Sunday, January 31, 2010

Buildup/Breakdown #9: Okinawa

Amidst all the discussion of US - Japanese relations and the feelings of Guam being excluded from this process, or being yet again an object of US militarization, its easy to forget about the place where the Marines are coming from to Guam. Namely Okinawa.

Early on in the buildup process, people on Guam didn't know much about Okinawa, and despite years of this "transfer" looming over our heads, we still don't know very much. Those who have served there have some recollections of life there, but for the most part our imagining of Okinawa is defined solely by the premise that the people there, don't want the Marines there anymore and are thus sending them here. Some high-profile rapes by US Marines of Okinawan women and young girls have helped to cement this impression in people's minds. In a way, this lack of information has been helpful in pushing people to be distrusting of the buildup and those who are planning it. The lack of a strong connection with Okinawa, has let peoples' imaginations run wild and helped create a strong, but factless resistance. For instance, if last year, you were speaking to a crowd of people who were sort of undecided on the buildup, to get them moving in a critical direction you need only ask them "Why are they being kicked out of Okinawa?" or "Why do the Okinawans not want them? Why should we?

Although I have appreciated that, its been disappointing, because even in resisting this buildup and what it predicated on, namely the Department of Defense thinking of Guam primarily as its spear tip and little more, people on Guam have sometimes come to think of Okinawa in the same way. We assume that its just another part of Japan and thus erase its own colonial history and present. We reduce it to a caricature in the same way the Chamber of Commerce sometimes does to Guam in order to sell it to the DOD.

In this imagining, its often lost that Okinawa has itself long been a colonial or a sort of exceptional territory in relation to Japan, in the same way that Guam is to the United States. Not all Japanese consider Okinawa to really be part of their country and not all Okinawans consider themselves to be a fair and equal part of Japan. I have heard and read plenty of critiques about Okinawa's treatment by the Japanese home government, which treats them more like a weapon or a possession which can be sold or leased off to foreign powers in the making of defense agreements. I have also heard Okinawas discuss themselves as culturally distinct from the Japanese. But I have never heard this articulated by anyone from Okinawa as being a political difference, in the way in some Guam say that its colonial difference between its colonizer requires decolonization or a political status change.

For most people, these sorts of distinctions don't matter, but for those who are trying to resist militarism or seek peace instead of war in the Peace (or Asia-Pacific), it is crucial to see Okinawa as its own community, just as complex and complicated as Guam. As I've complained about before on this blog, for years (after the buildup was first announced), there was a massive gap between Guam and Okinawa, which both the Government of Guam and the media on Guam helped to create.

Governor Camacho's decision in 2005 to not meet with representatives from Okinawa that were traveling to Guam, set the tone for the past four years of how Guam would relate to this place form which the Marines were coming to Guam. They would relate to it through the United States. They would rely on representatives of the Department of Defense to tell you about it and tell you what's going on there. For any and all information on the buildup, the words that came out of someone representing the United States were assumed to be the truth, and both the Government of Guam (especially the Governor's Office) and the media here helped maintain this idea.

So when there would be some rumor that there were problems on the Japan side of this deal, the media here would go straight to JGPO or the DOD to hear what they had to say, and whatever they said was the reported as the truth. In recent months however, this "truth" has been repeatedly challenged, to the point where (thankfully) it no longer exists. Historic power shifts in Japan last year set the stage for everything to possibly change in terms of the buildup, or at least be delayed. Although we should be grateful that this openness and willingness to see Okinawa as something other than what the US military says it is, it is disappointing that it took this long. How much time was wasted over the past four years while we waited for another Federal official or Navy commander to come through to tell us what was going on? Or how much energy did we waste worrying about the unknown of this buildup, when Japan and Okinawa are literally just a short plane ride away?

Just last week, there was some more interesting news out of Okinawa related to this buildup. As I've written about before, this buildup on Guam is part of a large agreement between Japan and the United States, which involves the movement of, closing of, opening of other facilities throughout Japan. In the past, the position of the US has been that if one part goes, the whole thing stops. Its either all or nothing.

A recent mayoral election in Okinawa represents another potential snag in the whole process. Read below for more information.


Mayor's election in Okinawa is setback for U.S. air base move
By Blaine Harden
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 25, 2010

TOKYO -- In a small-town election that may have a big impact on U.S. ties with Japan, voters in Nago on Okinawa chose a new mayor Sunday who opposes the relocation of a noisy U.S. military air base to his town.

Susumu Inamine, who said during his campaign that he did not want the air station constructed in Nago, defeated the incumbent, Yoshikazu Shimabukuro, who has long supported hosting the base as a way of increasing jobs and investment.

"I was campaigning in the election with a pledge not to have a new base built," Inamine told supporters Sunday night.

The United States and Japan agreed four years ago to move the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, now located in a dense urban area in the center of Okinawa, to Nago, a town of 60,000 in the thinly populated northern part of the tropical island. It was to have been built on landfill along a pristine coast on the edge of the town.

But to the exasperation of the Obama administration, that deal was put on hold last fall after the election of a new government led by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who says Japan has been too passive in its dealings with the United States. Hatoyama has suggested that the base be moved off Okinawa or out of Japan altogether -- and has also said that the outcome of the mayoral vote in Nago would be a factor in his government's final decision, which he has promised to make by May.

Inamine's anti-base campaign attracted support from environmentalists and from local members of Hatoyama's Democratic Party of Japan and its coalition partners, as well as from the Japanese Communist Party.

Nago's mayor avoided mention of the airbase in his campaign, saying its relocation was not a matter that could or should be decided by him or residents of his city.

That view is shared by U.S. Marine Corps commanders, who view the Futenma air station as a linchpin in the continuous training and on-call mobility of the Third Marine Expeditionary Force, which is based on Okinawa and is the only such U.S. force in the Far East.

"National security policy cannot be made in towns and villages," Lt. Gen. Keith J. Stalder, commander of Marine forces in the Pacific, said in an interview last week.

Relocating the Marine air station to Nago is a key part of a $26 billion deal between Japan and the United States to transfer 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam and turn over valuable tracts of land to people on the island. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said last fall that the deal would probably collapse if the air station does not move to Nago.

Several U.S. officials said last week they believe that senior leaders in the Hatoyama government have begun to realize that there is no workable alternative to relocating the air station as previously agreed. They also said that such an important decision should be made in Tokyo and not in a local election.

Construction of the air station in Nago would require a massive landfill in a picturesque stretch of waters now used by fishermen and snorkelers. It is opposed by environmentalists who have filed a lawsuit saying it would destroy habitat of the rare dugong, a manatee-like sea mammal. A Japanese government environmental assessment has said that dugongs have not been seen in the proposed construction area for many years.

For many Okinawans, the Futenma air station has become a symbol of the noise, pollution and risk of accidents that they associate with the large U.S. military presence on the island.

Surrounded by 92,000 people in the city of Ginowan, Futenma torments its neighbors with the comings and going of combat helicopters and transport aircraft.

In 2004, a helicopter based at the airfield crashed into the administration building of a nearby college. There were no deaths, but the incident angered local residents and led to the 2006 agreement to move the air base to Nago.

The vote in Nago does not necessarily kill the relocation of the air station. The final decision is up to the governor of Okinawa, who has shown qualified support for the base relocation plan, and the central government in Tokyo.


Japan Municipal Election Win Bad For Guam
ABC Radio Australia

A municipal election in Japan has thrown American plans to reorganise its military forces in the Pacific, including its proposed buildup on Guam, into disarray.

Weekend elections in the town of Nago, on the Japanese island of Okinawa, were won in a bitter campaign against honouring a US-Japan deal that would see a Marine airbase relocated from Futenma to Nago.

The win almost certainly means mroe delays for Washington's plans to reorganise its forces in the Pacific.

Presenter: Corinne Podger
Speaker: Susumu Inamine, mayor-elect of Nago; Yukio Hatoyama, Japan's prime minister; Gavan McCormack, Japan defence analyst at the Australian National University; Gary Hiles, chief economist at the Guam Department of Labour

PODGER: Nago is a tourist town in northern Okinawa - famous for its beaches and pineapple fields. But it's also home to US Marine Camp Schwab. Four years ago the previous US and Japanese administrations reached a deal to relocate the US Marine Corp's Futenma base to Camp Schwab. Since then, there's been a change of government in both Washington and Tokyo and there's escalating opposition on Okinawa to the US presence. Locals are angry at the pollution and noise that come with an airbase, and there's persistent anger following a series of high-profile rape cases involving US soldiers. In Nago, Susumu Inamine ran a vocal campaign against the relocation, and won.

