Faninadahen Kosas Guåhan

The Carabao Cart

Karetan Guaka Contemporary Replica
Ifit, other Woods and Metal
Guam Council for the Art and Humanities (CAHA) Art Bank

The Karetan Guaka, also referred to as the Karetan Karabao (Carabao Cart), was the predominant mode of transportation in Guam in the 17th through late 19th centuries. Carabaos were introduced to Guam from the Philippines during the Spanish Colonial period (1668-1898), during which the CHamoru people’s traditional dependency on subsistence fishing and the ocean had shifted to agriculture and the land. Carabaos were used as farm animals to plow fields as well as to transport people and heavy loads. Hauling two- and four-wheeled carts, they were a common feature of family lånchos, or ranches, which were located outside the larger villages, and where people would grow food, relax, raise children, and escape the watchful eyes and strict regulations of Spanish colonial administrators.


Even with the introduction of a few automobiles by American importers to the island by the early 20th century, the karetan guaka continued to be used. By the time of the Japanese Occupation of Guam (1941-1944), when most operational cars were confiscated by Japanese soldiers, some families still used the karetan guaka to move between villages and to their lånchos, or to the concentration camps towards the end of the war. Karetan guaka were also utilized during significant occasions in Chamoru life, such as to carry the body of a deceased family member in funeral processions, or to carry the bride and groom during a wedding. The cart featured here is built from ifit and other woods and is modeled after a passenger-carrying cart, complete with an overhead cover. 


Today, the karetan guaka remains as a reminder of CHamoru history and experience. It has become a cultural icon, an expression of tradition, a reminder of life on the låncho and of the old roads and trails of the past.