You simply cannot imagine Liberation Day. I suppose it epitomizes Chamorro culture. But first, let's set the stage.
Imagine 9:30 a.m. and what FEELS like 110 degrees because of the 83% humidity. Here, in Guam, they rate weather according to a comfort scale of 1-10. Liberation Day was rated with a 1--miserable! Unless you've actually experienced these conditions, it is probably impossible to comprehend. Factor into this that being so close to the equator, we are actually closer to the sun. There is something about the sun here that I have never experienced outside close proximity to the equator. In ten minutes, I actually feel like I am literally being burned--like having someone hold a magnifying glass to your arm out in the sun; I'm talking sizzling hot. Not the kind of hot that makes you want to snuggle into the sand and snooze; no, the kind of hot that makes you want to run for cover. The kind of hot that makes you want to be certain you REALLY remembered to put on #30 sunblock protection.
Next, imagine hundreds of canopies. Here comes the quintessential Chamorro culture. Under these canopies you will find primarily extended family groups. Chamorros are so serious about their families, that many of these canopies actually have professional banners draped across the front touting their family name. Like chimneys on houses, seemingly EVERY canopy had a barbecue billowing the savory smoke of roasting meat. The Chamorros are VERY serious about their food. It is the cornerstone of every gathering--formal and informal. Tables are laden with vittles--never just hamburgers and hot dogs. Oh no! Ribs, chicken, steak, fish, pasta, salads, and desserts monopolize several large tables beneath each canopy.
And, the parade. Wow! We're talking four hours worth of parading in staggering heat. A significant number of the entries were military connected. There were units from branches of the military I had never even heard of. But, the best part was the response of the crowd to the military. They were cheered and applauded. Eric and I joked that we should try this same parade in Berkeley (near our home towns). Sadly, for sure the reception would be quite different. At one point, Eric and I left the shelter of our friends' canopy and walked the parade route to get to the bandstand where a friend's daughter was to perform with the Guam Territorial Band. The heat was stifling and a fire truck was spraying water on the by-standers as it made its way down the parade route. As water shot out of the fire hose, no sooner did it splatter on the asphalt and the bodies of delighted bystanders than it evaporated. Speaking from personal experience, the water was a cruel disappointment. It was no match for the fury of the sun. As we plodded along, nearly fainting with heat exhaustion, several friends and acquaintances rushed out from under canopies to greet us. ALWAYS the interaction was the same, "Come! You must have something to eat with us!" Often these were people we didn't really know but "since we were friends with their cousin, we were friends with them!" This is classic Guam. A land where the hospitality and warmth (both human and solar) is nearly surreal.