Saturday, March 24, 2018

Circumnavigations #7: Guma'Cervantes

While in Valladolid, on a chilly afternoon, I walked through a house with cramped staircases and low hanging doorways. There were small beds in darkened corners. Aged chairs and paintings. Iron pots and kitchen implements. No doubt much of what was in there, had been placed for effect, but you could still feel the age. This house is known as Case de Cervantes, it was a home where the writer Miguel Cervantes stayed in the early 17th century. Today it is a small museum that features small bits of information about the writer's life. You will also find similar Case de Cervantes in other parts of Spain.

Miguel Cervantes is best known for his book Don Quixote, and called the greatest writer in the Spanish language and the first modern novelist. Historians of nationalism are always quick to remind us that the political history of a place doesn't have as much of a role in creating national identity as historians usually imply. Arts and culture, can play a much more profound role in being shared sources of enjoyment, things that all people who are on a common national journey, can refer to and draw their identity from.

While I was leaning against against the wall at Casa de Cervantes, taking in the place around me, my mind began to wander. Different languages were floating past me, English, Spanish, Chinese, German as different tourists walked through the halls. It dawned on me then that I hadn't really spoken Chamoru for several days. Even though I had typed it quite a bit, and I use it when I'm talking to myself, I hadn't spoken to anyone else in Chamoru for about a week. That made me wonder, had these walls ever heard the Chamoru language before? Had a Chamoru ever visited this museum? Or even more intriguing, had a Chamoru visited a house like this in the time of Cervantes? Had a Chamoru made it all the way to the center of the Occident during the 16th or 17th centuries?

In truth, most definitely.

At the time of Cervantes, Guam had been incorporated into the Spanish empire formally through the claim of Legaspi, but it had not yet been colonized. San Vitores and his mission to bring Christianity to the savages of the Ladrone Islands was still decades away. Magellan had stopped in Guam, and other ships that followed also made landfall in Guam, but none of them initiated prolonged contact or colonization. The Ladrones, which later became known as the Marianas, had been determined to have no gold, no spices or anything else of tremendous value in the age, and so when ships stopped they did so to get supplies such as food and water, but also Chamorus.

From the earliest examples of European contact, Chamorus were already being snatched away, usually against their will. We have accounts of some being taken to work as assistants to priests or on ships, some being taken as slaves to work in the bowels of the ship or as servants for travelers. Chamoru women most likely were also taken to be sexual slaves or forced wives for sailors. Europeans interpreted the nakedness of the savages they met to mean they were highly sexualized and could be used with impunity. I have seen accounts of this from the Philippines and the Americas, but never from Guam, but I am certain such horrific takings did take place.

We know that through these takings Chamorus made their way to the Philippines and Mexico, which represented the two ends of the Spanish empire in the Pacific. It is possible that some would have made it across to the Spanish Lake of the Caribbean, and if they had proven themselves to be good sailors or servants, perhaps been able to cross the Atlantic, and visit the Iberian capitol of their future colonizer.

Given the ways in which Pacific Islanders have been known for centuries to undergo such fascinating and bewildering voyages, it would not surprise me.

And so for an afternoon I thought about a unique meeting between Cervantes and a well-traveled man from Guam. I imagined that Chamoru man, with an interesting flavor to his Spanish, would tell stories of a giant fish threatening to eat his island, that is only defeated when the women cut their hair and tie it together. Or perhaps he would have regaled him with tales of the mighty Gådao or the tricky Ukudu. They would sit near a fire, the man from Guam, never quite getting accustomed to the cold or the dying seasons of this strange new world, and tell jokes, about what Europeans believe of others and their savagery and remark on how ridiculous the world can be sometimes.

I think I will reread Don Quixote and see if I can pick up any Pacific Island traces in it.

Circumnavigations #6: The First Book Around the World

One of the presenters at the "Primus Circumdedisti Me: Claves de la Primera Globalizacion" conference focused primarily on the life of those who traveled with Magellan on his voyage. What were the things that they ate? How much did they get paid? What were the rules on these ships? What was the hierarchy like? Were captains the lords over these ships and the men like slaves? Or was there some democracy as we see on pirate ships?

Much of this presentation I was already familiar with from my own study and even from the numerous pirate based video games that I enjoy playing. But there was one part that I found particularly interesting, about how men passed the time on the voyages, or what they did for fun.

Trade voyages to the other side of the world, followed known routes, but still took months and years to complete, the level of ennui on these journeys must have been severe on small ships without may diversions, and a crew too poor and too cramped in to bring much with them. But for voyages such as that of Magellan, which lasted for 3 years, and was driven was exploration into what was unknown to Europeans, there would have been a great deal of anxiety, along with long stretches of boredom.

One of the aspects of this age which is least mentioned, but was very common, was sexual relations between the men on board the ships. I was able to find one reference to it during Magellan's trip. One ships' master was caught engaging in sexual relations with a cabin boy. During those days when men undertook dangerous voyages and were not necessarily part of any military or rigid structure of command, executing men was not common, as it would sour the morale. Magellan nonetheless had the master executed, which is noted as one of the many issues that later led to the mutiny against him.

I did also find one reference to women being hidden aboard a ship. After resting in Port St. Julian in what is today Argentina, prior to attempting to reach pass around the southern tip of South America, several sailors tried to sneak on board their ship women they had met. Unfortunately for those desperate men, they were found and dispatched.

In some depictions of sea journeys for the time, sailors play games such as chess, however this was unlikely as obtaining the board and pieces could be very expensive. Cards were a far more affordable option, although even that was sometimes out of a sailor's price range. Dice were the cheapest options and therefore the most common game. Sailors, undeterred by their financial situation, could nonetheless try to carve their own pieces or even make their own cards.

Music was always an options. The cheapest and most convenient form of entertainment would be a song from your own lips or hearing a song from another. Instruments were expensive for your average sailor and not something each would have.

What fascinated me the most about this presentation was when it turned to "collective reading" as a means of leisure or entertainment. Books would be a rare commodity at this time, both in terms of price, but also because of the majority of sailors possibility not being able to read. But this was solved through collective reading, where someone who could read or had the book, would read from it to others.

