Saturday, May 09, 2015

The Lost Latte

The latte stones that we find at Angel Santos Memorial Latte Stone Park in Hagatna are some of the most iconic on Guam. They are larger than most on island and found in a central location in the historic Hagatna area. Tens of thousands of tourists visit them each year. The late Angel Santos, a Chamorro human rights activist and Maga’lahi of Nasion Chamoru loved to meditate around those stones. When Nasion Chamoru first came into being as an activist group, they declared their existence in a ceremony at that very park, surrounded by those latte and the spirits of the Chamorro aniti or ancestors that they represented. A statue of him will be unveiled soon, which helps to mark the space as not just one of commemoration, but one of transformation and possible critique.

While for so many these stones represent the minesngon of the Chamorro people, and their history, their culture, like remnants of a lost time, they represent so much more than that. There is a sign there next to the latte that sums up their existence. Although to so many they connect these latte to the village of Hagatna, they are not from Hagatna. They come from the ancient village of Mepo, which is in the Fena Area in the South. This is known today as Naval Magazine, a military facility known for storing weapons for the US military.

These latte were moved to Hagatna during the construction of Naval Magazine, at a time when a huge number of Chamorro artifacts were destroyed. These latte however were spared and were brought to Hagatna as a gift for the Chamorro people. They are as much a testament to the tragic and violent history militarization of this island as they are to Chamorro culture. They are also a continuing statement on the displacement and dispossession of the Chamorro people on Guam and how this history is continually erased in order to create the impression of us just being “Guam USA” or the “Tip of the Spear.”

It is perfect in a way that these latte be there as they provide a perfect example of what Angel Santos and others were fighting for and also fighting against. They were fighting for the preservation of Chamorro culture and values and lands, but they were also trying to counter the displacement that has happened over the past few generations because of Americanization and militarization. 

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