INAMINE: I wish to deliver the voice of people to the nation and prefecture.

PODGER: I wish to deliver the voice of the people to the nation, Mr Inamine told his supporters at his post-election celebration.. It was a firm message to Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama. In response, Mr Hatoyama has promised to find an alternative site to Nago for the Futenma facility, within four months.

HATOYAMA: As expressed before, the government will take responsibility and present a final decision by the end of May - starting from a clean sheet. We will definitely carry it out.

PODGER: Professor Gavan McCormack is a Japan defence analyst at the Australian National University. He says Mr Hatoyama may be hard-pressed to find an alternative to Nago within that timeframe.

MCCORMACK: Investigative groups are going around the country looking at alternative sites, but to find an alternative site and then to persuade the Pentagon that that site will serve all American military objectives by May - it's a very tough call.

PODGER: Professor McCormack says there are half a dozen potential alternatives for Futenma inside Japan. Another option that's been put forward is to ditch the idea of relocating Futenma within Japan altogether, and focus on Guam instead.

MCCORMACK: There's also the fact that the Marines themselves have been planning for a huge expansion of the Guam facility, and some Okinawan specialists on this matter suggest even that the American Pentagon plan is a plan that would make the Hinoko plan unnecessary because most of the Marine facilities are going to be withdrawn to Guam anyway.

PODGER: That's rung alarm bells in Guam, where there are already concerns about whether the health system, schools and infrastructure like ports and roads can cope with the US troops and facilities the buildup will involve. Gary Hiles is the chief economist at the Department of Labor.

HILES: That was proposed previously by the government of Japan, and the governor of Guam has indicated that Guam really can't handle a much larger expansion than is currently proposed.

PODGER: At the same time, the build-up is being looked to by Guam as a major new source of jobs and income. It's barely a week since the head of the US Joint Guam Project office, US Major General David Bice, said the transfer of 8-thousand US Marines from Okinawa to Guam would be delayed by two years to 2014 and both Tokyo and Washington have hinted even that deadline may not be kept. Gary Hiles says the election outcome in the Nago may further delay the Guam build-up holding up federal and private construction projects, and impacting on local jobs.

HILES: Certainly there's private investors that are planning for things such as worker housing and looking forward to getting some of these contracts for military construction activities that could be affected if there's a delay. So at the moment it's kind of a wait and see and we'll try to assess the situation and see how it plays out.

PODGER: But while another delay in the arrival of US military personnel on Guam has some downsides, there's a silver lining - a bit of extra time, Mr Hiles says, to get the facilities the troops will need on arrival, ready in time.

HILES: There's a lot of activities related to the infrastructure and the roads and the port, the educational system - the additional time and to secure funding and implement projects would be helpful.

PODGER: Whether or not Prime Minister Hatoyama can find an alternative to Nago for the Futenma airbase, either by May or, indeed, at all, Japan analyst Professor Gavan McCormack says Tokyo remains firmly committed to its multi-billion-dollar contribution towards the Guam facility.

MCCORMACK: There's no - or there's little - dispute in Japan as to the obligation entered into by the previous government to pay $US6 billion towards the expansion of Marine facilities on Guam. That, I think, is not in question. But what is in question is whether in addition to that $US6 billion, the Japanese government will proceed to construct a huge new Marine facility in Okinawa or indeed elsewhere in Japan. That's what at issue I think now.


FOCUS: Nago race puts Hatoyama under pressure to pick new site for Futemma
NAGO, Japan, Jan. 24 KYODO
January 24 2010 21:54

21:54:00 Sunday January 24, 2010 in Japan converts to
22:54:00 Sunday January 24, 2010 in Pacific/Guam

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama is now under further pressure to pick a new site outside Okinawa Prefecture for relocating the U.S. Marine Corps' Futemma Air Station following Sunday's victory in the mayoral race in Nago, Okinawa, of a candidate who has been opposed to accepting any more U.S. facilities.

In the closely watched mayoral election, Susumu Inamine, 64, defeated incumbent Yoshikazu Shimabukuro, 63, who said his city would accept the Futemma airfield if the government led by Hatoyama's Democratic Party of Japan decides to transfer it to Nago.

One local resident, Satoshi Higa, said, ''What's good about Nago is that we have beautiful oceans around it.''

''Why do we have to see the oceans reclaimed and ruined?'' the 73-year-old retiree said.

Under the 2006 accord between a previous Japanese government led by the Liberal Democratic Party and the U.S. government, the Futemma airfield, which currently sits in a residential area in Ginowan, Okinawa, must be relocated to a new facility to be built along the coast of the U.S. Marine Corps' Camp Schwab in the sparsely populated Henoko area of Nago by 2014.

Hiroshi Ashitomi, who leads a sit-in campaign against the planned building of two runways in a V-shaped formation in Henoko, expects that the government will be able to use Inamine's victory as a bargaining chip in negotiations with the United States.

''Japan can take a tough stance toward the United States (saying that local people are against the relocation),'' Ashitomi, 63, said in an interview with Kyodo News.

But political pundits say that it is yet to be clear if Hatoyama would renege on the bilateral deal and give up the original relocation plan, a move that could sour the Japan-U.S. relationship, noting that the premier simply might have used the election as one reason for postponing his decision on the issue.

Some even argue that he may not come to a conclusion by the end of May, which is his self-imposed deadline, or even after the House of Councillors election this summer, while making various excuses.

''He (Hatoyama) has just been selecting a path that could work the best for him,'' Masaaki Gabe, a professor of international relations at the University of the Ryukyus, said. ''He is running away (from making a decision).''

''In the first place, national security should be a matter that he should be responsible for,'' he said.

Ichiro Miyagi, a senior official of the Shimabukuro election camp who is also a secretary for an LDP upper house lawmaker, was resentful at the Hatoyama government's handling of the issue, saying, ''We already made an agonizing decision 13 years ago and I find it outrageous (for Hatoyama) to leave a decision to local people again.''

Miyagi was referring to a local referendum in 1997 in which a majority of citizens voted against the relocation plan and the following decision by then Mayor Tetsuya Higa who agreed with Tokyo to accept the Futemma facility, defying the result of the referendum.

Toward solving the relocation dispute, pundits point out that Hatoyama needs to show his determination to remove the Futemma facility from Okinawa if he truly hopes so and convey it to the United States.

''If the United States understands that Japan is serious about removing the facility outside the prefecture, it would also deal with it seriously,'' Gabe said. ''Unless it becomes clear exactly what Hatoyama is thinking, the United States won't do anything but to wait until Hatoyama gives up.''

Washington officials have so far underscored that the existing accord is the sole feasible plan, pressing Japan to quickly implement the relocation plan as agreed upon.

Some local residents also expressed concerns that a funding scandal involving DPJ Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa could further delay the government's decision on the Futemma issue.

''I am worried that our fate is going to be swayed by Mr. Ozawa's case,'' a 73-year-old Nago resident, Hirokuni Iha, said.

Ozawa, who is widely believed to have wielded the biggest clout in the ruling party, is embroiled in a funding scandal that has led to the arrest of three people close to him, including a DPJ House of Representatives lawmaker.

As possible relocation sites other than Henoko, the tripartite coalition government of the DPJ, the Social Democratic Party and the People's New Party has brought up such places as Ie Island and Shimoji Island, as well as the U.S. territory of Guam.

But both of the islands are in Okinawa Prefecture and are unlikely to gain approval from local governments, while Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa, who visited and inspected Guam last year, has indicated that the plan of transferring the Futemma facility to the island will be hard to realize.

Each of the three parties is scheduled to present specific relocation plans by mid-February to a task force on the Futemma base issue, which was set up late last year and is led by Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano of the DPJ.


Friday, January 29, 2010

Buildup/Breakdown #8: Something for Everyone

As I said when I was interviewed for the short documentary below on the military buildup, there is a place for everyone on this island in terms of critiquing this buildup.

