Thursday, May 17, 2018

Setbisio Para i Publiko #37: The 2000 Plebsicite

2000 was the last time that Guam had a significant and focused conversation around political status. There had been campaigns, big and small, around commonwealth or constitutions. Each time there were discussions, community events and also sometime of plebiscite. 2000 was the last time that there was a big community push around the issue, as that was the year a plebiscite was scheduled and some funds made available for public education. This came after commonwealth had died or stalled in the US Congress, and it was decided to start the process over by having a new plebiscite to help determine the direction of future political status negotiations. This new start to the process never really came. The 2000 plebiscite was delayed several times and never took place.

I recently went through more than a year of the Pacific Daily News to get a sense of that time, and came across dozens of letters to the editor and articles dealing with the plebiscite and the three status options. Some of the letters to the editor focused on supporting a particular status option, more however were focused on the framework for the discussion and a good portion lamented there not being enough information available to make a decision. A small percentage focused on supporting or challenging the idea of restricting who could participate in the plebiscite.

Almost 20 years later we are at a new sort of phase in the discussion. Much has changed, although some elements remain the same. Now, just as before, there is apathy in the community and in the government. There are concerns that there isn’t enough information available. There are worries over the framework. One key difference now is that there is a court case that is currently being appealed, over who is eligible to participate in the self-determination vote.

As part of the educational efforts, the Pacific Daily News published editorials from each of the political status task force chairs. They provided them with space to put forth their best argument about their status. The arguments are similar to the ones we make today. The faces are familiar, with some notable differences. In 2000 the task force chairs were Antonio Artero Sablan, Jose Ulloa Garrido and Eddie Duenas. Sablan and Garrido have stepped down as chairs, whereas Duenas has not.


“Vote is the right of the people”
by Antonio Artero Sablan

“What more do you need to know?” depends on how much you already know. Everyone must know something, and maybe enough to vote tomorrow. Why, then, are some folks still so confused?

We have seen no less than 30 years of Guam initiatives, from the first Political Status Commission and constitutional convention to the Guam Commonwealth Act and today’s Commission on Decolonization, to improve our political status from that of an unincorporated territory. Our libraries, filling cabinets and brains are so full of this matter, we need only recall.

Nonetheless, four task forces are compiling information for the commission’s educational campaign-one each for independence, free association, statehood, and other a panel studying the potential economic impact of those options.

This new compilation will be presented to the public in upcoming months. Meanwhile, the Colonized Chamorro Coalition, Organization of People for Indigenous Rights and Guam Statehood Association are activating their troops. Some members have gone to Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Fiji for research on related issues. The Independence Task Force has launched an essay contest, begun preliminary village meetings, and been the subject of radio talk programs and in chat rooms on the Worldwide Web.

Status quo is not an option because decolonization means reversing, if you will, the colonial status of a place and people. When the U.N. Charter was signed in 1946 one-thirds of the worlds population lived in non-self-governing territories like Guam.

Today, those former colonies make up more then two-thirds of U.N. membership. The Philippines Islands, a former U.S. territory, is now a republic. Out of the Pacific Islands have emerged four distinct political entities, island nations.

 Non-U.S. territories in this part of the world have asserted their sovereignty recently, including New Caledonia and East Timor. Guam’s colonial status, hundreds of years old now, is NOT decolonization. The Guam Commonwealth Act was our honorable attempt to safeguard the Chamorro right to self-determination and secure our relationship with the United States with a mutual-consent proposition. But we have had no response in the period of time for which that proposal was made.

The so-called Chamorro vote - only the start of this process - is the right of the people of this place that’s been ruled by American colonial policy for the last century. It is a political definition, NOT “Chamorro-only” That’s an irresponsible shortcut; “self-determination,” and especially “Self-determination for Organic Act citizens” have proven much too long.

The facts remain. We’ll have a vote soon, and we all want a safe, clean democratic island home called Guam for all her people.

Support independence for a better Guam, Biba Chamoru!