In the early 16th century, there weren't many options in terms of literature, both for the rich or the poor. There were history books, religious books, perhaps some books that featured knowledge of faraway lands, or specialized knowledge about medicine or astrology. A fiction book as we know it today was still very uncommon.

On Magellan's voyage, the Bible would have been the main book to travel with the crew. But according to the presentation, another book, published just three prior to the start of the attempted circumnavigation, was also taken with them. And it would have been much more exciting to listen to than sections of the Bible.

That book is Orlando Furioso, written by Ludovico Ariosto. It is an epic Italian poem that would be the equivalent of a blockbuster today. It blended together so many genre types, that even though it was very successful for the time, it was criticized by scholars of the day for having a poorly conceived plot. Reading some of the scholarly commentary on it reminds me of film criticism today around Michael Bay films.

For something written in 1516, Orlando Furioso, feels very out of place. It contains action, huge battles and sieges. It contains romance and even sensual parts between lovers. It also has religious overtones. And finally, it contains fantasy and even sci-fi elements, with long voyages one of which takes characters to the moon. For men, traveling long distances without much in the way of comfort, a story like this would have been a huge diversion. Following fights between Christian and pagan warriors. Searches for princesses. A trip aboard a flaming chariot to reach the moon and found someone's lost sanity. Sea monsters and hippogrifs.

I have long enjoyed the story of Orlando Furioso, I first read it with the illustrations of Gustave Dore, who is one of favorite artists. What the men would have taken with them on Magellan's voyage wouldn't have been the complete version of the poem, as that was only published years later. But it would have been enough for me to say that this fascinating and innovative for its time books, was possibly one of the first literary works to travel around the world.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Circumnavigations #5: Magellan's Gift

After attending a conference where everyone couldn't stop talking about Ferdinand Magellan for three days straight, I could not help but think about one of the more intimate ways that the explorer has been invoked within my family. Many Chamoru families will mention Magellan in the usual ways, as the source of civilization, Christianity or modernity, as the limit of Chamoru existence, where prior to Magellan there is primitivity and savagery. They may mention him generically as being the first colonizer or the beginning of the end for the Chamoru people, even though he did not directly colonize Guam, and such a process would begin more than 140 years later under the guidance of Påle' San Vitores. 

The interesting way that my family and in particular my grandfather Tun Jack Lujan, the late Chamoru Master Blacksmith would bring in Magellan's gifts, was through the metaphor of metal. Metal is always brought into play to provide meaning to the early years of European contact. It is the priceless commodity that Chamorus appear to be willing to give up everything in order to obtain. But what I really liked about it though, was that it wasn't so much about chaining Chamorus through dependency, but as you'll read below, more about empowering and recognizing their own strength. 


In 1929, my grandfather Joaquin Flores Lujan was led by his father Mariano L.G. Lujan in the morning darkness behind their home in Anigua to where my great-grandfather had his blacksmith shop. Grandpa was familiar with the shop: people came everyday to trade with his father, and village boys sometimes helped man the bellows or took turns pounding metal. My great-grandfather led him into the shop with a torch, light dancing across piles of unfinished tools and coal, and told my grandfather, "Este i magåhet na irensia-mu.” (This is the legacy of your family.)  "You will carry it on."

My grandfather became a locally and internationally recognized Master of Chamoru Culture for his role in keeping alive the traditions of Chamoru blacksmithing. He passed away in March 2015, just a few days shy of his ninety-fifth birthday.

My grandfather learned the trade throughout his youth. His first task: walking along the beach as the sun struggled its way over the morning horizon, collecting coal that had fallen from U.S. Navy barges that floated from Piti to Hagåtña. Later, he worked on the smaller tools, helping to make the teeth for kamyo or the handle for the soh’soh. As he grew older, he continued to work with in his father’s shop but also was employed as a machinist for the U.S. Navy.

Grandpa’s plan was to save up enough money to leave island, attend college in Hawai’i, and possibly become an engineer. But, as for so many plans made by Chamorus in 1941, the Japanese had something very different in mind. My grandfather spent I Tiempon Chapones continuing to make tools for Chamoru farmers. A Japanese general who had become close to their family gave them special permission to do so, even though the machetes that they made could easily be considered weapons. Grandpa was fortunate enough to later collect one of those machetes made in during World War II. We have it in our family collection and it bears the number 8242, meaning it was completed on August 2, 1942.

The postwar era was a time of dramatic and fast-paced changes, where so many daily features of life for Chamorus, whether it be trades, cultural values, or even the Chamoru language itself, was now considered to be outdated or backwards. Americanization in so many forms was the trend, and blacksmiths recognized this. As more stores opened, and it became more common to import almost every single thing we ate or used, traditional artisans began to disappear, no longer actively passing on their knowledge to the next generation or promoting their skills. In the postwar years, Grandpa worked as a taxi driver, a merchant marine, and, eventually, one of the first Chamoru immigration officers.

In the 1970’s, Grandpa was preparing to retire as a US immigration officer and it was then that he was called back into his father’s shop, which had been relocated up to Agana Heights after the war. As farming had once been the lifeblood for the Chamoru people, the blacksmith was essential in making the tools that they used to plant, to weed, to harvest, to slaughter, even to cut open their precious pugua’. But my great-grandfather had watched as his blacksmithing peers changed their careers and didn’t take on any apprentices, and this trade which he had dedicated his life to was on the verge of disappearing.


My great-grandfather was already close to the end of his days at that point, but he still blacksmithed, and, even though he was no longer the figure of straight-backed, resolute strength that my grandfather had grown up with, he still spoke with the same iron conviction. “Estågue i estoria-ta, estågue i taotao-ta,” he told my grandfather holding up a machete. This trade was the story of the Chamoru people. It was a story that showed that we weren’t stupid when others like Magellan came to our shores. We didn’t want their religion or their clothes, but we wanted their metal because we recognized how it could improve our lives. We took it and used it to sustain ourselves. Grandpa told me this story so many times, and it would change, sometimes slightly, sometimes significantly, in terms of what the moral of his father’s story was. But regardless of how he recounted it, there was always a central idea: “Mungga mana’falingu este na tiningo’.” Keep this tradition alive; do not let it disappear. My grandfather promised to do all he could to keep the tradition of Chamoru blacksmithing alive, and he kept this promise for more than forty years.

