Showing posts from May, 2015

Quest for Decolonization #10: In the Shadow of Leftists

There are so many interesting things when traveling to different parts of the world. Environments and landscapes change. Languages and cultures change. The sense of time can feel different. The referents that we use to pin down meaning, to create social and cognitive maps shift. It can be disorientating in a very fundamental sense. You rely on certain things to give a sense of stability. Certain things to be understood by those around you. When those shift it can be bewildering. 

One thing that I've found most interesting from the two UN regional seminars that I've attended, both in Latin America, is the way the pantheon of historical referents shifts. In a Guam context, there are certain figures that can be safely and comfortably referred to and provide a stable sense of communal meaning. Magellan, Yokoi, Hurao, Kepuha, San Vitores, the Archbishop, various Governors, maybe some MMA fighter or a Chamorro musician. People may debate their legacy, their social value or pulsing me…

Quest for Decolonization #9: Blood, Veins, Wounds and Scars

Someone once told me that Nicaragua is a land of wounds. If Latin America is a land of open veins, Nicaragua is a land of wounding after wounding. Since becoming independent from Spain in the early 19th century, it has gone through regular periods of social upheaval and repression, generally with the United States playing some form of oppressor. In the 1850's a US mercenary and would be monarch William Walker took over the country and re-instituted slavery. Although the US government didn't necessarily fund and organize his private imperial venture, they recognized his facade of a government, as it would be one where they were certain it would follow their interests. Walker was expelled by a coalition of local Central American leaders who all detested the power that the United States and its economic and military emissaries tended to wield over their local affairs.

As the United States saw Latin America as their sphere of influence, they closely monitored any potential interf…

Quest for Decolonization #8: Taigue Ta'lo

In the United Nations there are various ways of "protesting" or challenging something. At the regional seminar this year, like most years, the usual verbal sparring took place between countries and colonies. The Falkland Islands or Malvinas are off the coast of Argentina, but are a longtime colony of the UK. A war took place over them several decades ago, which Argentina soundly lost. The Argentinian delegate to the seminar always asserts the right of his country over the islands. The representatives of the Falklands always challenge and counter that. The Latin American countries will always come to the aid of Argentina, all proclaiming that the Malvinas are part of Argentina! Sometime these exchanges wake up the attendees, sparing them from more dreary diplomatic time gnashing. Other times, they are so used to the angry spitting of accusations that this is more boring than the usual tame speech reading and droning posturing.

But the more passive aggressive way of protestin…

Quest for Decolonization #7: Decolonial Deadlocks

Although the world could probably agree on the fact that colonial should no longer exist and be eradicated from the world, this does not mean that much of the world will lift a finger to do anything about it. The consensus over something can in a way kill the possibility of doing anything about it. It is an interesting dynamic that creates this effect. The more people agree that something should not exist, the more they tend to assert its existence as being marginal and small. Or that it contemporary emergence is irregular and unique, it does not represent much of the world save for itself. The fact that all can agree on colonialism being eradicated also creates the impression that it is beyond contestation or beyond intervention. For instance, almost everyone in the world would agree to some form of the notion that "politicians are corrupt." The commonsensical quality of this can be problematic. The larger and wider spread a notion like this is, the more difficult it can b…

Quest for Decolonization #6: Liberation Theology with Father Miguel D'Escoto

This year's regional seminar featured two keynote addresses by Father Miguel D'Escoto, a longtime priest, champion of human rights and a former President of the United Nations General Assembly. He has been a very controversial figure because of his outspoken criticism of the United States in particular. As a priest in Nicaragua he was very supportive of the Sandanista Revolution even to the point of joining the government of Daniel Ortega and serving as the Minister of Foreign Affairs. For this and his other explicitly political activities he was suspended by Pope John Paul II in 1985. He was reinstated last year after he reportedly petitioned the current Pope that the 81 year old be allowed to perform mass again before he dies.