“Statehood is the best option for Guam”
by Eddie Duenas

It is imperative that those who will be voting in the July plebiscite be provided with factual information on the three options – statehood, free association and independence. The plebiscite is a political process to remove Guam from the United Nations oversight.

In a nutshell, statehood will fully “integrate” Guam with the United States as a state of the union. Independence and free association will “dis-integrate” Guam from its present relationship with the United States and will turn Guam loose to chart its own destiny.

If statehood should not prevail in the plebiscite, and Congress accepts and acts on the results, Guam’s status quo as we know it today would be repealed and Guam would no longer be a U.S. territory.

This, consequently, would force the discontinuance of all federal assistance, aids and grants for social, economic, education programs as well as highway and infrastructure funding.

Persons who got their U.S. citizenship by virtue of the 1950 Organic Act of Guam run the risk of not enjoying their full benefits while living in a non-U.S. Guam.

Under the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1962, a native-born or naturalized U.S. citizen could lose his or her citizenship by taking an oath or making affirmation or other formal declaration of allegiance to a foreign state or a political subdivision thereof. And their descendants born on Guam also could run into problems with their citizenship since Guam would no longer be a U.S. territory.

Statehood is the only option that can guarantee not only your U.S. citizenship but also that of your descendants and the generations to come. And Guam will continue the status quo until statehood is attained.

As a state, Guam would acquire state sovereignty and have full control on all state matters. The people would have full protection and permanent citizenship under the U.S. Constitution, vote for the president and vice-president and have two senators and one representative in Congress.

Guam would also write is own state constitution, set up a state government (three equal branches – executive, legislative and judicial) and have equal access to federal revenue sharing programs, grants and entitlements available to all states. This will increase Guam’s level of federal assistance.

Social Security Supplemental Income and the Earned Income Tax Credit would also be available for Guam. These programs will certainly provide millions of dollars to our SSS recipients and low-income wage earners.

Having two senators and a representative in Congress should enable Guam to get more federal dollars in appropriations, grants, aids and entitlements than it’s currently receiving as a territory.

After living for more than 100 years under the U.S. flag, Guamanians have assimilated the American way as part of their lifestyle. Their loyalty to the United States is unquestionable, even in the darkest hours of enemy occupation during WWII.

Their desire to remain in the American family was well documented in the two previous plebiscites conducted.


“Free association – best of both worlds”
By Jose Garrido

In envisioning a brighter future for Guam, the people of this island should bear in mind two essential facts in our history – both as a United States territory and our far longer ancestral history as a Chamorro nation.

Free association will create a government which acknowledges both ingredients of this history. With free association, Guam would be recognized internationally as a sovereign nation with control over its political affairs.

At the same time, we would also maintain a defined association with the United States, specifically in the area of defense. Free association would allow Guam to achieve sovereignty in partnership with the United States.

Free association presents us with an opportunity to control Guam’s land, air, seas and natural resources for our benefit, rather than for another country. The United States would still maintain its military presence, but would provide financial assistance to Guam in return for the military use of land.

Based on research and comments from a U.S. congressional representative, our citizenship status would not be affected by a change in political status. Guam citizenship would also be granted. Bearers of a Guam passport could retain rights to travel freely within the United States, establish residency and work there, and volunteer in the U.S. armed forces without being drafted.

These rights are already enjoyed by existing free associations between the United States and the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republics of Belau and the Marshall Islands.

Free association offers optimism for greater economic development through changes such as the removal of the Jones Act, control of our Exclusive Economic Zone and all of the ocean minerals and resources within and the return of excess land to landowners. Free association gives us the autonomy to be creative in developing our island economy, making decisions with the best interests of Guam in mind.

With free association, Guam would be eligible to participate in programs offered by the United Nations, the Pacific Community and other international bodies catering to sovereign nations. Guam could tap into the programs of international agencies such as the Asian Development Bank, International Monetary Fund, South Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency and many others, helping us improve education, fisheries health care and banking.