He began to blacksmith actively again, displaying tools and selling them. In response to his father’s tales, he started to refer to these Chamoru implements as “survival tools,” because, as he said, as long as you have these tools, you can survive. In 1985, he took on apprentices for the first time, training three fire chiefs. With his students, he traveled around the Pacific Rim, displaying their creations and providing blacksmithing demonstrations, at venues such as the Festival of the Pacific Arts. For his efforts in keeping Chamoru blacksmithing alive, he received numerous awards, being named a Master of Chamoru Culture by the Guam Council on the Arts and Humanities Agency and granted a prestigious National Heritage Award Fellowship in Washington, D.C., in 1996. He remains the only artisan from the Western Pacific to receive this honor. He took on a dozen more apprentices in order to help keep this tradition alive, including myself and my brother Jeremy. His promise to his father seemed complete, especially when, in 2013, one of his first apprentices, Frank Lizama, was recognized as a Master of Chamoru Culture as well for his role in helping keep alive the blacksmithing tradition.

Last year, I conducted a series of presentations with Señot Lizama in Saipan and Rota about Chamoru blacksmithing on behalf of the Saipan Municipal Council.  Señot Lizama has been actively teaching apprentices for several years now and looks to expand his outreach to those interested in the CNMI. Siempre magof si Grandpa put i bidadå-ña i eståba estudiante-ña. Ha na’lå’la’la’ mo’na este na presisu na tiningo’

Due to commitments to my family and my work, I don’t get to blacksmith much anymore. But I relish chances such as this to share the history of Chamoru blacksmithing and its importance to our culture. Over the years as I worked with Grandpa learning his trade and hearing his stories, he would echo the words of his own father frequently: “Este i irensia-mu, Mike. Susteni pat yute’. Hågu la’mon.” I am proud that in the time that we shared I was able to help carry on his legacy and help him keep his promise to his father.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Circumnavigations #4: Re-Discovering Discovery Day

Several years ago, Senator Tommy Morrison was pushing for the reinstatement of Discovery Day as a local, Government of Guam holiday. For those younger or more forgetful than myself, Discovery Day was a holiday created in 1971 to commemorate the "discovering" of Guam by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. It was celebrated until the early 2000s when it was removed as a local holiday. For those who aren't familiar with the festivities associated with Discovery Day, it was normally a time for the southern village of Umatac/Humatak to shine. A fair or carnival would be held in the village, with the highlight of the day being a re-enactment of the arrival of Magellan. 

If you have never been to a Discovery Day before I suggest you go just to witness the surreal nature of this reenactment where Chamoru huts are burnt and Chamoru are killed by a guy in Spanish armor who usually arrives in Umatac Bay via a motorboat. The village of Umatac in particular enjoyed this holiday as it brought the attention of the island to their particular corner. It also provided some economic opportunity for a part of the island that doesn't get much compared to other villages. 

In Morrison's efforts, he thankfully wasn't trying to revive Discovery Day directly. He was much more interested in rediscovering the holiday as a venue for the celebration of Chamoru culture, heritage and history. While Magellan will always be a part of Guam history, it is important when considering something such as this to recall his short, but memorable visit to Guam.

Magellan’s mission was to circumnavigate the globe, to take the pieces that Europeans knew from Asia and the Americas and try to connect the dots, to determine how much ocean or land lay between them. This was necessary because of the way in which the world had been divided into pieces for the navies and merchants of Portugal and Spain to carve up and exploit. The Portuguese controlled the route to Asia that circled south of Africa. The hope for the Spanish was that a route could be found that went around the Americas.  

When Magellan arrived in the waters of the Marianas in March 1521 his men were starving and some very ill. They have been sailing into unknown waters across the Pacific. Guam wasn’t the first land they had spotted on their journey, they had seen other small atolls, which they named the “Unfortunate Islands” because there wasn’t much too them. When they reached Guam however, they were greeted by a lush green island, and a fleet of canoes.

Although “Island of Thieves” is the name that Magellan notoriously gave Guam, and which stuck for centuries, this was not the first name the Europeans invoked. Seeing the canoes and how swiftly they moved in the water they gave Guam a poetic name, the Island of Lateen Sails, based on the design of sail the canoes used. A later European would note that the canoes moved like dolphins jumping from wave to wave.

Chamorus came aboard the ships and things seemed fine at first. Although the usual way the tale is told, Chamorus are amazed and awed by the Europeans. Some accounts of the visit however reveal that Chamorru were not awestruck by the Europeans and seemed to be intrigued but not impressed by their appearance or presence.

Trouble started however when one of the crew slapped one of the Chamoru men. The Chamoru man slapped the sailor back. The sailor promptly drew a machete and tried to strike him down. Chamorus jumped back to their boats and began to throw spears and slingstones. Several groups of Chamorus showed up that day to trade with Europeans. One of them surprised the Europeans by immediately starting to hurl weapons at them once their trade of supplies for metal and glass beads had finished.

Although many European accounts attest to Chamorus having no knowledge of metal and that they were amazed to see it and touch it for the first time, this could be false. Chamorus at that time may have had infrequent contact with peoples of Southeast Asia and the Philippines. Through this trade they would have learned about the value of metal. When Magellan appeared it is possible that they were not amazed by something they had never imagined before. Instead they were excited to see something they already knew about and that the arrival of Europeans represented hopefully a new opportunity to obtain more of the rare material. 

At some point the rope for a skiff was cut and Magellan immediately assumed the Chamorus had done it. His men went ashore and burned down several houses and killed seven Chamorus. One part of this story that is not as frequently mentioned and not usually part of the re-enactment that takes place in Umatac each year, is the request by some of Magellan’s crew that they kill some Chamorus and then take out their intestines and bring them aboard so that those who are sick may eat them. At the time, it is likely that this was a sailor's remedy for illnesses like scurvy. If you ingest the entrails of a healthy person, it may cure your own.

Part of the reason this tidbit is left out is because it calls into question the usual way we understand these stories, namely that one side is civilized the other side is savage.

Magellan left after less than three days in Guam, and sailed on to the Philippines where he was killed in a dispute between chiefs in Cebu. As I’ve heard more than one Filipino say, “Chamorros kept Magellan alive long enough so that Filipinos could kill him.”