When you look at the Draft Environmental Impact Statement itself, and its thousands upon thousands of pages, even if you are overwhelmed or feel intimidated by its massive size, paralysis or apathy is the last thing you should be feeling. The buildup is so massive and will not only affect, but damage so many things, so that there is simply no room for any conscious detatchment. If the buildup was something which was going to be merely good for Guam, or be some good, mixed with some bad, then the DEIS would be a few hundred pages long, or would be split up into several different documents. But when each of us either look at that document (ya hongge yu', esta meggai hu taitai yan atan ayu), or even just hear about its scope and delirious depth, then we must realize, that there is something in that tome for each and everyone of us. There is some small glint of damage, some small or big shred of negativity that will touch you and impact you regardless of how much or how little you are paying attention. This is not an issue where only those who are screaming at the tops of their lungs are the ones who will be affected. This is something that everyone from the activist with the sign by the roadside, to the clueless student killing time until they hit the real world, to i amko' hating on their always-absent children will all get hit by.

As with any massive trauma or shock to a system, there are those for whom the impact will be negative, disorientating and something which they don't have the means to mitigate or master, and there will be those who have the resources to make sure that the disaster works to their advantage and is something they can profit from.

My point in saying all this, is that whenever any trauma hits a community or is on the verge of hitting a community, you can make general statements about how it will affect everyone and who it will affect the most. Trauma does not discriminate and always operates with a wide open tent, where anyone and everyone is forcibly welcomed it. The response, the preparation and the reaction should also be as inclusive as possible. In resisting this military buildup, in responding to it, there is a role for literally everyone. As of this moment, there is an open process of commenting on the buildup in which everyone can participate and submit. Soon there will be gatherings and protests at which there is plenty room for all.

This post was spurned by something I just received in my inbox. I know so many different people who are working on their comments or trying to organize others to write comments and send them off. At the University of Guam, all the Guam history professors are incorporating into our classes as the first assignment, the researching and the writing of a comment for the DEIS, and so this process will hopefully bolstered with at least a few hundred more comments (from those who most likely would not have paid attention otherwise).

The email that I received today however had a comment that was written by the 9 year old goddaughter of a friend. After attending a public meeting on the buildup, the 9 year old had asked if her godmother would help her write a comment. The 9 year old spoke her thoughts and her goddmother typed it down. I've pasted the comment below. If you know of anyone, hoben, amko', kalamya ni' palabras pat ma'a'nao nu manunuge', who has similar thoughts or concerns, but not the means to write it themselves, I suggest that you work with them as my friend did. Type it up for them, or help them with their thoughts.


I am a 9 year old girl who lives in Chalan Pago, Guam. I go to school at Santa Barbara Catholic School and one of my favorite hobbies is going to the beach and swimming. I am just learning how to snorkel and I like seeing many kinds of fish. I have gone on dolphin watch trips with my family and seeing the dolphins is one of the best times of my life.

I went to one of the military build up meetings and heard that the the military is going to destroy part of the reef and the home of the sea turtle and the spinner dolphin. I don't want you to do this because I love dolphins and turtles and want them to be here for when I have my own kids. Please do not hurt Guam's reef because it is an important part of our island.

If you destroy the reef, you will be destroying the coral. And also, if a tsunami comes to Guam, the whole island will be hurt because the reef won't be able to protect us. I think you should use what is already available and if your ships are too big, then they should go to some other place, not Guam.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Chamorro Public Service Post #15: Pues Adios, Esta Ki

A lot of people end up visiting this blog because they are searching around the internet for lyrics to Chamorro songs. Over the years I’ve pasted a couple here and there, but haven’t really kept up with it as much as I should. I complain all the time about there not being enough internet presence for the Chamorro language and for Chamorro thoughts and so I feel bad when I inadvertently contribute to that absence.

På’go, gaige yu’ gi i gima’ iyo-ku grandfather. Desde i ma’pos’ña na mes, kumakatre gui’. Kana’ hineart attack gui’, ya sumaga’ gui’ gi i espitåt para tres meses. Mana’huyong gi i ma’pos na mes, ya sumåsaga’ gui’ gi i gima’, lao ti ha hulat tumohgue sin ayuda. Kada na puengge måtto yu’ gi i gima’-ña para i tetno-hu pumulan gui’.

Gi este na tiempo, tåya’ internet, pues siña hu usa este para bai hu fanhasso. Manhasso yu’ put i lina’la’-hu pat i guinife-hu. Buente i chinathinasso-ku siha lokkue’.

Tonight, I was trying to figure out what would be the best song to share the lyrics for on my blog. Things have been so emotional lately and crazy politically because of all the public hearings and activism surrounding opposing and critiquing the military buildup on Guam. Part of me wants to pick a song which is fiery or loud, bold and assertive, but unfortunately Chamorro music doesn’t have (in my opinion) enough of those. There are a few, but considering were one of the few people left in the world who can claim to be colonized in the formal sense of the world, we should have a lot more kicking and screaming and speaking/yelling to power songs.

I decided to pick a song which was simpler, quieter, but no less profound, and on which has also been significant in the recent history of Chamorros. The song is “Pues Adios, Esta ki,” and is a song about longtime friends who are saying goodbye to each other. There are a number of people to whom the original writing of this song have been attributed to, and I really have no idea who did write the first version. It is most likely a Chamoritta song, whose tune was taken from a song which arrived in Guam during the American era. Some say it’s a prewar song, others a postwar, some say a man in Saipan wrote it, others say a man from Guam. Regardless of who wrote it, its still a very beautiful and as I said, simple song.

There is no deep imagery to the song, no real vivid metaphors or even language. The version that I’m providing the lyrics for below is from a version which students at school would sing to each other when the year would end or after graduation. But even though the verses may be meant for this specific situation, there is another image which this song evokes for Chamorros, especially those who came of age in postwar Guam and that is of gathering together at the airport to wave goodbye to a family member or a friend as they leave to head lågu, or to the states.

As a historian, pat un taotao ni’ gaimeggai na tinigno’ put i estorian islå-ta, I sometime experience an interesting sort of social vertigo on Guam. Although we might assume that knowing a lot about your history, would help anchor you into the world, and make secure your place, your identity and your vision of it. This is not always true. The majority of people in any community are not knowledgeable, it is simply the way the world is. Those people understand the world around them through very small soundbytes, historical snippets and generally conveniently simplistic answers to most questions of life. To these people, the complexity of history is actually pretty scary, and is something which tends to be resisted and they seek to dismiss. As a result, having a more nuanced idea of history and the present, and having more evidence or knowledge at your disposal in understanding it can actually make you feel less secure, less normal, less bound to reality, since so many appear others appear to be impervious to what you know.

So for instance, Guam has, since the mid-1990’s I would guess, settled into the state of being a comfortable colony. This comfort is not defined solely by things on Guam being better than things elsewhere, although this is how people tend to interpret something like this (as a way of saying that Guam, because it’s a colony of the United States is far better off than those who are neo-colonies or independent third world basket case nations. When I say comfort, I mean that the shared memories of society were pared down, especially in terms of the relationship between Guam and the United States. Liberation Day was carried through, but so many other events were lost or their meaning in society diluted to the point where they are either forgotten or empty signifiers, only of use to maladjusted activists. The colonial difference between Guam and the United States has slowly appeared to have shrunk to the point of meaning nothing anymore. The ways in which, prior generations, because of the way they were treated or excluded from the United States, always had this form their identities and their lives around these massive bones that stuck out and ruined most attempts at Americanization, these ways have slowly disappeared. And their disappearance has been so effective, for those who are born into the world without them already in place, have no idea that the world could have existed without them.

Today, we on Guam can travel freely to the United States (achokka’ guaguan) and so the smoothness of the travel gives us the impression of being just as American as everyone else. Nevermind that most carriers consider Guam to be an international destination and trip, or that last year I was not allowed to travel from California to Guam because they deemed my US Birth Certificate from Guam to not be a recognized American birth certificate. These are small, little things, which just detract our eyes from the smoothness, easiness and Americaness of our travel.

