Independence Day, Benavente said, isn’t something that’s widely celebrated on island or viewed as an important holiday to acknowledge.
“I feel Guam doesn’t really celebrate July 4th as much as off island,” he said.
But this year was different, he said. This year Benavente got to enjoy the “Na’lå’la’: Songs of Freedom” concert at Adelup on Tuesday afternoon.
The Decolonization Commission task force Independent Guahan put on the event as a follow up to the group’s “Respect the Chamoru People Day” this past April. “Songs of Freedom” featured several local poets and musicians who support independence.
Should the concert event turn into an annual outing, Benavente said it would give Guam’s advocates for an independent island something to look forward to each year.
“Now it’s like a future day for us to look forward to, like our own Independence Day,” Benavente said. “This is good though, everyone is here for a central cause.”
Over the past few decades, Guam has tried to hold a plebiscite, or self-determination vote, to gauge native inhabitants’ preferred relationship with the U.S. – independence, statehood or free association.
Michael Bevacqua, the head of Independent Guåhan, said the group put on the event to further highlight Guam’s inability to determine its own political status with the U.S. while the nation as a whole celebrates its split and revolution from Great Britain.
“What the United States is celebrating is something which Guam and particularly its indigenous people have yet to achieve,” Bevacqua said.
“So really here on Guam we should be sort of using this time to reflect on where we are heading,” he added. “Are we heading to become sort of a full part of the United States? Do we want to achieve independence? Do we want to be freely associated with the United States?”
The island territory of Puerto Rico held its own political status vote last month. Though voter turnout was low, the majority of who participated voted in favor of joining the U.S. as its next official state.
Puerto Rico’s latest non-binding referendum is its fifth plebiscite since 1967, according to Fortune. Out the territory’s 2.2 million eligible voters, only 23 percent turned out to vote.
Bevacqua said one thing Guam can learn from Puerto Rico’s recent plebiscite is whether the federal government is willing to come to the table and have a discussion with its territories about political status.
“Depending on how the United States responds to Puerto Rico’s plebiscite, it will give us a hint as to whether or not the United States is going to engage with us on the political issue,” he said.
Bevacqua said another issue Guam should take note of from Puerto Rico’s plebiscite was the controversy that its local government pushed for statehood while its independence advocates felt disenfranchised from voting.
Regardless of how the latest political status vote plays out with the federal government, Bevacqua said Guam should still work toward its own plebiscite and just hope for the best that U.S. opens itself up to discussion.
“You hope for the best,” he said, adding: “We should use this day to remind the United States of what it’s supposed to represent. It’s not supposed to represent colonialism … it’s supposed to represent freedom.”
The Independent Guåhan group is hoping to put on a rally or concert event much like “Songs of Freedom” and “Respect the Chamoru People Day” every three months, Bevacqua said.