Four thousand years ago, Chamorros managed their resources, governed their clans and provided for their futures. Today, we have knowledge skills, creativity and competence to manage our resources in the new millennium. We have survived wars, typhoons, earthquakes and more. We can surmount the challenges ahead.

Free association provides us with a confident future – sovereignty for Guam in association with the United States. Free association, the best of both worlds.

Ayuda i Mañainå-ta Dos

I'm excited to be helping organizing another "Ayuda i Mañainå-ta" event focused on assisting Chamoru war survivors complete their war claims forms. This semester seems like a never-ending parade of interesting and exciting events and this one will be one of the last ones for the next few weeks. I'm excited at all I was able to accomplish this semester, but eager for some rest this summer.


Independent Guåhan organizes “Ayuda i Mañainå-ta Dos,” to assist elders with completing their war claims application ahead of June deadline.

For Immediate Release, April 30, 2018 –

Last December, Independent Guåhan organized the event, “Ayuda i Mañainå- ta,” which assisted 165 elders in the completion of their war claims applications. In response to public demand, Independent Guåhan is partnering with the Guam War Survivors Memorial Foundation and others to organize “Ayuda i Mañainå-ta Dos,” which will take place on Saturday, May 19 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the University of Guam Humanities and Social Sciences Atrium. 

In 2016, after more than seven decades, the US government passed a law providing reparations for Chamoru survivors of the Japanese occupation. While Independent Guåhan acknowledges the problematic nature of this law, which deems the majority war survivors ineligible, it still represents a chance for our manåmko’ to receive some compensation for what they suffered and help give closure to this violent period of Guåhan’s history. 

“Ayuda i Mañainå-ta Dos” is an event designed to assist our manåmko’ in the completion of their compensation application and a celebration of their lives and struggle. Trained volunteers will be onsite to help claimants properly document their story, complete their forms and notarize their applications. Families are encouraged to attend, as there will also be food, live music, film screenings and a booth for oral history collection. 

“Ayuda i Mañainå-ta Dos” is made possible through the support of the Guam War Survivors Memorial Foundation, the Office of Dean James Sellmann, UOG College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, UOG Office of Information Technology, Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services Division of Senior Citizens, and Galaide Professional Service, Inc. 

Independent Guåhan is still seeking volunteers to assist with the completion of war claims forms and other logistics for the event, as well as monetary or food donations for refreshments. 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

One Guam Debate

Meggai hinasso-ku put i One Guam Debate gi nigapña.

Hu kekepula' todu gi halom i ilu-hu, ya siempre bai hu fånnge' mås guini gi tiempo.

Lao på'go, hu keke huchom este na simester gi UOG! Ai adai! Dimasiao meggai cho'cho' gi meggai i ora yan i minaigo'!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Na'haspok na Estoria

For those interested in listening to Chamoru stories in the Chamoru language, please come join the Chamorro Studies Majors and Minors at UOG for this special event: "Na'haspok na Estoria" on April 28 from 12-3 pm at SBPA 131 at UOG.

The name "Na'haspok na Estoria" means "stories that fill you up" as the word "håspok" means sated or filled up as in your stomach being full.

The event should be very interesting as most of the presenters are around the age of 40 or less, but still fluent in the Chamoru language. Alot of events that I am organizing or participating in lately seem to have this sort of theme, where those of us who are younger learners of Chamoru and often times second-language learners, nai ti mandångkolo' gi halom i mismo fino'-ta, are nonetheless attempting to take up the kulo' for language vitality.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Circumnavigations #9: The Death of Magellan

Below is an account of the death of Ferdinand Magellan, on the island of Mactan in 1521.

I've been reading different historians and their interpretation of the events and where they situate his death in the context of his personality and his behavior. At the conference that I was at in Madrid last month, there was quite a bit of myth-making around Magellan. Some of it is deserved, as he did guide a voyage that was into water unknown to Europeans. But the success of his mission has a tendency to lead historians to make generalizations of greatness.

