Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Last Walkout

"The Last Walkout"
Michael Lujan Bevacqua
August 22, 2009

Several months ago, Guam and the Chamorro community lost a man that some referred to as the “Last Chamorro Statesman” and others the “Father of the Organic Act.” Tun Carlos Pangelinan Taitano, a man known for so many things in Guam over the course of his more than nine decades of life died on March 25, 2009.

When looking back at what he did over the course of his life, kulang bubula’ i lista, it seems impossible for this to be the life of only one person. He was one of the organizers of the Guam Congress Walkout in 1949, the only Chamorro to attend the signing of the Organic Act, a Speaker of the Guam Legislature for the Territorial Party, one of the first Chamorro officers in the US Army, a dancer, a playwright, a historian and one of the founders of the dance group Taotao Tano’ with Frank Rabon, which has been essential in making possible the renaissance of Chamorro dance that we know today.

Taitano was one of those truly butmuchåchu na souls that emerged from the ashes of Guam’s destruction of I Tiempon Chapones (WWII), with a sense of the openess of Guam’s future. That the world was truly different, it wasn’t completely free (kao magåhet na manlibre hit? Ahe’), but it was very different from the prewar colonial era. The key difference was that whether or not the future would be gofha’ån or noplådu, bright or dark for Guam and for Chamorros depended on how much Chamorros were willing to work and to fight.

He is one of the last elite names from that generation, who were already adults when the Japanese invaded Guam, and who then became responsible for rebuilding Guam afterwards. As one of the last of his generation, I often wonder what he thought of what him and his manachaåmko’ had accomplished. Taitano had the privilege and the curse of being one of the last of them who could speak authoratively on what decisions Guam has made since World War II in developing and establishing itself. It is a story of intense Americanization, in a very short period. Rapid modernization and growth, which always seems to teeter as if unsustainable, and the cost of which has been tåno’, lenguåhi, kuttura and sovereignty.

It is easy for anyone, from un takhilo’ na matua to un takpappa’ na manachang to lament how things have changed, and how much different things are. But when someone like Taitano would look over the Guam of today and see the lines of a thousand different maps of Guam laying atop each other, sometimes overlapping, sometimes blending, sometimes displacing, spanning over close to a century of life, change and transition. Would he see himself as a passive observer of those changes, or somehow, who for better or worse, played a big role in making those changes?

Taitano distinguished himself however from most in that generation, in that he saw Guam’s future not only lying with the United States, in following its example, in emulating it and celebrating it in any way possible, but he say the need to protect the culture, the rights and the future of Chamorros. Although Taitano’s preferred political status choice for Guam was statehood, that didn’t in any way take away from his commitment to Chamorros, and to working in some small and some large ways in ensuring that they, their history and their place in this world would not vanish.

He was a vocal advocate for Guam and for the Chamorro people, and made such clear in one of his final interviews before his passing, given to GU magazine earlier this year. He was speaking in terms of what people on Guam and in particular Chamorros as a colonized people should do in terms of getting some power in this process.

The obvious thing here is, the people need a voice. They need to actively
petition and push for their right to decide on the destiny of our island. It is
our right to determine what happens on our land. The people have to urge the
leaders of Guam to fight for their rights, for their interests. If that route
does not work, then use the media. The local media is a start, as far as
relaying the message to Guam residents. But, what the people of Guam really need
is exposure to the whole nation and even the whole world. We can’t sit back and
just let things happen. We can’t just wait for things to work themselves out
because that doesn’t carry over well in the scheme of things.
Achokka’ gi minatai, gof fafayi ha’ este na sinangan. Debi di ta pega este gi fi’on i korason-ta yan i tintanos-ta. Esta makpo’ i che’cho’-mu guini gi hilo’ tano’, lao debi di ta hassuyi i fino’-mu.

Adios Tun Carlos.

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