Things were not always like this however. The first decade after World War II on Guam, saw a massive exodus of Chamorros to the United States. They settled in areas with plenty of Navy bases, or locations which (mainly because of the plenty of Navy bases) had become enclaves for Chamorros making the trip to the land of the colonizer. Until 1962 however this migration was largely unidirectional. As part of the new strategic importance of Guam, the Navy had established a security clearance requirement for the island, meaning that anybody who wanted to travel to Guam had to get permission and be cleared by the United States Navy first. This requirement ended up being a significant factor in helping lay the foundation for the Chamorro diaspora of today (which outnumbers the Chamorro presence in the Marianas Islands). It deterred Chamorros who were leaving island for school, for work, or simply to see a different part of the world, from returning to the island.

So when a Chamorro made the decision to leave island in those years, it was assumed that this might be permanent. It was assumed that you, like so many others who had left as whalers or sailors, might never be heard from again. As such, the gatherings to say farewell, whether at the docks, or later at the airport, became a huge moment. A final time to say goodbye to someone and wish them well, and also come together and silently pray that (whatever the world’s empires decide to do to Guam again) you will indeed see each other again.

As you can see in the lyrics below, it is indeed, a very simple song. But when I think back on my own comings and goings from Guam over the years, even though I didn’t know this song or couldn’t speak Chamorro then, I can still think back, and imagine this song as the soundtrack to my travels. As I left Guam so many times to come out to the states, as I said goodbye to so many family and friends, this hope and wish that we will see each other again, all of us as well, as myself and this island was always there.


Pues Adios, Esta Ki
By Hekkua’

Gi todu i lugåt, maseha månu
Guini gi, hilo’ tåno’
An manakhihot hit, pat manachågo’ hit
U ta fanagofli’e’

In all places, anywhere
Here, on earth
If we are close to each other, or we are far apart
We will still care for each other

Pues adios, esta ki
Pues adios, esta ki
Manali’e’ hit ta’lo adios
Pues adios, esta ki
Pues adios, esta ki
Manali’e hit ta’lo adios

So farewell, until then
So farewell, until then
When we see each other again, farewell
So farewell, until then
So farewell, until then
When we see each other again, farewell

Gi todu i tiempo, na manhihita
Guini gi eskuelå-ta
Manafa’maolek hit
Managofli’e’ hit
Sin akuetdo di rasa

All the time that we’ve been together
Here in our school
We’ve helped [made things good] for each other
We’ve cared for each other
Without any thought of race [or family/clan]

Pues adios, esta ki
Pues adios, esta ki
Manali’e’ hit ta’lo adios
Pues adios, esta ki
Pues adios, esta ki
Manali’e hit ta’lo adios

So farewell, until then
So farewell, until then
When we see each other again, farewell
So farewell, until then
So farewell, until then
When we see each other again, farewell

Pues put uttimo adios, i manhanao todus
Buen biahi adios
In diseseha na en fangefsåga’
Mungnga hit, manmaleffa

So this is the last goodbye, to all who will go
Good voyage farewell
We are hoping that you will be prosperous
Please don’t, forget about us

Pues adios, esta ki
Pues adios, esta ki
Manali’e’ hit ta’lo adios
Pues adios, esta ki
Pues adios, esta ki
Manali’e hit ta’lo adios

So farewell, until then
So farewell, until then
When we see each other again, farewell
So farewell, until then
So farewell, until then
When we see each other again, farewell

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Buildup/Breakdown #7: Youtube

I've written over the past week in various ways, that the organizing against the military buildup on Guam (or the critiquing of it) has helped spur alot of new activity and new creativity. One of the primary outlets that we've seen this energy and this concern expressed is through Youtube.

The uploading of footage or clips of people giving some very insightful and emotional testimony has been the largest presence, but there have been small attempts by others to create short videso to make use of the medium and also get the word out about what is going on.

In the past three weeks, these videos have all together been viewed thousands of times, and for Guam related videos which don't involve nearly naked women or high school children beating each other up, this is a very big deal. Across Youtube, you'll find ways in which people are using it for critical and progressive causes, but Guam and Chamorros have yet to take advantage of this yet (except for a few scattered examples). As someone who regularly uploads videso onto Youtube, and follows closely what goes on in terms of videos about Guam and Chamorros, the recent rush of videos on Youtube is truly something inspiring. It is something which is organic and that has stemmed from people coming together to work on videos together, or working alone to upload vidoes they feel others should see. Although it is a far greater and stronger presence than two months ago, it is still not much. But, este i tinituhon, and therefore it has the potential to grow into something much, much larger.

I've pasted below some of the videos that you should take a look at (that is, if you haven't already watched them).


First off, here is one of the testimonies from the four public hearings on Guam sponsored by JGPO. In this video Senator Ben Pangelinan does not pull out any stops in criticizing both the buildup and the manner in which the prep for the buildup has been conducted by JGPO and DOD. Although, everyone on Guam can feel like they don't know enough about the buildup and what lies ahead for Guam because of it, those in power right now, in particular the Guam Legislature are in a crappy spot right now. The Governor long ago, ha bende i ante-na, for this buildup, he basically (much like George W. Bush), gambled his legacy as a leader on something massive, overblown, and very poorly planned. We will see how it turns out.

But the Legislature can't make any similar claims, as they have constantly been snubbed in the planning for the buildup by both Camacho and JGPO and DOD, as the Feds have made it clear that they will work with the executive branch of Guam's government, and that any interaction with the Legislature is out of the goodness of their hearts.

For years, the political line for the buildup, the way to make use of it effectively was to voice concerns, but not too many concerns. To be worried about it, or have some problems with it, but not too many problems with it. As the political season is just around the corner (or already here and ha uchachani hit taplerun pulitikat siha), and the buildup itself is to start (officially) roaring to life this summer, politicians are started to develop new calculations. The longstanding meekness of Camacho, or the recent round of angry lame duck tactics aren't sitting well with voters and so what people most likely want right now is strength, leadership, un ma'gas ni' para u tachuyi siha. Ben Pangelinan, in his rhetoric in his public comment, might simply be expressing his personal feelings on the buildup (frustration and anger, a feeling that mamfina'gaga' hit as Siha), or could be trying out some new more aggressive rhetoric, which could help (or hurt) his chances at a bid for Governor.

To view the others that can be found online now click on this link to return to an earlier post, "Buildup/Breakdown #2: Mananachu Hit."

Just to warn you, I'm in the video above. Its a mini-documentary made by the director of the DVD Discover Guam. He made the video as a favor to a family which may be forced to lease their land to the United States military to make way for a firing range. The video is very simple, me talking about the buildup, with plenty of images of the lands that might be taken. Despensa yu' kontiempo put i kinalamten-hu siha gi este na mubi. Ai adai, guaha na biahi, annai kumekuentos yu' gof grabu taiguihi, hu na'palapap i kannai-hu kalang un paluma yu'.

This is video made by my cousins Cara and Jason after the We Are Guahan hike to Pagat Cave earlier this month. The hike to this historical, beautiful and sacred site was very inspiring for those who went along, and really helped build a foundation for some people who have now become active members of We Are Guahan.

Although this next video isn't (directed) buildup related, it was shot during the We Are Guahan hike to Pagat. Its of my nephew Dylan jumping off the cliffs near the cave and everyone's reactions when he attempts to do a dive, but instead splats on his side into the water.

This is a poem uploaded as a vlog about the buildup. Fihu annai lumailai yu' giya Youtube, hu diseseha mohon na mas vloggers guini giya Guahan. Pues manhasso yu' na sina Guahu, lao siempre ti manmalago i taotao guihi huyong gi i internet, siempre ti ya-niha umatan este na chatpago na mata-hu.

This was made several months ago, but its still very relevant. If I remember correctly, this video was made by a UOG student who was inspired to do something to try to effect positive change after he watched the film Sway.

Another video that is several months old, but still very relevant. Its a segment from the Working Families show which was made by the Guam Federation of Teachers. The second half of this segment (starting at 1:49) covers the Reclaim Guahan Rally which took place in May of last year. Too often on Guam, things happen and there is little to no record of it, save for in the minds of those who were there. As long as our actions remain at that level, it doesn't change much. It needs to be embedded in the landscape of the island, in different media forms so that others can discover it and connect to it. So that it changes from just being a singular event, but something which remains in the world and one of many points through which a society can be pivoted around, and transformed through.