Many historians take the flaws in Magellan's character and then argue that they were actually strengths because of the time that he lived in and because of the obstacles, both geographic and human that he faced. For example, Magellan's tactics in dealing with the concerns or the fears of his men, is argued to be a strength since he was dealing with medieval and pre-modern superstitions about the world that he refused to let ruin his mission. While we can give Magellan some credit, we shouldn't imagine him to be the spear of enlightenment, or like the Immanuel Kant of the sea.

This is a tic that historians have long struggled with and continue to contend with today. This notion that if something happened, then it was supposed to happen, and most factors involved, contributed to and must have aligned in a variety of ways to make it possible. This sounds very reasonable, but the problem though is that it can infuse a sense of destiny into history, that when it is written, that which contributed to an emergence and that which did not, are both tied together by a similar logic.

So even Magellan's flaws, some of which made his voyage more difficult and dangerous, become in a historian's review things that made him that much greater and that much more heroic, and then actually became things that helped in some indirect way, contribute to his success. At the conference in Valladolid last month, there was one presentation that looked into this argument, and it was a rare one. The scholar noted that in the period of Magellan, he wouldn't have been considered to be a "good" captain because of his lack of rapport with his sailors and his unwillingness to hear them or listen to them. The scholar noted that this was a key skill for captains since the men weren't paid that great and weren't in the military and national identities as we known them today didn't really exist. This meant that a good captain had to be a good listener, not a loud and brash tyrant of the sea. A good captain for the time worked with his men to ease their fears and take advantage of their knowledge, and also find a way to still respect them, even while dismissing various superstitions that they held about sea monsters. Magellan did not have these skills and that is why the first phase of his journey was filled with talk of mutiny and actually mutiny.

The death of Magellan is another such moment, where historians struggle with how to situate it. One of the most fascinating things about reading history of this sort, is that there are only a limited number of accounts. Some people are discovering more possible accounts hidden in dusty archives, but a thousand scholars are basically dealing with the same handful of pages about what happened. It is interesting to see the shades of truth and destiny they bring to bear in order to differentiate their telling, their interpretation from another.


"On Friday, April twenty-six, Zula, a chief of the island of Matan, sent one of his sons to present two goats to the captain-general, and to say that he would send him all that he had promised, but that he had not been able to send it to him because of the other chief Cilapulapu, who refused to obey the king of Spagnia. He requested the captain to send him only one boatload of men on the next night, so that they might help him and fight against the other chief. The captain-general decided to go thither with three boatloads. We begged him repeatedly not to go, but he, like a good shepherd, refused to abandon his flock. At midnight, sixty men of us set out armed with corselets and helmets, together with the Christian king, the prince, some of the chief men, and twenty or thirty balanguais.

We reached Matan three hours before dawn. The captain did not wish to fight then, but sent a message to the natives by the Moro to the effect that if they would obey the king of Spagnia, recognize the Christian king as their sovereign, and pay us our tribute, he would be their friend; but that if they wished otherwise, they should wait to see how our lances wounded. They replied that if we had lances they had lances of bamboo and stakes hardened with fire. [They asked us] not to proceed to attack them at once, but to wait until morning, so that they might have more men. They said that in order to induce us to go in search of them; for they had dug certain pitholes between the houses in order that we might fall into them. 

When morning came forty-nine of us leaped into the water up to our thighs, and walked through water for more than two crossbow flights before we could reach the shore. The boats could not approach nearer because of certain rocks in the water. The other eleven men remained behind to guard the boats. When we reached land, those men had formed in three divisions to the number of more than one thousand five hundred persons. When they saw us, they charged down upon us with exceeding loud cries, two divisions on our flanks and the other on our front. When the captain saw that, he formed us into two divisions, and thus did we begin to fight. The musketeers and crossbowmen shot from a distance for about a halfhour, but uselessly; for the shots only passed through the shields which were made of thin wood and the arms [of the bearers]. The captain cried to them, " Cease firing! cease firing I " but his order was not at all heeded. When the natives saw that we were shooting our muskets to no purpose, crying out they determined to stand firm, but they redoubled their shouts. When our muskets were discharged, the natives would never stand still, but leaped hither and thither, covering themselves with their shields. They shot so many arrows at us and hurled so many bamboo spears (some of them tipped with iron) at the captain-general, besides pointed stakes hardened with fire, stones, and mud, that we could scarcely defend ourselves. Seeing that, the captain-general sent some men to burn their houses in order to terrify them. 