His speeches last week were fiery. He did not pull punches in condemning the United States for its lack of respect for international law. He criticized it for the wars it is carrying out around the world. He admonished it for its role in making Latin …

Quest for Decolonization #5: The List

The United Nations keeps a list of non-self-governing territories or places that remain colonies today that require assistance in achieving decolonization. At one point this list, after World War II, the UN recognized 72 colonies. Over the years world events and the United Nations have helped push this matter to the point where there are only 17 territories left in the world that the UN recognizes as colonies.
These territories are:
Western Sahara Anguilla Bermuda British Virgin Islands US Virgin Islands Cayman Islands St. Helena Falkland Islands Montserrat Turks and Caicos Islands Gibraltor American Samoa French Polynesia New Caledonia Tokelau Pitcarin Island Guam
They are all primarily small islands in the Pacific and the Atlantic. Most of them are colonized by either the US or the UK. They go by many names. Territories. Overseas Territories. Possessions. Unincorporated Territories. Protectorates.
It is good that the United Nations keeps this list, but if you are looking for an …

Quest for Decolonization #4: The Most Famous Chamorro of All...

My students often ask me, "Who is the most famous Chamorro?"

Meaning which Chamorro has achieved the most, has achieved fame or stardom? Which Chamorro is a household name, not just in Guam or the Marianas, but in the world? Are they any Chamorros out there who can represent the island, the culture and the people to the billions of people who aren't Chamorro and don't even know what Guam or a Chamorro is?

There are lots of Chamorro musicians, some of whom have achieved minor fame outside of the Pacific, such as Johnny Sablan and Pia Mia. There are Chamorro athletes, many of whom are baseball players, but with the rise of fighting culture on Guam, we have seen some Chamorros truly shine in that regard. There are even a few Chamorro actors and filmmakers out there, although it can be hard to miss them when they appear in the periphery of major films. There are even Chamorros that have won Grammy Awards and Pulitzer Prizes.

But who should receive the honor as the most f…

Quest for Decolonization #3: Small Lands, Big Dreams

The person in charge of this year's UN Regional Seminar is Xavier Lasso Mendoza, Chairman of the Special Committee, who is from Ecuador. He gave a short speech which began the first day, where he outlined the tasks we hope to accomplish and gave us some words of encouragement. He quoted part of the poem "Retorno" by Nicaraguan poet Ruben Dario. The words have stuck with me the entire time I've been here.

"Si pequeña es la Patria, unu grande la sueña"

This translates to, "If the homeland is small, one dreams it large." 

This is an important reminder for the Non-Self-Governing Territories or colonies of today, as many of them are small islands, with small populations who by the way most people (including those in those islands) tend to see the world today, are far too small and too faraway to ever become independent or achieve decolonization. As colonies we are bred to see ourselves as the stuck, dependent, lower end of every binary and regardless…

Quest for Decolonization #2: Statement from the UN Secretary General

The Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon wasn't able to attend the Regional Seminar in Nicaragua this year, but he did send a statement which was read by Josiane Ambiehl who is the Chief of the UN's Decolonization Unit. In the statement she referenced several issues that would be recurring themes at this year's seminar. 


19 May 2015 SG/SM/16764-GA/COL/3276 Secretary-General, at Caribbean Decolonization Seminar Opening, Says Constructive Engagement, Sustained Efforts Essential to Fully Eradicate Colonialism  Press Release
UN Secretary-General

Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message, as delivered by Josiane Ambiehl, Chief of the Decolonization Unit, Department of Political Affairs, for the opening session of the Caribbean Regional Seminar on the Implementation of the third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism:  the United Nations at 70 — taking stock of the decolonization agenda, in Managua today:

It gi…

Rich White Families

Racism is such a difficult thing to discuss.

Wait, nangga un ratu. It isn't a difficult thing to explain necessarily.

Esta meggai matuge' put este. Guaha diferentes na theories put hafa este na fuetsa gi lina'la' taotao.

We can clearly explain its role in creating structures of inequality and normalizing systems of violence.

Lao hafa i minappot?

I patten tinaotao.

Racism is not difficult to explain. Ti mappot maeksplika.

It is difficult to discuss, because discussion assumes a conversation and this is limited by what the person you are talking to is able to process or able to admit to.

I mina'mappot i diniskuti i chi-na i hinasso i ume'ekungok yan i kumukuentos tatte.

Discussing racism means engaging in a number of topics that people would rather not address.

The idea of post-racism today is predicated on the belief, hope that if we just don't mention it, all is well.

Ya humuyongna, ayu i manangan put rasa pat rinasa, guiya i "racist."

The strange…