Finally, here's a video which incorporates the text of Maga'lahi Hurao's 1671 speech against the Spanish, in order to both text and perpetuate the Chamorro language, but also inspire people to rise up against the buildup. The video is made by Jay Quintanilla, who is known for his Chele sitckers and the Chamorro music podcast on Youtube.


But even if the sky is falling, the Marines are landing and the economy is imploding, i mas paire yan i mas sua'nu thing on Youtube is always i hagga-hu Sumahi. Not necessarily the most talented thing on Youtube, lao siempre i mas kinute.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Teaching Ta'lo

If I don't post for a few days, its not because nothing is going on.

Its because I started teaching again this week at UOG and it means I still haven't finished my syllabi for my five classes.

Puede ha' para bai hu na'funhayan todu, yan puede ha' lokkue' este na semester maolekna kinu i ma'pos.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Oceania is not complete without Guam, and Guam is not free...

It is interesting when I periodically check up on other territories and colonies to see how their state of affairs are going. Sometimes it is an experience akin to looking in the mirrior and discovering that the reflection, which looks so much like you is in truth somebody else! Other times it feels like reading a book which everyone around you tells you that you will love, that is totally everything you look for in a book, which will truly connect with you, but which ends up feeling like a gross invasive, a horrid misrepresentation in the end.
Stalking other colonies can sometimes create in me feelings of jealousy and envy at how much better they have, how much stronger they seem to be, about how much less strategically important they are, or how much more together they are about their issues. And of course, in the cases of some colonies, which are now states, although their indigenous people might claim otherwise, I have to look at them and emit a sigh of relief that I am not in their position, that although there may be a mountain of racist, exceptionalist and self-serving American legal garbage which keeps Guam as a possession and something owned by the United States, at least I have that shred, that small sliver of possibility that its unincorporated status gives, where Guam might be free again.

I came across this article below, which gave me an update on the state of affairs in Puerto Rico from a copy of The Nation I just received. I have a subscription on Guam, and so my copies arrive a month or two late. The article ends with a very inspiring and haunting line, which I paraphrased to make the title for this post.


Outrageous Fortuno
by Ed Morales
The Nation

On October 23 a hideous plume of black smoke filled the sky in San Juan, Puerto Rico, emanating from a gas tank explosion at a storage facility of the Caribbean Petroleum Corporation (CAPECO) in the nearby municipality of Bayamón. The explosion and ensuing fire, which forced the evacuation of more than 1,000 people and caused President Obama to declare a federal disaster, is an ominous metaphor for Puerto Rico's current state. The combination of a four-year recession, a $3.2 billion deficit and a toxic Republican-style governor, Luis Fortuño, has turned the island into a political powder keg.

After the explosion, the head of the FBI's office in Puerto Rico announced a federal investigation into whether the explosion was the result of sabotage or terrorism (the investigation has ruled this out). This dovetailed neatly with the strategy employed by the island's ruling New Progressive Party (PNP) of denouncing as terrorists labor leaders who had organized a general strike the previous week. Using Plaza Las Américas--the Caribbean's largest shopping mall and the most glaring symbol of US consumerism on the island--as a staging ground, the unions had amassed tens of thousands of protesters to denounce Governor Fortuño's recent announcement of layoffs of government workers, which would bring the year's total to about 17,000. In an economy where government workers make up 21 percent of the total workforce, these measures--employed ostensibly to protect Puerto Rico's credit rating, which is threatened with junk status--struck a deep chord of resentment among Puerto Ricans. And no wonder, since the official unemployment rate is 16.2 percent--closer to 25 percent if the underemployed are included.

The week after Fortuño's announcement, during a press conference about the development of an eastern port near a recently closed military base, the governor had to dodge an egg hurled at him by Roberto García Díaz, a 44-year-old former employee of the base. The huevazo, or "egg-throw," became a major news story, echoing the famed shoe-throwing at George W. Bush in Iraq and indicating that the island's usually raucous political environment had been kicked up a notch. While PNP functionaries fearmongered about an element that wanted to sow chaos in Puerto Rico, García Díaz became something of a folk hero.

Puerto Rico has been an unincorporated territory of the United States since 1898, and although its residents were granted citizenship in 1917, the UN and much of the world still recognize it as a colony (in June the UN Special Committee on Decolonization called on Washington to expedite a self-determination process). Since 1952, when its euphemistic status as a commonwealth or "free associated state" was coined, the island's leadership has oscillated between the Popular Democratic Party (PPD), which favors the status quo, and the PNP, which favors statehood. The Independence Party, which consistently garners between 2 and 5 percent of the vote, represents a constituency that has been repressed by the US federal government since a series of nationalist uprisings that began in 1937.

Although the PNP's leaders have historically oscillated between the mainland Democrats and Republicans, the new regime seems to be living out a GOP fantasy of regaining power lost in last year's presidential election. In addition to his government-downsizing measures, Fortuño--a board member of the Republican National Hispanic Association, which includes party loyalists such as Senators Orrin Hatch and John Ensign, RNC chair Michael Steele and Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform--has emboldened a social conservatism that is suddenly ascendant on this largely Catholic-yet-carnivalesque island. A few weeks ago it was announced that several far from obscene books, such as Edgardo Rodríguez Juliá's El Entierro de Cortijo and Carlos Fuentes's Aura, would be banned from public school libraries because they contain "coarse language." Austere legislative measures, including closing bars much earlier and lowering the blood alcohol limit for drivers to .02 percent from the standard .08 percent, are close to being enacted.

Fortuño's policies even earned him a tongue-lashing on MTV Latin America's awards show, which was held on the day of the general strike. After sporting a T-shirt that read, Fortuño--Dodge This! alternative rapper René Pérez Joglar, a k a Residente of the group Calle 13, denounced the governor as a "son of a whore" because of the layoff announcement. The PNP tried to spin the insult as an attack on Puerto Rican women, and San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini promptly canceled Residente's much-anticipated show at the island's largest arena. But on November 2 a group of female activists held a semi-nude protest against Fortuño's policies, saying his cutbacks to agencies advocating for women deprived them of human rights.

Denouncing Residente's edgy, Rabelaisian rants as trafficking in obscenity masks the obscenity of an economic policy that compounds the worst effects of this deep recession. Edwin Meléndez, an economist who directs Hunter College's Center for Puerto Rican Studies, suggested the Fortuño government needs to look more closely at other options, such as offering early retirement with full pension guarantees and renegotiation of debts incurred by government programs with attached revenue streams.

Despite the massive public protest against his policies, Fortuño is sticking to his guns. He announced in early November that 7,000 of the layoffs would be delayed until January because of faulty paperwork by a private consulting firm. The move seemed like an attempt to lessen the immediate impact of the layoffs while refusing to reconsider them.

For many Puerto Ricans, the current problems stem from a deeper, much more long-term malaise: the island's unsettled political status. Yet another plebiscite proposal, which critics say is stacked toward getting Puerto Ricans to vote for statehood, is creeping through the House in Washington. Now more than ever, it's time for a strong coalition of Puerto Ricans on the island and the US mainland to come up with an alternative--a people's movement, perhaps seeking stronger economic ties to the Caribbean and Latin America, to demand social justice for 4 million effectively second-class US citizens.

As Residente said on MTV, "Latin America is not complete without Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rico is not free."

Monday, January 18, 2010

Buildup/Breakdown #6: Creativity

Chamorro activism on Guam has experienced a huge upsurge in recent weeks because of the fear, concern and anger over the military buildup and the DEIS. There are plenty of new faces out there, new voices, and most importantly plenty of new tactics and strategies being employed.

After the protests and very visible spectacles of Chamorro activists and groups such as Nasion Chamoru from the early and mid 1990’s, it was commonsensical for years to say that that sort of grassroots, nationalistic, progressive and inherently decolonial activism was dead. Although time passed, there were some very important victories, and a few big losses, it didn’t seem like the activists were changing as the island around them changed because of what they had done and accomplished. So for instance, the 1990’s was the decade for vibrant and shocking protests. They weren’t shocking because of any of the particular acts that the protestors conducted, but rather shocking simply because they existed. For an island which regularly prides itself on being laid back and being hospitable to the point of celebrating its own oppression and colonization sometimes, openly and aggressively protesting or confronting the United States was something which simply was not done. You could, as many did, say bad things about Americans or America in your backyard, gi oriyan i tanke’, or when relaxing at the beach with friends, but in public, no one was ever appear to say anything bad or even look badly at the hand which liberated us. It was something which simply wasn’t done.