The telling of this story in the context of “Discovery Day” obscures one very simple and very obvious truth. Magellan did not discover anything. The Discovery Days of the past have trouble dealing with this simple fact. Magellan may have put Guam on the map of Europeans, but it was on the maps of Chamorus and other peoples in Micronesia for long before that.

Eventually, Morrison's efforts paid off, and thankfully Discovery Day was not re-instated. Instead a new holiday, "Guam History and Chamorro Heritage Day" was created, which allowed a greater focus on Chamoru culture and history. The re-enactment is still a prominent part of the celebration, but at least the re-imagining allows it to move beyond Magellan and become something through which Chamorus can discover and rediscover themselves.


Circumnavigations #3: March 6, 1521

In Magellan's trip across the Pacific, he passed by thousands of islands, the majority of which they did not see. They noticed a few, but they had no resources to offer and only made the voyagers more distressed. Guam and the Marianas were the first landfall they made after months at sea, where many became ill and more than a dozen died. The interactions between Chamorus and Magellan did not go well, and I'll write more about that later. Because of this contact, Magellan's voyage was able to obtain some supplies to help them eventually reach the Philippines less than two weeks later.

As a result, hundreds of years later, Guam still has a small, but secure place in the history of European imperialism and the stories of its mastering of the world. One historian refers to this moment as the first taint of civilization, and if you believe in notions of cultural purity than it is easy to understand or accept that thesis. But even from the general ways these moments of first contact are recounted, it is also easy to assume that while for one side there is a great evolving and awakening of something, for the other there will only be tragedy and losses ahead. But this is one of the ways that historiography, spills into popular memory and imagining. They often reinforce the notion that one side is destined for greatness, while the other is starting the decay that will usher it towards the dustbin of history.

That is why it can be so important to return to that moment again, to see how much of the marketing was real, or how much of what was said or believed was simply inferred or just assumed. Did the natives really believe the men with metal to be gods? Did the lowly natives really fall beneath the cross or sword, acknowledging their inherent power and symbolization of superiority? Could the narratives be trusted since only one side told their story?

I've pasted below the article on Magellan from Guampedia by Carlos Madrid. I like it, because it is straight-forward and to the point, but also because it includes certain elements about the explorer's visit that are usually omitted from popular re-tellings. What is important to remember about these moments is that your people were there, and they were not just victims of history or victims of a historian's pen. They were there and lived and breathed in the moment, and there is as much of a beginning for you and your people in that moment as an end. But you must tell your own story and assert the right to tell your own story for you to perceive that.


From Guampedia
"Ferdinand Magellan"
by Carlos Madrd

Guam’s first European contact

Ferdinand Magellan (1480 – 1521), born in Portugal in 1480 and killed in Cebu, Philippines in 1521, was a Portuguese seafarer and navigator who worked most of his life for Castille, the Spanish throne. In 1520-1521, Magellan commanded an expedition of five ships whose mission was to find a passage around the American continent to the Spice Islands. At the tip of South America, he discovered the strait that now bears his name, but after reaching Asia he was killed in the Philippines. Only one of the remaining two ships with eighteen survivors of the expedition returned to Spain, completing the first circumnavigation of the earth.

Magellan began his life as a seafarer in his native country, Portugal, at the age of twenty-five when he was sent to India on an expedition to secure Francisco de Almeida as viceroy of the Portuguese territories there. A year later, in 1506, he sailed to the Molucas Islands which is known today as Indonesia, where he bought a slave named Enrique or Enriquillo, who accompanied Magellan on all future voyages. In 1513 Magellan was injured during combat in northern Africa, and since then he suffered with a limp.

Magellan fell out of favor with the Portugese Court after taking leave without permission and was accused of trading illegally with the Moors. He knew Spain was looking for a route towards the Spice Islands without crossing the Portuguese area of the world established by the Treaty of Tordesillas, Magellan presented a plan of expedition to Charles V of Spain. The expedition departed from Sanlúcar de Barrameda in Spain on 20 September 1519, with five ships: the flagship Trinidad together with the Victoria, Santiago, San Antonio and Concepcion. On board were approximately 270 men with a wide range of nationalities, including Antonio de Pigafetta, an Italian nobleman who was anxious to take part and chronicle the journey.

Expedition accounts and naming of Ladrones

The chronicle written by Pigafetta is therefore the first known written account of contact between ancient Chamorros and Europeans. This account is the most detailed found today, both in general information about the voyage and in relation to his description of the “Islands of Thieves” or Islas de Los Ladrones, which Magellan named the archipelago after a misunderstanding about property rights. The archipelago was initally named the “Island of Lateen Sails” or Islas de las Velas Latinas as the explorers were amazed by the swiftness, agility and how the Chamorros easily maneuvered the proas which greeted them as they approached the islands.

In addition to Pigafetta’s accounts, there are seven other manuscripts, of the eleven (chronicled by different authors of the expedition) that allegedly once existed, that describe or mention the events of the voyage and the arrival in the Marianas.

According to Pigafetta, the travellers sighted three islands of the Marianas archipelago on 6 March 1521 (or 17 March, according to Ginés de Mafra, another chronicler of the same expedition). The crews were on the verge of starvation. Navarro, the sailor who first sighted land, was rewarded with gold jewellery worth more than 100 ducats for his good eye.

Perceived theft

De Mafra mentions that the first incident between Chamorros and Europeans took place when an officer of the Trinidad “for little cause” slapped one of the islanders, who then slapped him back. The officer returned with a blow of his machete, at which the islanders jumped into the water, returned rapidly to their proas and started to throw spears at the ship, hurting some of the Europeans.

Another group of Chamorros came from shore and went over to the ships and started trading while the first group continued throwing spears. After the trading was concluded, and to the surprise of the Europeans, the second group of Chamorros joined the group that was fighting. Seeing that the number of canoes was increasing, Magellan ordered his crew to stop fighting, after which peace was re-established, and commerce and trade was resumed.

Some islanders cut the rope of one of the skiffs off the Trinidad and took it. Magellan arranged a punishment for this perceived theft, disembarking the next day and setting some settlements on the coast on fire. Seven Chamorros were killed during the attack. Following an old medieval superstition, the European sailors who were sick asked crew members, who took part in the attack, to bring back the entrails of the dead nativs, so that they could eat them and recover their health.

