now sacred stones, remnants of their people’s grand past. They become more than just tragic markers of what was lost, but material invitations to learn more about that past and the lives of their ancient ancestors.
As part of this increased positivity, the latte has also become emblematic of the innovation of an ancient people; who made use of the natural world to create nonetheless impressive dwellings. Similar to the såkman and celestial navigation, the latte becomes a point of pride when looking into the past and seeing ancient ancestors as capable of great works and not simply primitives.
The latte, made of two parts, each working with others to provide a foundation, is an important cultural metaphor for community cooperation or inafa’maolek. The latte provide flexibility by being made of two parts rather than one, which allows a house to sway when rocked by an earthquake. In the same way the Chamorus have adapted to the natural and human catastrophes of their past.
All of this in turn transforms the latte from a mere cultural or historical artifact to something possessing political power. This is a value beyond what it provides in terms of cultural representation, but something of material value, where it must be protected and preserved as part of its cultural value. The latte are no longer markers of thrown away time or disposable culture that can be bulldozed with impunity, but artifacts that have to be preserved against modernization and militarization. As such the latte can be used to rally communities to resist efforts to damage Guam’s environment in the name of protecting the unique heritage of the island.
In all of these ways, the latte has operated as a foundation for Chamorus to build a new decolonial consciousness, where they can help neutralize the colonial maladies that have long afflicted them.