But as, the years have passed, the tactics didn’t necessarily change. The crowds of protestors got smaller, but those who remained didn’t necessarily adapt. Plenty of old faces left the scene, a few new ones came in, but nowhere was there an infusion of energy, capacity and strategy like there was in the early 1990’s. Ya i humuyongna na gi i hinasson i taotao Guahan, kalang mangchenglong i activists. So now, it has become customary when dismissing the critiques that a Chamorro activist might make, that you equate the sole worth of their actions and thinking with standing by the side of the road with a sign and no plan or understanding of reality.

Perhaps the past ten years of activism on Guam have stalled because there wasn’t a real, visceral or dire issue which could effectively bring together a solid and committed coalition. Although there are always issues which could get someone like me pissed off and feel like we need to take to the streets and rebel, no large movement ever gets formed over something which is always an issue. If the unifying antagonism is old and been around for a long time, there has to be some new dimension of it, or some new twist which would make people relate to it in a different way, and see their new place in relation to it, as in the streets rather than matata’chong gi i gima’ gi me’nan i telebishon. While the buildup has been in everyone’s mind for four years now, it is only in the past few weeks that the impacts have really started to sink into the minds of people. In addition, although the 90 day comment period for the DEIS is frustrating, it ended up being a catalyst, like the ticking clock of a time bomb, something which forces everyone to rush and work together.

As a result of this, the past few weeks have seen a small but very real revolution in terms of tactics and strategy amongst decolonization activists. Things which myself and others regularly talk and dream about, have actually been implemented. The coalition We Are Guahan is at the epicenter of making this possible. For those of you who don't know what or who We Are Guahan is, here is a short description of the group:

Our islands and our people are bracing themselves for a massive change in tides. We Are Guåhan is a multi-ethnic collective of individuals, families and grassroots organizations concerned with the future of our islands. We Are Guåhan aims to inform and engage our community on the various issues concerning the impending military build up. We Are Guåhan aims to unite and mobilize our people to protect and defend our resources and our culture. We Are Guåhan promotes peaceful, positive and prosperous change for our island. We envision a sustainable future for all of Guåhan's people. All are welcome and necessary!

First there was the hike to Pagat to help bring awareness of the fact that some very beautiful and very historic sites which civilians on Guam may soon lose access to. Then there were the people who were doing outreach in public, collecting emails and passing out fliers. Not the most radical thing, but after just a few excursions We Are Guahan netted over a thousand email addresses of people who were concerned about the military buildup. During the hearings we not only heard an overwhelming number of comments which were critically about the buildup, but there were even those who got creative with their comments, incorporating spoken word poetry and even music.

Finally, there has been a real effort to finally make use of the internet in terms sharing information and getting out the word about events and activities. The We Are Guahan coalition has put together a very simple but effective website, with plenty of info about the buildup and info about ways people can get involved. Another way that people have at last harnessed the internet is through Youtube. Over the past few weeks, dozens of videos have appeared around the buildup, all together gathering thousands of views. These videos range from simple video of people giving testimonies, and other more advance efforts at creating mini-documentaries about the activities people are doing to resist the buildup, or providing info about it. Para bai hu sangan mas put este siha gi i otro na tinige'-hu gi este na blog.

This is all something to be taken very seriously, and should not be dismissed as something which is only here and happening because of this buildup comment period. It can and hopefully will represent a very real transition in activism on Guam. One which is a very positive step in helping ensure that the voices and the critiques that we represent start to acquire some power in the governing and conceiving of Guam. Regardless of what happens with the military buildup, the true test has to be seen with a much lengthier field of vision. The true test of how effective or how significant of a revolution this period represents, is whether or not these gains translate into something which will continue to be a force in shaping meaning and society long after February 17th passes. For those who don’t know, February 17th is the last day to submit a comment on the buildup.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Minagahet Zine Has Moved

Minagahet Zine was started at the community website network Geocities in 2003. The space was free, uploading and downloading was easy to use, and at that time, almost everyone who had a website, but wasn't really good at making websites was on there.

Late last year Geocities closed down, leading to the erasing and closing of thousands of peoples' pages. Fortunately I was able to save Minagahet Zine by upgrading its status. Unfortunately, its sister site Kopbla Amerika was not saved, and so I will have to figure out a place to archive and possibly republish the information and articles which could be found there.

So after six years of it being located at "" you can now visit Minagahet Zine at!

I uploaded the latest issue there last week, but I am slowly updating all its archived pages one by one.

Be sure to update your bookmarks!

Ya Si Yu'us Ma'ase nu Hamyo ni' sumapopotte ham desde dos mit tres. Guahan na biahi ti hu hongge este na hinanao-hu. Gi meggai na manera, gof dikike yan na'mamahlao i tinituhon-hu siha, lao i minagof yan i minalulok i lina'la'-hu, annai sina hu hasso yan komprende taimanu ayu estaba mampo dikike' dumongkalo' gi halom i kannai-hu siha.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Buildup/Breakdown #5: Guamanian

I wrote a letter to the editor of The Pacific Daily News about why it seemed that only Chamorros are the one's on Guam who care about things such as decolonization, militarization, colonialism, imperialism, human rights and so on. My response was a pragmatic one, no real suprises there. This is the homeland of the Chamorro people, it has been there home for centuries, for millenia, and so regardless of how much you love the United States, and sleep with caressing your US passport each night, the cold-hard truth is that this land was taken from the Chamorro people in the 17th century, and different colonizers have come up with different claims to owning the island, but they all just try to cover over or legitimize the same old colonial wound. Just like with Native Americans and their various forms of loss and colonial trauma, they may find everyday ways to act like it doesn't matter, or it was all for the better, but it still hurts and there will always be a way in which the current colonial moment (whether its the US or China or anyone else in charge) will never fit completely, and always feel like its just an ugly rug covering over a stain that will never go away. The most overt forms of colonialism by the United States in the past century have been directed at Chamorros, their language, their lands, and so even if they argue, with tears in their eyes, and a Chamorro version of "Proud to be an American" in the background, that America is the greatest country in the universe, that legacy, that collective trauma is still in them. They can never truly get rid of it. Or at least not anytime soon.

The past two weeks of discourse around the DEIS public hearings have been a vivid tapestry of that trauma and the variety of ways in which Chamorros feel it, suffer it, embody it, hate it, and of course sometimes choose to deny it or erase it. As people have been more and more critical of the military buildup, we've seen the most vocal and vibrant forms of Chamorro nationalism since the 1990's. Young and old, those who speak, those who don't, those who know the history, those who don't, those who have served in the military, and those who haven't; Chamorros from all across the spectrum of however you might define a Chamorro have come out and expressed themselves.

While this fact is very much worth celebrating, and shows a vitality and power amongst the Chamorro people that has been taigue for too long, it creates it own gigantic ethnic elephant in the room. And ayu na dongkalu na elefante is, as these Chamorros seek to reclaim Guahan or take back Guahan, or argue that We Are Guahan, what happens to the rest of the people on island? What does this mean for non-Chamorros on Guam who are also concerned about the buildup or don't want the buildup either?
Losing Guam's natural resources, more traffic, rising costs of living, an overall competition for resources will effect all on Guam, and so is there are a way that the heavy Chamorro nationalist sentiment means either implicitly or explicitly pushing those people out or not giving any space for their voices? I said "implicitly" or "explicitly" to give a more nuanced picture of this issue. In "explicit" terms, there is a very very very small minority who sees these issues as Chamorro-only, and thinks that for most issues on Guam, non-Chamorros should stand aside and let Chamorros determine things for themselves. Or that if non-Chamorros want to be involved they treat them in very crass or casual ways, telling them, sure you can help, but always know that this is not really your fight, just as this is not really your land. In "implicit" terms, there are those who don't say these things outright, won't tell any Filipino or Micronesian to their face that they shouldn't be involved, but still, in their rhetoric or tactics, forget that any struggle for decolonization today, must have a place for all sorts of people. They become accustomed to the Filipino or White or Korean friend who does believe in these things, and forget that the majority of each of these populations either don't support these sorts of progressive/critical issues, or don't know anything about them. They forget, that while it might only be those who are legally considered Chamorro who vote in a political status plebiscite, the whole island must still be engaged, and while you don't need to convince everyone to support it, you at least have to provide that appearance that the cause in question whether it be decolonization or demilitarization or the revitaliztion of Chamorro culture, is everyone's task, and in everyone's best interest.

