Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Mensahi Ginen i Gehilo' #22: Biba UOG Press!

After World War II, Chamorros launched into a period of aggressive Americanization, which you could argue is still going on until today. This Americanization had many levels and dimensions to it. There were clear desires amongst most Chamorros take on the material and consumer comforts America seemed to offer. There were also clear moves by some to ensure that there children were properly or at least passably Americanized, most notably through the refusal to use the Chamorro language with them. There were frameworks of economic, social and political dependency that were created and eventually celebrated by Chamorros themselves. There were also dramatic shifts in lifestyle due to land loss and trauma from the war, which made things such as cultural maintenance difficult because occupations and life-ways were changing so quickly.

Alot of these shifts could not be helped, but simply came about because the US is so much larger than Guam, and it produces ideological content and material goods at such an astounding rate, it seems to justify laziness in terms of local production. Why should Guam conceive an educational system that fits its cultures or its needs, when the US, allegedly the greatest country in the world has their own system that we can borrow? Why should Chamorros create their own movies or books when the US pumps out movies and New York Times bestsellers constantly, and surely everything they could create would be light-years better than what we could make? Why should Chamorros do much of anything when the US has so much already and we can simply eat at whatever drops from their fancy dinner table? You can see here a nexus of colonial authority, colonial dependency, economic limitations, feelings of cultural inferiority all mesh together to sustain postwar Americanization.

We see this in the way prior to World War II, all of the government and most of the private infrastructure was run by outsiders. Even though Chamorros did create a slew of private, mainly small cottage industries towards the end of the prewar period, the US Naval Government and then prominent former sailors who had married Chamorro women, foreign nationals primarily from the Philippines and Japan held most power over what was in stores, what ended up in the limited media and so on. But after the war, Chamorros become far more prominent in terms of making public meaning or having a substantial place in civil society. They occupy positions in government, they become captains of industry. But the nexus of Americanization persists and doesn't dissipate. That's why even when Chamorros have control over the Guam Department of Education, they largely accept the frameworks provided by the colonizer which made them feel inferior and primitive just a generation earlier. We also see that even as media becomes more available locally, Chamorros do not use these networks in order to create locally focused media, especially media that is creative in nature. Sure there are radio stations and news channels, that tells local stories, but there was little to no effort to create Chamorro tv shows, books, or other literary art forms. The only exception to this is Chamorro music.

The lack of these materials just feed into feelings of dependency and feelings of Americanization. Not only did Chamorros feel that they needed the US to be lord over them in order for the island to be stable, prosperous and educated, now they also needed the US in order to be entertained. And one of the most intriguing aspects of life is that most people draw far from from their identity or worldview from media that is fictional and not necessarily meant to be taken seriously, than that which is explicitly designed to reflect in literal terms. People draw their identities from creative forms, entertainment media, which reflects the world through things such as satire, parody, metaphor and other symbolism, than non-fiction texts or journalism. The desire that most Chamorros felt to Americanize in the immediate postwar years led to them simply accepted and importing media into the island without thinking about any impact, and then led subsequent generations without a healthy creative imaginary to see their people and their place in the world.

Times are changing, albeit slowly. More books are appearing, some of them published by myself and my brothers. This article below on the relaunching of UOG Press gives me hope for the future.

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University of Guam relaunches publishing house UOG Press
by Kyla Mora
December 3, 2016
Pacific Daily News

Psychology professor Andrea Santos hadn't been at the event very long before her arms were filled with books.

“Christmas shopping,” she explained as she heaved her stack of books, all copies of the Chamorro/English children’s book "Sumahi and the Karabao."

“I recently moved back to Guam, so I’m buying these as baby books for friends back in the states,” Santos said. Before she left, she had all her copies signed by both the book’s illustrator and author, brothers Jack and Michael Lujan Bevacqua.

On the other side of the room, Erlinda Montecalvo and her husband, Ray Leon Guerrero, paged through a book on local butterflies.

“We picked up this book because we have a bunch of butterflies at the house, and we’re seeing a lot of them in here,” Montecalvo said. “It’s a really good book. There’s so much information in it.”

They were just some of the many book lovers, academics and members of the community who gathered at the University of Guam Student Center Dec. 2 to celebrate the launch of a new website for UOG Press, the University’s publishing house, based at the Micronesian Area Research Center.
The celebration and holiday book fair showcased texts published through the university press, including books, informational reports, academic journals and faculty work.

Visitors browsed the new website, which offers a full catalog of available texts and educational resources from MARC Publications and Taiguini Books, the two major publishing components of UOG Press.

“My dream has always been to help writers and lovers of books have a space where they can find books about us. Growing up, the majority of the books we read in school didn’t reflect us,” managing editor Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero said. “UOG is committed to keeping these books in print, getting them into our schools, and getting them into our community.”
With a press operation focused on publishing and keeping in print works of research and literature about the region, Leon Guerrero hopes the new website will be a resource for readers and local writers who aspire to publish.

“We have a section on our website with submission guidelines. If you or anyone you know loves to write and dreams of publishing, we hope that you’ll turn to us as a publisher,” Leon Guerrero said.
Readers can purchase publications, but also find many free works from MARC and various university disciplines. Additionally, Leon Guerrero said, the press has published four Chamorro children’s books and will continue to produce cultural literature for adults and children.

The website also will serve as a selling venue for local books that haven't received wide distribution.
“We’re really here to contribute to this amazing literary community that this island already has,” Leon Guerrero said.

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