When they saw their houses burning, they were roused to greater fury. Two of our men were killed near the houses, while we burned twenty or thirty houses. So many of them charged down upon us that they shot the captain through the right leg with a poisoned arrow. On that account, he ordered us to retire slowly, but the men took to flight, except six or eight of us who remained with the captain. The natives shot only at our legs, for the latter were bare; and so many were the spears and stones that they hurled at us, that we could offer no resistance. The mortars in the boats could not aid us as they were too far away. So we continued to retire for more than a good crossbow flight from the shore always fighting up to our knees in the water. The natives continued to pursue us, and picking up the same spear four or six times, hurled it at us again and again. Recognizing the captain, so many turned upon him that they knocked his helmet off his head twice, but he always stood firmly like a good knight, together with some others. Thus did we fight for more than one hour, refusing to retire farther. 

An Indian hurled a bamboo spear into the captain's face, but the latter immediately killed him with his lance, which he left in the Indian's body. Then, trying to lay hand on sword, he could draw it out but halfway, because he had been wounded in the arm with a bamboo spear. When the natives saw that, they all hurled themselves upon him. One of them wounded him on the left leg with a large cutlass, which resembles a scimitar, only being larger. That caused the captain to fall face downward, when immediately they rushed upon him with iron and bamboo spears and with their cutlasses, until they killed our mirror, our light, our comfort, and our true guide. When they wounded him, he turned back many times to see whether we were all in the boats. Thereupon, beholding him dead, we, wounded, retreated, as best we could, to the boats, which were already pulling off. 

The Christian king would have aided us, but the captain charged him before we landed, not to leave his balanghai, but to stay to see how we fought. When the king learned that the captain was dead, he wept. Had it not been for that unfortunate captain, not a single one of us would have been saved in the boats, for while he was fighting the others retired to the boats. I hope through [the efforts of] your most illustrious Lordship that the fame of so noble a captain will not become effaced in our times. Among the other virtues which he possessed, he was more constant than ever any one else in the greatest of adversity. He endured hunger better than all the others, and more accurately than any man in the world did he understand sea charts and navigation. And that this was the truth was seen openly, for no other had had so much natural talent nor the boldness to learn how to circumnavigate the world, as he had almost done. That battle was fought on Saturday, April twenty-seven, 1521.

The captain desired to fight on Saturday, because it was the day especially holy to him. Eight of our men were killed with him in that battle, and four Indians, who had become Christians and who had come afterward to aid usi were killed by the mortars of the boats. Of the enemy, only fifteen were killed, while many of us were wounded.

In the afternoon the Christian king sent a message with our consent to the people of Matan, to the effect that if they would give us the captain and the other men who had been killed, we would give them as much merchandise as they wished. They answered that they would not give up such a man, as we imagined [they would do], and that they would not give him for all the riches in the world, but that they intended to keep him as a memorial."

Circumnavigations #8: The Sometimes Forgotten Captain

It is common to say that Magellan was the first to circumnavigate the globe, but this really isn't true. Magellan lead the expedition. He organized the five ships and crews that left Spain in 1519, and for the most dangerous parts of the journey, meaning the areas that were unknown to Europeans, Magellan was the commander. Magellan had traveled to the Moluccas previously and so he brought a great deal of experience and vision to the expedition. You could even argue that given the fact that Magellan had visited the Western edge of the Pacific years prior, his reaching the Philippines in 1521 would mean that he had traveled around the world, albeit in different pieces. 