I'm pasting a video below of a UOG student, John Sarmiento, and his DEIS testimony on Saturday at the UOG fieldhouse. Sarmiento is not Chamorro, but makes a very compelling and creative argument for why non-Chamorros should care about the military buildup and why they should resist it as well.

One of the biggest problems with these sorts of pan-ethnic or cross-ethnic allainces in the past is that they tend to only be possible through feelings of shared Americanization. So the people of Guam seem themselves as one big, lovely brownish melting pot, all through their relationship to the United States, and not really a shared love or respect for Guam. In these sorts of coalititons, the unique position that Chamorros have to this land either gets reduced to nothing but cultural spice for tourism or erased completely to make way for American dominance and multiculturalism.

But a truly powerful movement on Guam, would be a para Guahan or a "for Guam" movement which is not just Chamorros, but meant to bring all people together in a shared love and defense of Guam first, not the United States. At the center of this would be a unifying love for this island and a desire to protect it, empower it and improve it, but also a necessary respect for the fact that it has indigenous people and that their unique claim to this land should not be erased or forgotten.
If we begin to see more like Sarmiento joining and just participating, but also helping shape these sorts of movements, then this might truly be a possibility.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Buildup/Breakdown #4: Tano'

I've quoted this passage before, but its so helpful in explaining Guam's history and contemporary reality, that I have to quote it again. In Robert Underwood's afterword for the book Campaign For Political Rights on the Island of Guam (1899-1950) written by Penelope Bordallo Hofschneider, he makes a crucial point in understanding postwar Chamorro activism or radicalism in Guam. Prior to World War II, the ways in which Chamorros were radicalized, in particular against the United States were far and few between. Individuals who were vocally or openly critical of the United States Navy and its policies were very rare, and only in a handful of families was this critique passed down and became a party of their legacy or identity.

Everything changed however in postwar Guam and the reason was tano' or land. The trauma of the postwar massive landtakings by the United States military became something which could radicalize any Chamorro, from a soldier, to a nurse, a teacher or a student and turn them into not just a single activist, but part of family of activists or part of multiple generations of activists within a clan, who were all openly critical of the United States military and government.

I wrote three years ago in a post titled "The Federal Bitchalism" that in the minds of many the land struggles of the postwar era are finished, manmunhayan. Thousands of acres of excess Federal lands have been returned over the decades. The Chamorro Land Trust act was written and eventually implemented, and so was the Ancestral Lands Commission. But despite these small gains, land still continues to be a contentious issue on Guam.

According to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the military buildup, the military plans to try to lease at least 2300 acres of privately and publicly held land. The document claims that the majority of any land which will be taken is not privately owned, but owned by the Government of Guam through the Chamorro Land Trust. These 2300 acres would be added to the amount that the military already controls on island, which is over 40,000 acres, roughly 28% of all land on Guam.

Landowners, their families and businesses on the eastern coast of Guam, around the areas of Sasahayan Valley, Pagat, Marbo Caves, Laguna and the Guam Raceway Park have all been very vocal lately about their desire to not have their land leased or taken from them. It is this area of the island where most of the new lands would be acquired in order to make way for a live-fire training range for the newly transferred Marines.

Last month I attended the public hearing at the Legislature for a resolution which would strongly oppose the military condemning any new properties. Over the course of the day more than 100 people attended, with more than 30 speaking in favor of the resolution and arguing that the military does not need anymore land on Guam. This was the first, very real indication for me that the island was starting to shift on the buildup, that people who weren't just maladjusted activists like myself, were starting to see how it would affect them, or how it might be an unfair process.

Although I should note, that the landowners who become a part of the public resistance to the buildup and critique of it, are part of the same coalition I wrote of yesterday, and give it an aura of strength, diversity and concreteness, but also make it more delicate and sensitive. The rhetoric of the majority of landowners who have been publicly critical of this buildup is that they support the buildup, but that they just don't want their land to be taken. Or as former Guam Senator Ted Nelson argued, that they support the buildup, but that it should happen within their own fences.

It is very possible that if JGPO announced that no new lands would be taken by the buildup, most of those landowners would disappear in the struggle, once their interest in it had been protected or resolved. But we still should not discount the power that even their temporary presence has in terms of creating a more abstract argument, more concrete for the rest of us. By hearing their stories, by seeing them in public speaking out, some people see them as self-interested people, only protecting themselves and their assets, but others make a larger connection to Guam and what it is. They use those families and their stories as evidence to support an argument that Guam is small and that the military already has too much land and doesn't need anymore. And that if Guam's population is going to increase as much as they say it is, then that land should be available to the people outside the fences. Even if, their only critique is mungga mahakot i tano'-hu, it still gives a very real face to the issue, to the problem, it revives a traumatic history of displacement and land loss for Chamorros.


Military negotiates with 3 landowners

By Brett Kelman
Pacific Daily News
January 11, 2010

The military is already negotiating with the three landowners whose property will most likely be absorbed into the new firing range on Guam's northeast coast.

On Thursday night, retired Maj. Gen. David Bice, executive director of the Joint Guam Program Office, said he was certain the landowners and the Department of Defense will reach an agreement that benefits everyone.

"We've talked to those landowners, and I am very confident that we can reach an agreement," Bice said. "I'm a landowner, I'm a farmer. I know about land rights and property rights ... I am not going to be involved with any process that takes other people's land."

Bice was so certain an agreement would be reached that he declined to discuss what would happen if parties didn't see eye to eye. He would not discuss "speculation."

Sen. Judith Guthertz, who is chairwoman of the Legislature's buildup committee, is not so confident the landowners will part with their property.

"I think he's wrong," Guthertz said. "I know some of the families he is speaking of."

Although Bice said only three landowners are likely to be affected by the construction of the firing range, land acquisition has quickly become one of the most combative issues brought on by the coming military buildup.

Pagat Cave

The buildup will require the Department of Defense to expand its borders and place access restrictions for civilians to some land it owns. At the center of this issue is a large tract of land near Pagat Cave where a firing range will be built.

On Dec. 29, 2009, more than 50 people attended a public hearing on a legislative resolution against the condemnation of local property. More than 30 of them spoke in favor of the resolution, while only one spoke against it.

Some of them are concerned residents who have land in the valley area near Marbo Cave, Bice said. They are "inappropriately worried" their land will be acquired, but it's unlikely, he added.

The ridgeline is the primary site for the firing range and the valley is the backup. And the ridgeline is preferred by a wide margin, Bice said.

According to the draft Environmental Impact Statement, nearly all of the land on the ridgeline belongs to GovGuam, not individuals.

Community concern

On Friday, Guthertz said it didn't matter if the military wanted the land of one family or a thousand. They had an island full of support, she said.

Many of Guam's residents are still angry the military took land from local people after World War II and didn't fairly compensate them, she said. The island felt indebted and the military took advantage of them, she said.

This frustration runs deep, she said.

"They just really hate the idea because they feel there was a lot of injustice done," Guthertz said.
Although some protesters may not own any land that will be acquired for the coming military buildup, they are still concerned their fellow islanders will be taken advantage of again, Guthertz said.

"(Bice) shouldn't assume because it's only one to three families they will voluntarily agree to sell or lease their land, even if he has a hammer over their head ..." Guthertz said.

If the military makes an offer that the private landowners actually want, no one should object to the transfer of land, Guthertz said.

Public lands

The military must also acquire some public land from GovGuam that isn't owned by any single resident but is shared by the community.

The Defense Department is already discussing the acquisition of this land with local leaders, like the governor and senators, to broker a deal, Bice said.

"Everyone is looking for the highest and best use in terms of any potential compensation for that," Bice said. "Having had discussions with everyone -- with all stakeholders -- I am convinced that we are going to reach an agreement."

For John Sarmiento, a discussion with local leaders isn't good enough.

