The Private War of Pito Santos

This month I reread Island in Agony by Tony Palomo. I have actually read it many times, but decided to take a look at it again as I was writing my weekly columns for the Pacific Daily News about World War II in Guam, and that book had been my first, comprehensive and in-depth look at it when I was a graduate student. In contrast to books by Don Farrell or Robert Rogers which also cover to varying extends the Japanese occupation of Guam, Island in Agony, feels very Chamoru and is in most ways written for Chamorus. When you read the book, you can see Tony Palomo's voice clearly trying to sound like an average American newspaperman. But in how he frames the story and what he chooses to include, you can tell he is trying to write something that will tell the Chamoru side of the story, that will stand as a testament to the Chamoru experience.

Most chronicles of the war focus, as you might expect on the militaries involved. The great titans that clash over Guam. Not much attention is g…

Litråton Na'lå'la' Vol. 3 Siha


Kuentusi i Hanom

One of my jobs this summer is to run community conversations with Nedine Songeni for Humanities Guåhan at the Department of Corrections. I first started doing these types of conversations or civic reflections many years ago, when the Humanities Council introduced them as a means for talking about the military buildup. I along with several others underwent a training period and held these conversations with diverse groups across the island. Since then I've also helped them a few more times on organizing civic reflections. It is an interesting model, and what I've always found nice about it, is that it requires the use of humanities text, whether it be an article, a text, an essay or a short film, as a means to stimulate conversation. Rather than a debate or a lecture, you build from a text which can be interpreted in many ways to sort of try to unpack many of the things members of the community may be feeling and may or may not be talking about.

A few years ago Humanities Guåha…

Na'lå'la' Songs of Freedom Vol. 3

Share Your Vision of Guåhan’s Future at Independent Guåhan’s “Na’lå’la’: Songs of Freedom Vol. 3” Concert on July 4th
For Immediate Release, June 21, 2019 – Each July 4th the island commemorates the Independence Day of the United States, despite the fact that Guåhan remains its colony. For the past two years Independent Guåhan (IG) has organized an annual concert on the Fourth of July to reflect on the colonial history of Guåhan and the need for a decolonized future. IG is proud to announce its third concert, “Na’lå’la’: Songs of Freedom Vol. 3” set to take place Thursday, July 4th from 4-7 pm in the front field at Adelup. This event is free and open to the public. 
Independent Guåhan is an organization that is committed to educating the island community about the importance of Guåhan’s decolonization and the possibilities should it become an independent country. The organization has spent the past three years organizing General Assemblies, village meetings, teach-ins, petition drives…

September 11, 1671

Every September 11th since September 11, 2001 has a surreal quality to it. As if in a world where history repeats and meaning is always muddled, somehow the events of that day achieved a special, extra level of meaning for those that were alive and of age to experience it. At least this is what they say, and how true this seems depends a lot on your relationship to the US and what type of imaginary tissue connects you to it. 

9/11 always means another set of memorial or retrospectives. These commemorative acts help us lock in a particular narrative for conceiving what happened that day, what it means, and whether or not we allow any understanding of events that helped led to that attack. At these memorials people recall where they were when they learned of the attacks and reminders of how scared they were, but how America rose again from those ashes.  Mixed into this naturally is a lot of what you might call blind patriotism or shallow patriotism. September 11th, as the US sees it and…

IG GA June 2019

Independent Guåhan will present on the risks of drafting a constitution as a territory and honor the late Lt. Governor Frank F. Blas for June GA
For Immediate Release, June 18, 2019- Independent Guåhan (IG) invites the public to attend their upcoming General Assembly (GA) to take place on Thursday, June 27th,  from 6:00-7:30 pm at the Main Pavilion of the Chamorro Village in Hagåtña. This GA will focus on the risks involved should Guam decide to pass a constitution as a territory of the US. As part of this educational focus, the group will honor as maga’taotao the late Lt. Governor of Guam Frank F. Blas. 
Following the passage of a federal law that enabled Guam to draft a local constitution, the second Guam Constitutional Convention (ConCon) was held in 1977. A constitution was drafted and approved by the US federal government; however, it was rejected at a 4-1 margin by the voters of Guam. There are many reasons why the draft constitution was rejected, but many of them stemmed from the…

The Future Fire Interview

Last year a graphic story that I wrote titled "I Sindålu" was published in the creative anthology Pacific Monstersedited by Margret Helgadottir. It was a fun story, that I thankfully got to write in the Chamoru language, with English translations. It tells the story of a Chamoru soldier who is dealing with the trauma of what he experienced while being deployed in a foreign land. He comes home to Guam and live in a ranch at the edge of the jungle, and begins to feel menaced by the spirits of his ancestors, the taotaomo'na.

I really liked writing this story and was happy to see it in print, but I am terrible at promoting things, especially if I'm the one who created it (ai lokkue'). Here is an interview that I did with the website The Future Fire.

Sunday, 6 May 2018Interview with Michael Lujan BevacquaThe Future Fire May 2018 In the last in our series of five inter…

A Family With Any Other Name...

I put this together for a Chamoru language curriculum project I was working on a few years ago. It was meant to be an appendix to go along with other cultural components about learning Chamoru. The list started with the work of Malia Ramirez and then I added on a few more here and there. It is by no means meant to be exhaustive or complete. Chamoru family names are still evolving, although perhaps not at the rate they have previously. For every Chamoru, there are a number of names they can claim, but unless they are running for office, tend to only invoke one or two when representing their identity. 
I returned to this list recently while discussing the topic in one of my Chamoru language classes. For many Chamorus in the states or who grow up on Guam without much emphasis on their heritage, they assume that their "family name" is their last name. I have had many troubling conversations with young people who assert that their clan name is "Leon Guerrero" or "Pe…