But in terms of undertaking a full, continuous voyage around the world, Magellan wasn't the first. After crossing the Pacific, passing through (rather violently) the Marianas, he made his way to the Philippines. He was killed there after his hubris compelled him to get involved in a conflict between tribes. After Magellan falls in battle, several of his subordinates emerge to take command to try to finish the voyage. The one who emerges as being most consequential is Juan Sebastian Elcano, who is often times the forgotten captain of the voyage today. 

By the time the expedition reaches the Philippines, the crew was at the edge of European imagination and knowledge of the globe. The Orient was well known to the Occident. I say well known, not in the sense that the information was accurate, but rather trade and other types of exchange had existed for more than a millennia, So in some ways, the remainder of the trip isn't as historic, it traveled routes Europeans, especially the Portuguese were increasingly familiar with. But the second half of the journey had its own difficulties. There were still severe morale problems and dozens of men refused to continue on the journey, wishing to stay in various ports in Africa and Asia and return later. There were still weather dangers, angry indigenous people and imperial conflicts. 

Elcano took command from the Moluccas onward and eventually captained the Victoria, the only remaining ship of the original five, back to Spain on September 6, 1522. As a reward for his leadership in completing the voyage he was given a lifetime pension as well as a coat of arms. The motto was used in the title of this conference in Valladolid “Primus Circumdedisti Me” or “You Were the First to Circumnavigate Me.” 

Elcano is an interesting historical figure, and both the way that he is commemorated and also forgotten can be instructive. Much of Magellan’s circumnavigation story goes largely unremembered or untold because of the way it conflicts with the great hero navigator mythology. Some of these things represent regional or ethnic tensions or divisions, such as Magellan not being “Spanish” yet being celebrated as a Spanish historical figure. For Elcano, he was from a Basque region of what is today Spain, and in another post, I may or may not delve into these sorts of differences and distinctions. 

Elcano’s presence himself on the voyage was due to a deal that he made in order to forgive a debt. During the voyage, he, like most everyone else on the trip, ran afoul of Magellan when he joined a mutiny and was punished. This is not to take anything away from Elcano, but simply show that the ways that Magellan’s conduct is often sanitized, trickles down to other figures, who also end up being paper-thin in their historical glory.

Listed below is a biography of Juan Sebastian Elcano.


Biography of Juan Sebastian Elcano
Updated May 14, 2017 

Juan Sebastián Elcano (1486-1526) was a Spanish (Basque) sailor, navigator, and explorer best remembered for leading the second half of the first round-the-world navigation, having taken over after the death of Ferdinand Magellan. Upon his return to Spain, the King presented him with a coat of arms that contained a globe and the phrase: “You Went Around Me First.”

Soldier and Merchant
In his early years, Elcano was an adventurer, fighting with the Spanish army in Algiers and Italy before settling down as captain/owner of a merchant ship.

 When he was forced to surrender his ship to Italian companies to which he owned money, he found he had broken Spanish law and had to ask the King for a pardon. Young King Charles V agreed, but on the condition that the skilled sailor and navigator serve with an expedition the King was funding: the search for a new route to the Spice Islands, led by Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan.

The Magellan Expedition

Elcano was given the position of ship’s master on board the Concepción, one of five ships making up the fleet. Magellan believed that the globe was smaller than it actually is and that a shortcut to the Spice Islands (now known as the Maluku Islands in present-day Indonesia) was possible by going through the New World. Spices such as cinnamon and cloves were immensely valuable in Europe at the time and a shorter route would be worth a fortune to whoever found it. The fleet set sail in September of 1519 and made its way to Brazil, avoiding Portuguese settlements due to hostilities between the Spanish and Portuguese.


As the fleet made its way south along the coast of South America looking for a passage west, Magellan decided to call a halt in the sheltered bay of San Julián, as he feared continuing in bad weather. Left idle, the men began to talk of mutinying and heading back to Spain. Elcano was a willing participant and had by then assumed command of the ship San Antonio.