Historic significance

Pigafetta was among the landing party, so in his chronicle he described for the first time some of the customs of the ancient Chamorros and the extraordinary mastery they had over their proas.

The identification of the exact place of Magellan’s landing in the Marianas continues to generate great scholarly debate. Three islands were spotted from the ships, two of them close to each other and the third, a bigger island, off to the north. Although in Guam a tradition refers to the bay of Umatac as the landing site, the logic of the route that the expedition had taken, together with the contradictory testimonies of the surviving accounts, suggests that the site was somewhere to the north of Umatac or even north of Guam itself, possibly on the island of Saipan. It may be logical to suppose that the oral tradition referring to Umatac as a landing site refers to the expedition of Legazpi, who in 1565 disembarked there as many others did over the years.

After two days in the ”Ladrones” or “Islands of Thieves” as they were named by Magellan, the fleet continued its route towards the West. Not long after his visit to the Marianas, Magellan would die in combat in the island of Mactan in Cebu, after taking sides in a local struggle between two chiefs. The Trinidad continued onward back to Spain under the command of Juan Sebastián Elcano. Only eighteen survivors of the original crew arrived once again in Sanlúcar de Barrameda on 6 September 1522.

In many ways, Fernando de Magellan represents a turning point in the history of Guam. His voyage heralded the beginning of a series of intermittent visits to the Marianas, throughout the next 150 years, by foreign navigators. For the indigenous population, these trips represented a series of contacts, often saturated with violence, problems of communication and trickery – as well as the exchange of objects of value. On some occasions, islanders were kidnapped, to be used as guides or as protégés of missionaries.

For the Europeans, the incorporation of news about the existence of an inhabited archipelago with resources for supplying ships and crews marked a milestone in the cartography of the Pacific Ocean, whose vastness was practically unknown until then. In the maps of the 16th century, the “Islands of Thieves” represented the first geographical reference to new lands in the Pacific.

By Carlos Madrid

For further reading

Elcano, Juan Sebastián de, Antonio Pigafetta, Maximiliano Transilvano, Francisco Albo, Ginés de Mafra et al. La Primera Vuelta al Mundo. Madrid: Miraguano-Polifemo Ediciones, 2003.
Rogers, Robert. Destiny’s Landfall: A History of Guam. Honolulu: University of Hawai`i Press, 1995.
Pigafetta, Antonio. Magellan´s Voyage: A Narrative Account of the First Circumnavigation. 2 Volumes. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1969.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Circumnavigations #2: Sumugo' yu giya Seoul...

My trip to Spain took me through South Korea, where I spent seven hours in the Incheon Airport in Seoul.

In the same way that Guam and Okinawa have been connected for years now because of US military plans, so too have Guam and South Korea become connected as well.

Guam has been a potential target for North Korea for many years now, as it is one of the most prominent US bases in the region.

But over the past year the danger to Guam has become far more pronounced, from both sides of the Pacific.

Late last year, North Korean rhetoric became more focused around Guam, far more than it ever had before.

The year before that, Donald Trump was elected President of the US, and his foreign policy approach hasn't been very ideologically based, but seems to be rooted in impulsive Twitter tirades.

Both of them combined mean that people on Guam have no idea what to think or even worry about next.

North Korea is portrayed as a tin pot regime, simply full of bluster one moment, and then the most serious threat to peace in the world today.

Trump gives off the same aura of insanity, albeit in a different way.

He exasperates Guam's already tenuous colonial status.

Where we on Guam don't know from one moment to the next if we are part of the US, and Trump, by being even more erratic than your average US leader, only makes us more cognizant of our lack of stable place in the world.

It doesn't help that when facing threats you don't want a "chaos president."

Don't want someone, for whom it seems, would gladly let your island be consumed in a sea of fire and fury in order to get over some poor golf scores or perhaps a badly cooked cheeseburger.

But one of the most frustrating aspects of the entire debacle is the lack of presence Guam has in the discussion and in the coverage.

I gave several dozen interviews with international and national media last year about the North Korean threat, and much of their focus was on how the people on the island were reacting or feeling.

But I and others, tried to push back on this idea, and assert that the real anxiety and worry comes not from the direct threat necessarily, but the fact that we have no place in the discussion or decisions about said threat. 

That they swirl around you, and even the basic idea that some amorphous government or military is making decisions on your behalf, doesn't feel quite right.

While in Seoul, I spoke to a few South Koreans (those that could speak some English), introducing myself as being from Guam and wanting to know their thoughts on the issue of North Korea.

This conversation will become more important in so many ways, not just in military terms, but in economic ways as well.

It is fascinating how a place such as Guam can be so integrated and connected to other countries, yet because of its political status be part of a globalized community, but feel detached from it.

Part of it is formal, as we don't get to sit down next to other countries and talk about our place in the world, but it is also because of our status, where we feel like those rights belong to the US and not to us.

Formally, Guam is supposed to be excluded from those discussions, but in what ways can we nonetheless force them or create those networks of power?

That is one thing that I will be thinking heavily about, while on this trip.


I will be in Spain this week for the conference "PRIMUS CIRCUMDEDISTI ME: Claves de la primera globalizacion." It is a historical congress being organized primarily by the Spanish Ministry of Defense that will discuss the 500th anniversary of the first circumnavigation of the world by Ferdinand Magellan. I am attending the conference as the representative from Guam, where Magellan visited in March of 1521.

I will be writing about my trip and the congress under the title "Circumnavigations." Not only because of the trip of Magellan itself, but also because of the ways in which Guam and myself are navigating as well, working our way around history and around the global filled with independent nations.

Here is the description of the conference from its website. 



The Spanish Ministry of Defence –in collaboration with the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports, and with the Junta de Castilla y Leon– organizes the International Congress Primus Circumdedisti Me. Keys for the First Globalization. This Congress will be held in the ‘Miguel Delibes’ Cultural Center in Valladolid, from 20 to 22 March, as part of the commemorative events for the 5th Centennial of the first circumnavigation, initiated by Fernando de Magallanes in 1519 and, after his death, culminated by the Spaniard sailor Juan Sebastian de Elcano in 1522.