Sarmiento, 17, is a member of We Are Guahan, a group protesting the buildup and draft EIS.

During a public hearing on Thursday night, Sarmiento said the buildup hadn't been planned on the terms of average citizens.

The buildup became inevitable before it was ever discussed with the public, he said.

"It was an order handed down, and then we were informed. We were never part of the dialogue like they say we were," Sarmiento said. "Even if the Legislature or the governor do represent the people, I think they failed on their part to really connect with us."

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Buildup/Breakdown #3: The Boonie Stompers

Most people think that a successful social movement or coalition is dependent upon people thinking the same things, coming from the same places, or being on the same page. Its easy to believe this sort of thing, since if let's say we're all Chamorro in a group, or we're all students, or we're all people who play World of Warcraft, we'd all understand each other better and get along better.

Commonsensically, este i minagahet. Yanggen mamparehu i taotao siha, siempre manakonfotme siha. But, when we are talking about a social movement, a public collection of people who are working towards tearing something down, building something and changing a society, the opposite is actually true. Your movement is stronger, the more different types of people are involved, and the more open your group appears to be.

One of the weaknesses of activism on Guam is the impression that those who are involved in it all comes from same place, are all culled from the same social source. They are all people who just want land. They are all people on welfare. They are all just crazy Chamorros. As a movement which seeks to change something, you are weakened by this perception, because in terms of gaining support for whatever you are fighting for, it is easy to dismiss your movement as a mere slice of life. Not a substaintial group, not really representing Guam as a whole, but just un kaduku na patte. Manmafa'sahnge hamyo, ya ti mamparehu yan i manmagahet na taotao Guahan. Robert "the Awesome" Underwood wrote about this in his seminal essay "The Consciousness of Guam and the Maladjusted People," in the equally seminal anthology Chamorro Self-Determination.

An effective social movement works on the same principle as an effective political party, the more inclusive it is, the more it appeals to a wide range, and the more it is perceived as being diverse and an "open tent," the stronger it is. If we think back to the trauma of being a child and the way we divide ourselves into cliques and groups, we may all want to be in an exclusive group where, where we can feel like our identity is secure and safe. But in truth, these are not the groups that we would all actually join. It is established and open groups and movements which draw the most people, partially because of the ease of joining, but also because there is less threat to the identitiy of the one joining. If we think about this, why are Democrats and Republicans the powerful political parties on Guam? Its not because they have hardcore diehard believers or that their ideological principles are carved into stone and may not be deviated from for fear of mau'utot i ilu-mu. Democrats and Republicans are the big popular parties on Guam because they are open, because there is no social or personal cost to join them, you simply join them. You don't have to pledge allegaince to anything, you don't have to attend meetings, you don't all need to believe the same thing. The party and the loose forms of ideology just sit around and it is up to you to make use of it in your life.

Now neither of these political collections might be very useful for really changing the island, but any attempt to form a coalition of people to seek reform or revolution, must still take this principle of joining and interpollating seriously. When I talk about decolonization I always try to infuse these ideas into how I approach the concept and its politics. In order to get the majority of Guam's people involved, it is not about manipulating people to get involved, but carving out spaces for Chamorros and non-Chamorros alike to feel like then can be involved first, and second that they should/must be involved. So for instance, for me, the success of any efforts to decolonize the island (especially politically) isn't about building consciousness in Chamorros, but about creating that political coalition which can make it possible. That means, attempting to bring in as many people as you can. As I wrote last October in most post Yobimizu:

For me decolonization is not something which only "crazy" activists are out caring about, or some abstract idealized spiritual/cultural process, its not even some kernel of consciousness which you can claim to have through the retelling of Angel Santos stories. It is something that I not only play a role in bringing about, but that I play a role in shaping, and its for that reason that I take it very seriously. And one of the issues which I feel is so important in making different kinds of decolonization a reality, is confronting those questions of Guam's political identity and where the island's indigenous people fit. As I'm sure I've talked about before on this blog and will talk about again, political decolonization rests on carving out that place for non-Chamorros. And by place I don't mean letting them vote in a plebiscite or simply coming up with a good argument as to why someone from the Philippines or Korea should support Chamorro self-determination. It means actually building a new community, it means reclaiming Guam in a radically different spirit, not on bred through the apathy of American colonialism and dependency, but something else.

The island is absolutely fired up right now and that is very exciting. Guaha mansinisilo' put este. Guaha manmumumu. Guaha mangueguentos a'gang. But in order to judge the political effectiveness of what is going on, we have to be able to perceive how many different types of identities are within this public movement. What is drawing people to this? What are they invested in? How long will they stay? The more answers that you can come up with to why people are becoming involved the stronger, but also more delicate the movement is. People still feel the pull that those who I am in a struggle with, I must be able to trust, I must know them, we must believe the same things. This is the core struggle of building coalititons is balancing particular interests of parties involved, but still maintaining that large tent of identity, so your larger message can still be a strong public force, can still gain momentum and be seen as a vehicle for changing or running society.

I've been heartened in recent weeks by the fact that The Guam Boonie Stompers, who lead regular hikes around Guam have gotten involved in critiquing the buildup. Most people would perceive The Guam Boonie Stomper crowd to be very different than the Chamorro activist crowd, and I wouldn't necessarily disagree with this. But since there is a very key shared interest that these groups hold about the buildup, namely the protection of certain public, historic and beautiful natural sites, and the ensuring that the public still has access to them, why shouldn't they work together? Or why shouldn't they become part of the same coalititon?

The Boonie Stompers have even gone so far to purchase ads in the Pacific Daily News which call upon the people of Guam to resist the aspects of the buildup which will cut off access to sites such as Pagat, Ague Cove, Laguna, Mount Lamlam and the island's Southern Mountains. They have also organized a list of hikes taking place in January and February of this year, which will take people on key hikes that the buildup could either permanently or partially cut off access to. I've included a list and schedule of their hikes below.
On January 2nd, a coalititon that I'm part of called We Are Guahan ended up organizing a hike to Pagat Cave on the same day and time as a Boonie Stompers hike. All in all, more than 100 people that day hiked around the Pagat area experiencing its contemporary beauty and its historic significance. The combined impact of both hikes, of one being a youth radical mainly Chamorro hike, taking part in something with the Boonie Stompers, which is perceived to be older and made up of military or non-locals looking to get to know Guam better ended up creating alot of buzz and exposure and helped both our groups individually, as well as our shared causes.

The BOONIE STOMPERS Hikes for Public Access

The Boonie Stompers will lead hikes to three areas where the public will not be able to access after military buildup. It will also lead hikes to two places where access could be limited. Boonie stompers meet at 9 a.m. Saturdays at the Chamorro Village food court area.

•Pagat Cave -- Jan. 2

The hike: Stompers will travel to a candlelit underground swimming pool, an ancient Chamorro village and a scenic coastline. Medium difficulty; three hours for 1.3 miles

Buildup impact: Cave sits inside a large portion of land the military will reserve for a new firing range. Learn more in Volume 2-12 at

•Ague Cove -- Jan. 9

The hike: Stompers will descend a modest cliff line off Guam's northwest shore to access a cove ideal for swimming and snorkeling. Medium difficulty; three hours for 1 mile.

Buildup impact: Ague Cove and the trail that leads there will be inside a new military facility. The Draft EIS states the public won't be able to access a popular trail in the area. Learn more in Volume 2-12 at

•Lajuna -- Jan. 16

The hike: Stompers will descend a cliff line along the northern coast and head north to view a massive landslide leftover from an earthquake in 1993. Difficult; More than four hours for 4 miles

Buildup impact: This is also inside the land reserved for the military's new firing range, so it will face the same restrictions as Pagat Cave.Learn more in Volume 2-12 at

•Mount Lamlam -- Jan. 23

The hike: Stompers will explore the ridgeline of Guam's tallest peak. Difficult; four hours for 3 miles.

Buildup impact: Mount Lamlam is inside a large tract of Department of Defense land that will become a training ground for Marines three months a year. The Navy has stated it will allow hikers there as long as the Marines aren't there.Learn more in Volumes 2-2 and 2-12 at

•Southern Mountains to Inarajan Falls -- Jan. 30

The hike: This trek cuts through the southern third of the island, over a series of mountains. Very difficult; seven hours for 9.8 miles.


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