At one point, Magellan ordered his flagship to fire on the San Antonio. In the end, Magellan put down the mutiny and had many of the leaders killed or marooned. Elcano and others were pardoned, but not until after a period of forced labor on the mainland.

To the Pacific

Around this time, Magellan lost two ships: the San Antonio returned to Spain (without permission) and the Santiago sank, although all of the sailors were rescued. By this time, Elcano was captain of the Concepción, a decision of Magellan’s that probably had much to do with the fact that the other experienced ships captains were executed or marooned after the mutiny or had gone back to Spain with the San Antonio. In October-November of 1520, the fleet explored the islands and waterways at the southern tip of South America, eventually finding a passage through that to this day is known as the Strait of Magellan.

Across the Pacific

According to Magellan’s calculations, the Spice Islands should only be a few days’ sail away. He was badly mistaken: his ships took four months to cross the South Pacific. Conditions were miserable on board and several men died before the fleet reached Guam and the Marianas Islands and were able to resupply.

Continuing westward, they reached the present-day Philippines in early 1521. Magellan found he could communicate with the natives through one of his men, who spoke Malay: they had reached the eastern edge of the world known to Europe.

Death of Magellan

In the Philippines, Magellan befriended the King of Zzubu, who was eventually baptized with the name of “Don Carlos.” Unfortunately, Don Carlos convinced Magellan to attack a rival chieftain for him, and Magellan was one of several Europeans killed in the ensuing battle. Magellan was succeeded by Duarte Barbosa and Juan Serrao, but both were treacherously killed by “Don Carlos” within a few days. Elcano was now second in command of the Victoria, under Juan Carvalho. Low on men, they decided to scuttle the Concepción and head back to Spain in the two remaining ships: the Trinidad and the Victoria.

Return to Spain

Heading across the Indian Ocean, the two ships made a stop in Borneo before finding themselves at the Spice Islands, their original goal. Packed with valuable spices, the ships set out again. About this time, Elcano replaced Carvalho as captain of the Victoria. The Trinidad soon had to return to the Spice Islands, however, as it was leaking badly and eventually sank. Many of the Trinidad’s sailors were captured by the Portuguese, although a handful managed to find their way to India and from there back to Spain. The Victoria sailed on cautiously, as they had gotten word that a Portuguese fleet was looking for them.

Reception in Spain

Miraculously evading the Portuguese, Elcano sailed the Victoria back into Spain on September 6, 1522. The ship was crewed by only 22 men: 18 European survivors of the voyage and four Asians they had picked up en route. The rest had died, deserted or, in some cases, had been left behind as unworthy of sharing in the spoils of the rich cargo of spices. The King of Spain received Elcano and granted him a coat of arms bearing a globe and the Latin phrase Primus circumdedisti me, or “You Went Around Me First.”

Death of Elcano and Legacy

In 1525, Elcano was picked to be chief navigator for a new expedition led by Spanish nobleman García Jofre de Loaísa, who intended to retrace Magellan’s route and establish a permanent colony in the Spice Islands. The expedition was a fiasco: of seven ships, only one made it to the Spice Islands, and most of the leaders, including Elcano, perished of malnutrition during the arduous Pacific crossing.

Because of his elevation to noble status upon his return from the Magellan expedition, Elcano’s descendants continued to hold the title of Marquis for some time after his death. As for Elcano himself, he has unfortunately been mostly forgotten by history, as Magellan still gets all the credit for the first circumnavigation of the globe. Elcano, although well-known to historians of the Age of Discovery, is little more than a trivia question to most, although there is a statue of him in his hometown of Getaria, Spain and the Spanish navy once named a ship after him.

Source: Thomas, Hugh. Rivers of Gold: The Rise of the Spanish Empire, from Columbus to Magellan. New York: Random House, 2005.

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.



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