This Congress –directed by Professor Carlos Martinez Shaw– aims to establish a thorough historical review of the first circumnavigation, taking as the starting point the Capitulations signed in Valladolid, the events under which the expedition took place that, definitely, opened the way to the first globalization, as well as to generate awareness on the Spaniard sailor Juan Sebastian de Elcano and his achievements.

Historic context

On 22 March, 1518, King Carlos I and Portuguese sailor Fernando de Magallanes signed the Capitulations in Valladolid, the settlement agreement through which the Monarch placed at his disposal a fleet of five ships to search and discover the Land of Spices, while being granted the title of Captain of this armada, Governor and Adelantado of the lands he could discover. 
According to the division agreed in the Tordesillas Treaty, Magallanes believed Molucas Islands were located within the Spanish part and not inside Portuguese domains, and, consequently, the monopoly of spices should correspond to the Kingdom of Spain.

Kinentos Trentai Ocho

During the 2016 election, I followed the website FiveThirtyEight on a daily basis.

I found the commentary to be very enlightening, as it wasn't just their reporting about polls, but also their analysis on what makes a poll informative or effective.

The media in general often times picks polls that fit the narrative they are trying to promote, or they have their own internal hierarchy over what makes one poll useful and another less so.

But these critical information points are rarely discussed openly, even if more astute media viewers or consumers can make their own best guesses.

Although after Trump's victory in the election, I stopped consuming that type of poll-focused news.

But as the US mid-term election season is starting up again, and we've ahead a round of very interesting special elections, I've slowly been drawn back to the website.

This type of coverage, in the form of a group chat around the recent apparent Democratic-victory, is what makes it such entertaining, but also educational commentary.

The part with Nate Silver and his caps lock button possibly being on, has to be my favorite part.


Mar. 15, 2018 at

Welcome to FiveThirtyEight’s weekly politics chat. The transcript below has been lightly edited.

