Sunday, June 18, 2017

Mensåhi Ginen i Gehilo' #25: Hagåtña, 1899

I'm working on an exhibit for Humanities Guåhan, and its put me back into researcher/scholar mode. I've been pouring through books and reports for the past week looking for various bits and pieces of information. Part of this meant re-reading some books and archival documents I hadn't touched in over a decade. Given the way in which conversations over decolonization and self-government have begun to take on a new character lately, I was particularly attracted to passages that can help me or others reflect on our development over time, how far Chamorros and Guam may have come, or haven't, especially in the context of their political connection to the US.

There are many ways that we can say that Guam has changed over the past 500 years or over the past 100 years. As we remain in the era of American colonialism, I am mostly concerned with the impact of the US and its policies. As I have written about in a variety of ways, these changes are tangible and very real, but also amount to a shifting of the surface of the political relationship between Guam and its colonizer. The island is not ruled over by Naval commanders anymore. Chamorros have at least the semblance of everyday rights unlike in the past. But the basic legal decisions and policies are still in place, they haven't changed. That is why it is so ridiculous that as a territory, we invest our energy in pretending that we are just like any other part of the United States, rather than learning about our real position, so that we have a basic ability to understand it and possibly change it.

In 1899, Chamorros sat on the edge of a new era of their history. After hundreds of years of largely being shut out of the governing of their island, the old colonizer was leaving and a new, ambitious one, that seemed to smell of freedom and new opportunities was arriving. Chamorros would debate at the time over whether it would have been better to stay under the Spanish or eagerly accept the new colonizer. The rhetoric of the US, its branding as being a place of democracy and liberty found its way into the debate, although it soon proved laughable, as the US didn't bring either democracy or liberty to Guam, but instead five decades of military government.

Below is a list of Chamorros who were employed by that US Naval government when it was first established in 1899. They represented a generation that hoped that their people would have new opportunities under the new regime and for some became far more patriotically attached to the new master than most of their brethren. Their patriotism wouldn't be repaid in their own lifetimes, as Chamorros only received a modicum of self-government after World War II. But the larger vision of Chamorros gaining respect and a chance at real self-government still has yet to be realized.


Atanasio Perez, official translator
Nicolas Lazaro, record keeper
Lorenzo Franquez (town crier), captain of the militia
Pedro Namauleg, leper hospital assistant
Juan de Torres, paymaster
Joaquin Diaz, chief clerk
Manual Untalan, clerk
Demetrio Quitugua, Agaña city clerk
Vicente Camacho, assistant registrar
Juan del Rosario, Agaña jailer

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