Call for ‘decolonization’ highlights Chamorro conference
Monday, 29 September 2008 00:00 By Emmanuel T. Erediano
Marianas Variety News Staff
A call to “decolonize” the minds of Marianas’ indigenous people and the islands’ political relationship with the U.S. highlighted the discussions in the 3rd Annual Chamorro Conference.
The two-day conference, which started on Friday at the Saipan World Resort, drew the participation of 148 Chamorros from Guam and 159 from the CNMI.
The speeches and discussions were in the Chamorro language, and the first day of the conference was devoted to issues concerning culture, education, youth and the elderly.
On the second day of the conference, still in Chamorro tounge, federal relations and “national identity” were tackled.
The CNMI presenters were Paz C. Younis, former Humanities Council executive director; former Covenant Party chairman Alvaro Santos; former Speaker Oscar C. Rasa; former Rep. Daniel O. Quitugua; Taotao Tano president Greg Cruz; Covenant negotiator Vicente N. Santos; and businessman Lorenzo DLG. Cabrera.
The guest speakers from Guam were former Sen. Hope Cristobal as well as Chamorro activists Ed Benavente and Michael L. Bevacqua,and Joe Garrido and Tony Sablan.
Rasa explained why he opposed the ratification of the Covenant while Cristobal talked about their “decolonization” efforts on Guam.
She said in order to be decolonized politically, “we need to decolonize the mind.”
The audience roared in applause as Cristobal gave an emotional speech.
Flashing her U.S. passport, Cristobal criticized every symbol printed on its cover.
In an interview later, Cristobal said one of the things people can do to decolonize their minds is to be aware of the symbols “that we use in our daily lives.”
She noted that the U.S., CNMI and Guam flags were mounted on the stage during the ceremony “as if they were equals.”
“We know in reality that that is not the case,” she said. “In reality, the case is that the CNMI and Guam have always been seen and treated by the U.S. as some separate entities, as anomalous things.”
America, she said, has been mistreating the indigenous people of the Marianas since 1901 when a federal court established that Guam was a possession of but not part of the U.S.
“The fact of the matter is that we have been treated like we are a bastard child — that is the reality,” she said.
Unlike the NMI, whose people voted to join the U.S., the Chamorros of Guam have not held an election on the political status they prefer.
Cristobal said what the Chamorros need to do as a people is to be clear about “how we transmit this kind of information to our children. And one of the first things we need to do is take away these symbols.”
She added, “There is no such thing as Uncle Sam. He is not my uncle. And so I don’t have that human-personal relationship with whoever that Uncle Sam is.”
Guam Chamorro activists Ed Benavente and Micheal Bevacqua as well as social worker Lisalinda Natividad said that due to their island’s political relationship with the U.S., the American military buildup is putting Guam in harm’s way.
Benavente said aside from the fear that Chamorros will soon become a marginalized population on their own island, the federal government’s pronouncement that Guam will be American “tip of the spear” is a cause for concern.
Bevacqua said he does not feel good about being treated like an object.
Natividad said the Chamorros on Guam are living in “a very toxic environment” due to military installations of the U.S.
It was through collaborative efforts and networking, particularly with the CNMI, that Guam have been able to pressure the U.S. government to start cleaning up their island, Natividad said.