micah (Micah Cohen, politics editor): HEYO! When this chat publishes, we’ll be about 36 hours removed from the special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District (apparently won by Democrat Conor Lamb). That’s been more than enough time for narratives and lessons and takeaways to take hold. I’ve chosen what seem to be the most ubiquitous or interesting ones, and we’re going to play a game of buy/sell/hold with PA 18 🔥 takes.
Buy = “I mostly agree with that.”
Sell = “I mostly disagree with that.”
Hold = ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
You all good to go?
clare.malone (Clare Malone, senior political writer): Yeah.
perry (Perry Bacon Jr., senior writer): Yes.
natesilver (Nate Silver, editor in chief): Sure.
micah: OK, Take No. 1, from Vox: The Pennsylvania special election shows the 2018 House battleground is enormous — by one calculation, more than 110 seats could theoretically be in play.
Buy, sell or hold?
natesilver: Buy.
perry: Hold. I could have said “buy,” though — the range of seats that Democrats could win is fairly broad.
clare.malone: I’m a hold on this because I think not every district that President Trump won by 20 points or more (as he did Pennsylvania’s 18th District) is quite the same, and I don’t think Democrats can find a plausible candidate for every one of them. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t or won’t make a play for them.
natesilver: I would point out that it feels like buy/sell/hold is the wrong idiom here, but Micah might get mad if I said that. I think the Vox take is right, though. It’s a very, very broad playing field, and both Democrats and Republicans would be dumb as hell to ignore any of those ~110 seats.
micah: Yeah, I’ve seen this take bleed a bit into more like, “Democrats can win something on the order of 110 seats,” and that seems way out there. But if we stick to “in play,” then I’m on board.
clare.malone: Right. It’s really easily misconstrued.
micah: Yeah.
OK, Take No. 2, from Huffington Post: GOP blames “lackluster” candidate and his “porn stache” for Pennsylvania setback
(And yes, I just wanted to get “porn stache” into the chat.)
To summarize this one a bit — maybe we can’t read that much into the Pennsylvania 18 result because the GOP candidate was bad.
clare.malone: First off, LOL.
But crass wording aside, there was something of a Kennedy/Nixon thing going on here with the contrast of young, dewy Lamb to older, mustachioed Rick Saccone. That’s not to say it was a big factor, though.
So, sell, but I see what they’re going for.
“They” being Republicans.
perry: Sell. Saccone was a fairly standard Republican on positions. He won a primary, has been a state senator, didn’t have a big scandal break during the general election. In other words, he was no Roy Moore. Or Christine O’Donnell.
clare.malone: Yeah the blame-it-on-Saccone spin is more a testament to how well Lamb played the role he needed to play in that district.
natesilver: It’s not totally wrong to say the candidates played a role, but that’s missing the forest for the trees. The national environment does most of the work here. Democrats are outperforming the districts’ partisan baselines by an average of 16 or 17 points in special elections for the U.S. House and Senate so far. They did so by 22 points in Pennsylvania’s 18th. So maybe the candidates’ individual qualities got Lamb over the top, but it was the national environment that created the opportunity.
Also, Lamb and Saccone are well within the normal range of goodness/badness as candidates. There will be plenty of candidates like them on the ballot in November 2018. They’re not the second coming of Jesus Christ and Roy Moore, respectively.
micah: So I guess it’s fair to say this result shows the importance of the national environment and candidate quality — but that order (environment first) is important.
Take No. 3, from The Guardian: Why it’s time for Democrats to ditch Nancy Pelosi.
Lamb seems to have won, and he distanced himself from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
clare.malone: Buy.
I generally think there’s a solid argument for Democrats to do a little bit of a leadership purge.
natesilver: Hold.
clare.malone: It’s a take I agree with separate from this election, though. It’s not just Tuesday’s result.
natesilver: I mean, I think if we’re being really Machiavellian, Democrats would probably up their chances of taking the House majority in 2018 if they ditched Pelosi. But it’s like the eighth-most-important factor.
perry: Sell. The polling in this district found that most people neither knew nor cared about the anti-Pelosi pledge. There is a fine argument that Democrats need new leaders, but I don’t think this race tells much.
natesilver: Republicans can just demonize Hillary Clinton instead.
micah: That is sooooo true.
Can and will.
clare.malone: And she’s happily providing new tape for them:
perry: I would say, though, that — regardless of whether this made a difference or not in the 18th District — if 20 Democrats running in key races make the kind of anti-Pelosi pledge that Lamb did, then that becomes an issue for her.
If Democrats win the House majority in 2018 and have, say, 230 seats, but 15 people have pledged not to vote for Pelosi for speaker, that’s significant. And if they don’t win the majority, I think she will be out.
micah: Speaking of …
Take No. 4, from the NTK Network: Bad night for Pelosi, good night for Moulton and Biden.
That’s Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts and former Vice President Joe Biden, both of whom campaigned for Lamb and both of whom are rumored to be potential presidential candidates in 2020.
clare.malone: It’s a good way to shoehorn in other white, male candidates, who Democrats are hoping will swing suburban Republican-leaning voters.
natesilver: Hold. The arguments about whether Democrats need progressives who excite the base or moderates who woo swing voters are pretty overdone in both directions — and it depends a lot on the districts.
clare.malone: I’ll buy.
perry: Buy. I don’t think anyone cares about Moulton. Even if Pelosi didn’t matter to voters, it’s a bad sign for her that Lamb won in a high-profile race while distancing himself from his party’s leader in the House. Every high-profile surrogate (Barack Obama, Biden, Bill Clinton) campaigns for some people who win and some who lose. But I think Biden is being brought into more conservative-leaning areas. (He appeared with Montana Sen. Jon Tester recently.) If some of those candidates win, and he is the top surrogate, that does help Biden with the case that he can appeal to Obama-Trump voters.
clare.malone: I mean, right, Biden’s whole presidential pitch is gonna be just that: I’ll win back the fabled “working-class white voter.”
micah: Take No. 5, from Greg Sargent at The Washington Post: The Trump/GOP agenda may be a big albatross for Republicans.
perry: Sell. I don’t think the GOP policy agenda is mattering that much. The tax cut doesn’t seem to be helping the GOP in these special elections, but I think that’s different from saying it’s hurting the party. Trump is a big albatross himself, but I’m not sure it’s the policy stuff.
Like, the tariffs didn’t help Saccone is my guess. I’m not sure they hurt him, though.
natesilver: I’m a buy.
I think health care hurts Republicans, and taxes are probably a wash.
clare.malone: Hmmm. I guess buy? The economy is good, so the Democrats would be left with running on health care and Trump’s ineffectuality.
natesilver: And tariffs were probably a wash in this district but are hurtful overall.
micah: So I’m gonna fold another take into this one — a sub-take, from ThinkProgress: Pennsylvania voters say the GOP’s health care antics cost Saccone their vote.
It sounds like Nate is buying that.
I might be a weak sell on this — I think it’s Trump more than his agenda, per se.
natesilver: That’s not what the question asked, though.
It didn’t ask whether Trump was more important — it asked whether the Republican agenda is harming the GOP.
perry: Do I think congressional Republicans would have been better off overall with either a popular Obamacare replacement plan or just not doing the repeal? Yes. I think Nate is correct about this.
micah: Well, I guess I’m quibbling with the “big” in “big albatross.”
perry: The gap between “Trump alone” and “Trump and the GOP’s agenda” is perhaps not the biggest distinction. I’m not sure it totally makes sense.
If Trump was tweeting about a health care plan people liked, that would be different than what he is tweeting about now.
micah: That’s a good point.
Trump sorta is the Trump/GOP agenda, and vice versa.
natesilver: It’s worth pointing out that Trump’s approval rating declined by several points while health care was being debated.
I’m not sure that the rest of the stuff matters, but I think health care moves the needle a bit.
clare.malone: What happens if the economy tanks in the next eight months?
Does that mean a sure Democratic wave?
micah: The GOP ceases to exist.
clare.malone: Right. The GOP is basically basing their campaign on the good economy and the promises of the tax bill.
micah: Seriously, though, the GOP is in really bad shape with a pretty-good-to-great economy. If that went south, they’d be toast.
Though maybe there are diminishing returns for Democrats. Republicans can do only so bad.
natesilver: #Actually, Micah, there might be accelerating returns for Democrats because of the way that districts are structured.
There’s a huge glut of (mostly gerrymandered) districts that are somewhere between like 10 and 20 points more Republican-leaning than the country as a whole. So if the wave gets really big and Democrats begin to tap into those, their gains just get larger and larger.
micah: OK, last one, Take No. 6, from CNN: “Donald Trump can’t save you.”
Buy, sell or hold?
perry: Buy. Trump is not going to help a lot of Republicans win key races in close states/districts. I suspect he will be like Obama in 2014: Candidates in close races may want to duck association with him. Although maybe in Missouri, Indiana, West Virginia — the big Senate races in fairly red states — he might help.
clare.malone: I’ll second that buy.
natesilver: Buy — except the premise is backward. Who’s saying that Trump can save Republicans? He’s the main reason they’re in so much trouble this year in the first place.
micah: I mean, I buy this too as it’s meant. But he could save Republicans somewhat, right? If he stopped doing a lot of Trump-y things.
natesilver: Yeah by staying off Twitter and going golfing for the rest of the year.
clare.malone: “Fox & Friends” is saying that Trump saves Republicans, to be clear.
They were saying this morning that Trump’s trip to Pennsylvania actually saved Saccone from a more embarrassing loss.
micah: Wait a sec!
natesilver: IT’S SO FUCKING DUMB.
micah: You have caps lock on, I think.
natesilver: I’ve seen multiple people making claims that “Lamb was up 6 points in the polls until Trump came in.” This is backwards in like two ways.
First, Lamb was leading by 6 points in only one poll, from Monmouth. Not “the polls”.
He was up by 2 points in the polling average, and the final result is going to come very, very close to that.
If you think the polls were off in this race, you’re a fucking idiot, full stop.
The same would have been true if Saccone had won by 1 point or something also.
micah: Is rant over?
natesilver: Second, the Monmouth poll was actually conducted AFTER TRUMP VISITED, or at least partially after it.
The polls BEFORE Trump visited showed a TIE, on average.
Then the Monmouth poll came out AFTERWARD.
micah: Is rant over?
natesilver: If anything, the Monmouth poll suggested that Trump made matters worse for Saccone, although it did overshoot the mark a bit.
I’m sorry to rant about this, I’m just really, really tired of people substituting saying “the polls” when they really mean “idiotic media narratives based on cherry-picked misinterpretations of the polls.”
Even on CNN last night, there was this notion that Lamb was a big favorite based on the polls. That’s absolutely false. He was a modest favorite, at best. It shows that people have learned nothing since 2016.
micah: Is rant over?
natesilver: It’s going to continue for the next three years, Micah.
micah: lol
Wait, though, on the podcast, Nate, you said something along the lines of, “We know Democratic turnout is going to be good in 2018. Republicans should be looking for ways to increase turnout among their base.”
Can’t Trump help do that?
natesilver: Maybe. I mean, it would certainly be valuable for Republicans to have high turnout among their base — they’re going to need it because the Democratic base’s turnout is almost surely going to be high.
But is Trump actually helping with that?
The base is not that enthused, at least not in a way that’s translating to them turning out in the elections. Trump riles up the Democratic base and turns off moderates.
clare.malone: To the point above, I don’t think you could really win the midterm with just Trump’s base, no matter how energized it is, right?
You would still need to build a GOP coalition to counterbalance the Democratic enthusiasm.
micah: That’s a really good point. It’s likely true that as long as Democrats are motivated, Trump’s base is not enough.

