Wednesday, May 25, 2005

ESPN article

I once heard Tony Palomo say something very interesting, and beyond what I'll say after this sentence, its even more interesting considering how many different ways the statement could be taken.

When asked during a documentary interview, if he could, what would he say to the United States of America, what would he tell them about Guam/Chamorros, what would he want them to know? Tony slyly responded, that maybe he didn't want Americans to know about Guam.

Isn't the ESPN's recent article on cockfighting in Guam a good example of why Tony Palomo might have a point? (If you haven't seen it already here's the link )Any piece of knowledge from here can be lifted and spirited away, taken wherever and made to mean practically anything. Once it leaves, it loses any temporal fixing, any fixing of cultural or historical meaning.

For those who recall the Marie Claire incident, the lesson seems to be that having other people know about us can be a very dangerous thing. For those who don't know about Marie Clare, they published an article on interesting facts from around the world, and one of said pretty much that on Guam having a daughter who is a virgin is shameful and that its practically a job to go around and deflower girls. The problem with this was that they had taken a practice from ancient Chamorro society, prior to colonization by Spain, and then used it to make a claim about the present, used it to create a very gross representation of Chamorros today, which sharply contradicts with main current Chamorro Catholic ideas and self-beliefs.

But now we reach the aporia. Representations are ever under anyone's complete control. They float around, just like knowledge and anyone can snag them and try to make them mean something. As Chamorros seek to fend out the limiting invisibility that Western notions of history and geography have forced upon them, this is the danger. Any attempts to put ourselves out there, to publicize our existence, can be flipped around, made to mean something completely different.


Gia said...

Hi Michael. I found your blog via a search on Google for "ESPN GUAM". I currently live on Guam and was one of the firsts to fire off a response to both Mr. Ogle and ESPN regarding the article. I was also one of the firsts to fire off a letter to the PDN's Voice of the People regarding the burning of magazines in the Latte Stone Park. Only because I have a haole last name, I was shot down as being an outsider by a Mr. Lizama although I have lived on Guam most of my life and consider the island and it's culture my own. I think your take on it is interesting and I should like to return to see what else you write about in the future. But I do have one question...what is this ancient chamorro tradition that relates to the deflowering of virgins?

Gia said...

A correction on the writer. It was a Mr. Laguana not Lizama.

Sahuma Minagahet said...

I plan on writing more about the ESPN article since its caused such a stir in my inbox. As for the Marie Claire scandal, what we tend to forget when we talk about indigenous people is that their cultures change. When people find out something about them, they tend to stretch it out over the entire existence of those people rather then placing it in proper context. Ancient Chamorros had a different take on sexuality compared with Chamorros today. Sexuality wasn't taboo, but considered part of life and actually taught to young boys and girls. At certain ages teenage boys and girls were instructed on issues of procreation and thus, if you had a child (most specifically a daughter) who was still a virgin, it was considered to be strange. When people discuss this as a virgin deflowering issue, they are using the language and perspectives of today to articulate that time. In my opinion Maire Claire was in the wrong for not doing their homework and for just being stupid. But also many Chamorros weren't thinking of it correctly, they were using Catholic morality to judge that time.


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