Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Freeways are not indigenous to Guam

I was going through my files on my laptop and I came across this abstract I wrote for a conferenec a couple years back.

Freeways are not Indigenous to Guam: Replacing Complacency with Agency in Chamorro History.

The history of Guam has been for nearly five centuries, the history of those that made landfall there. Unfortunately the indigenous inhabitants, the Chamorros make only token appearances in these histories, even up to recent historiographies. More tragic then their decimation from Spanish conquest seems to be their historical decimation at the hands of explorers, anthropologists and would be-historians.

While efforts are currently being made to remedy the lack of Chamorro agency and participation in Guam’s history (such as the historical and cultural Hale-ta Series, created by the Government of Guam in order to better educate the island about political status issues), the same mistakes may be made. The single greatest gaping hole lies in the lack of the Chamorro people as agents in their history. Current histories of Guam reduplicate the lack of agency, by following the same Interstate Freeway Rest Stop History which has stigmatized Guam since 1521. Chamorros find themselves as abbreviated billboards, waiting flaccid and placid by the roadside, as history speeds down the freeway, stopping every hundred years, at rest stops erected for Magellan, the Spanish American War, and World War II.

Rather than have the Chamorros face another near extinction, this time at the hands of history, what is needed is to refocus Guam’s known history. What exists at present disallows anything save for Chamorros as tragic victims or anthropological ghosts. The bias of dead white male primary sources has turned the Chamorros into helpless, docile and feeble, whereas when rethought, the same sources can paint a mural bled red with agency, full of vitality, perseverance and strength.

This paper will re-examine indigenous metaphors and myths from Chamorro history and re-think how such things are portrayed, and how through shifting the descriptions of such icons, a more dynamic and vital image can be seen

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