A few months ago I mentioned in the Minagahet that me and a few of my relatives and friends were thinking about trying to put together a Chamorro conference for sometime next spring. Well we're still in the planning stages but it does look like its a go. I'll be posting more specifics as time goes on. Otro fino'-ta, if you have any suggestions, would like to know more, or would like to help, please feel free to email me or leave a message as a comment.
When I first mentioned this to people, their responses and assumptions about for what purpose this conference would be, also made it clear to me that a meeting such as this would be vitally necessary. Most people assumed that a conference like this would be helping making Chamorro students, pushing them through high school and them getting them to go to college. This is important of course, but it is hardly enough. What's been made clear to me over the past few years, talking to every Chamorro I could get my hands on, is that an education will do basically nothing. People too often assume that this act of getting kids into college is a goal in and of itself and signifies that something really awesome has been accomplished, therefore mission accomplished! But the problem is, that all the college education in the world will not instill the understanding and responsibility that young Chamorros need to actually tackle the problems their islands and their people face. Getting the diploma is easy compared to the transformation of conscious that must take place and then the movements and actions which must be done based on those transformations.
For me this conference would be focused primarily on Chamorros currently in college, but would be ideal for anyone who is looking for people who want to do something for their people and are willing to share their ideas and concerns. Attending college does provide some room for intellectual exploration (not as much as we think though, but it all really depends on who your professors are I guess), and so its important that while Chamorros are given that space, they do not just waste it.
One of the deepest and most horrifying forms of colonization is the occupying of the gaze of the colonized. The placing of things before it, the forcing of the colonized to see things through it.
If we think about materials, artifacts, technologies, we can see this clearly in action. In Guam, whenever people make assertions of identity or cultural authority which attemtps to act outside of the United States or conflict with it, the general reaction is that you are living in the past, and do you want us to mansinade', live in the thatch roof huts and use the outhouse? Even if the person who makes this remark believes themselves to be the proudest perfekto Chamorro in the world, they are using an extremely detrimental colonial framework to shut people like me down. They try to impose on you the colonial belief that the holding of a technology in and of itself somehow makes you less Chamorro. They can claim that they don't believe that personally, but so long as they try to impose that on you, they are very much re-colonizing the island. (mainly because the only way that they can reconcile the belief which they attribute to you, which they very much believe themselves, is to make a secret switch and in actuality think of themselves as an American first and a Chamorro second. Because Americans can do anything, they aren't limited by history, colonialism or anything else.)
I mentioned the above point, because too often when I discuss issues such as Chamorro and American identities, I am told that we can have our cake and eat it too. We can be the proudest Americans and Chamorros we can be! Usually I am also told that we can be educated in American schools and still be Chamorro.
The problem with this however is that thus college becomes a place where you re-evaluate yourself as an American. You find ways to explore your roots, but its very easy for any social responsibility that you will develop during this time, to be a byproduct of your belief that an American is civicly minded and respectful and knowledgeable of his heritage. This has been the mindset for all the generations since World War II. We can have our cake and eat it too. The problem is, that given the way we limit ourselves in thinking, we can only have our cake and eat it too as Americans, never as Chamorros. Its no wonder then that people return to Guam from the states desperate to re-make Guam based on their American imaginings, without a care to Guam itself.
But it need not be like this. It can be different, we can raise our kids and train ourselves to think of Guam first and then American second, but we can't do it just by putting kids into college. It means that we need to gather those kids together and get them to learn Guam's history and language not just in sterile scholastic ways, but in vibrant and critical settings where these aspects won't just be friendly hospitable supplements to the great American dream, but where these things shadow and put the American dream to shame. Where pride in most things Chamorro is not derived from the fact that Chamorros are colonial citizens of America, but derived as something hopefully independent from that, as separate, something which can stand on its own and be recognized as such, without just being another beautiful brown swath of color in the great American cultural tapestry.
If this conference/gathering takes place, it will emphasis these things. Issues of consciousness, commitment and collectivity.