Nate Silver is the founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.
Clare Malone is a senior political writer for FiveThirtyEight.
Perry Bacon Jr. is a senior writer for FiveThirtyEight.
Micah Cohen is the politics editor.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Mensåhi Ginen i Gehilo' #26: Kao pau hånao ha' si Uncle Sam?

"Kao pau hånao ha' si Uncle Sam, anggen manindipendente hit?"

Fihu hiningok-hu este na chathinasso ginen i kumunidåt. Anggen mamindipendente hit, u fanmalingu siempre todu i kosas motdeno. U hånao ha’ si Uncle Sam, pau dingu hit ya pau laknos yan bo’ok todu i chinile’-ña mågi.

Ti magåhet este. Fihu ti ya-ña i Estådos Unidos umatmitde este, lao guaha obligasion-ña nu hita. Put i ha fitma i charter para i Unidos Nasiones, ha aksepta i responsibilidåt, este mafa’na’an “inanggokko sagrådu” a sacred trust. Na para u ga’chungi hit gi este na chålan mo’na. Guaha meggai na klasen ayudu na ha oblibliga muna’guaha, lao para este na kuestion, uno mås propiu para ta diskuti, i tiempon “transition.”

Este na klasen kontråtan, fihu masusedi gi taiguini na klasen tinilaikan pulitikåt gi otro na tåno’ lokkue’. Siña este na tiempon tinilaika tinaka’ uno año, tres años, dies años, pat bente pat trenta años. I inapmåm-ña ha dipepende gi håfa diniside ni’ dos na nasion.

Gi este na tiempon, mananegotiate i colonizer yan i nuebu na nasion, put i chalan mo’na, ya i colonizer ha guahåyi diferentes na fondo yan fina’profesionåt ni’ pau ayuda i nuebu na nasion tumutuhon yan na’lå’la’ i nuebu na ekonomia yan para u chule’ kabåles na podet gi gubetnamento yan i diferentes na ahensia.

Este ginen i Bradley Report, makumple este gi Dos Mitt, lao gaibabali ha’ para ta komprende este na asunot. Gi este na påtte ha diskuti i Tiempon Tinilaika pat Tiempon Tinahgue. 

“As a part of the negotiated provisions for Guam’s transition to independence, it is anticipated that the island will receive substantial economic development funding over a period of 15 or more years, partly in exchange for U.S. military access rights in Guam. This funding also includes amounts negotiated to remedy infrastructure and environmental issues that were left unresolved prior to the status change. The U.S. State Department will administer this composite funding program.”
- Economist Joe Bradley, “An Analysis of the Economic Impact of Guam’s Political Status Options (2000)” 

Guini giya Guåhan, debi di ta na’hasso i Estados Unidos put este na obligasison-ña. Debi di ta fanmanespiha otro ga’chong na gurpu yan nasion ni’ siña umayuda hit dumekka’ i Estados Unidos.

Friday, March 02, 2018

ARC and Me

Each March, UOG organizes an Annual Research Conference or ARC. This year is the 39th year there has been a conference such as this. I presented at this conference as an undergraduate student, a graduate student and now I present at it regularly as a professor. For this year's ARC, I am participating in a couple different panels and presentations, most of which are connected to Guam's decolonization or its current political status.

Here are the abstracts for two of the sessions to which I am most looking forward:


A Decolonial Analysis of Guam’s Media Landscape

The role of media in a society is not simply to report stories and investigate events, but to promote values and norms, usually on behalf of dominant classes or institutions. In a colonial context, such as that of Guam, these roles gain a colonial dimension, as both institutions and individuals will often be compelled to defend and naturalize the colonial status quo. As such, rather than conduct reporting that reflects Guam’s colonial relationship to the US, the media will valorize the US and promote a fantasy of political belonging that doesn’t exist. This panel will attempt to conduct a decolonial analysis of Guam’s media landscape, by discussing current hegemonic structures and attempts to develop decolonial counter-hegemony through independent media.


Manny Cruz
Independent Journalist, M.A. in English from UOG

Stasia Yoshida
Social Work Major, UOG

Jesse Chargualaf
Chamorro Studies/History Major, UOG

Michael Lujan Bevacqua
Assistant Professor, Chamorro Studies, UOG


 A History of Militarization in the Marianas

The Mariana Islands in the Western Pacific sometimes known as “Where America’s Day Begins” other times known as the “tip of the spear.” These islands have been home to the indigenous Chamorro people for thousands of years, but are considered strategic colonial and neocolonial assets to the United States military. As the US continues with its Pacific Pivot, preparing for future threats from Asia by militarizing its Pacific Island possessions, the fate of the Marianas Islands, due to their lack of standing within the US and in the international community, is something easily missed. The purpose of this presentation is to provide a historical overview of the history of militarization in the Marianas Islands over the past century. Special attention will be given to the close connections between the political status and strategic value of the Mariana Islands and how this manifested in terms of US policy.


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