Back to ‘Guahan’
Tuesday, 16 February 2010 00:59
by Mar-Vic Cagurangan | Variety News Staff
GOVERNOR Felix P. Camacho yesterday sought the adoption of “Guahan” as the territory’s official name, highlighting the newfound cultural activism sparked by the islanders’ resistance to the influx of American troops.
“’Guahan’ means ‘we have’ and we have the right to do so,” the governor said in his final state of the island address yesterday.
In an executive order signed after delivering his last annual address, the governor ordered that all “Guam” references in official documents be replaced with “Guahan,” the island’s indigenous name.
Camacho also asked the legislature to enact a pertinent measure to adopt the official name-change, which the governor obviously seeks to leave as his legacy.
The governor’s deputy chief of staff, Shawn Gumataotao, said the executive order was the first step toward the lengthy process of officially renaming the territory.
“It requires a change in the Guam Code Annotated and the Organic Act. It also requires national international recognition and congressional action,” Gumataotao said.
The governor’s bid for reversion to the island’s indigenous name came as “We Are Guahan,” a new movement that seeks to educate the community about the impact of the military buildup, became a household word overnight.
“Reclaiming the name ‘Guahan’ enhances the practice of Chamorro language and promotes the historic and cultural connection to the island,” the executive order states.
The island has always been known as “Guahan” to its natives. The Spaniards called it “Isla de Ladrones.”
The American started referring to the island as “Guam” when they came over in 1898. It had since become the official reference to the island as sealed by the Treaty of Paris.
On Feb. 23, 1900, the first Naval governor, Richard Leary requested that the island be officially designated as “Isle of Guam.”
“As a native son, and as the elected governor of our people, I hereby request that we reclaim our indigenous name of Guahan,” Camacho said in his address.
“As we quickly move in to this time of rapid growth and development that may forever change our island, our sense of identity, family and place, it is important that we reaffirm our identity as a people,” the governor added.
Micheal Lujan Bevacqua, a cultural activist and an instructor of Guam History at the University of Guam, described the governor’s executive order as “a step toward keeping the heritage and language of the Chamorro people.”
“Guam has been known for many names, including ‘Isla de Ladrones.’ The Spaniards tried to rename it ‘San Juan,” but for some reason, it never went through,” Bevacqua said. “The Americans called it ‘Guam’ because they could not pronounce ‘Guahan.’ Over the years, ‘Guam’ had been misspelled as ‘Boam’ on world maps.”