For Washington’s 9,000-strong Chamorro community, getting hassled going into bars is just the tip of the warship.
I’m 22 this year and still very new to the bar scene. I’m not too big on drinking, but I think dancing is medicine—the call and response between the beat and my feet, the sweat, embodying the fearlessness it takes to move my body in public.
I like to dance, so I’ve become very accustomed to this conversation with the bouncers:
“ID please.”“Håfa adai! Thank you, here you go.”
“I’m sorry sir, I can’t accept your ID, do you have your passport?”
“I do have my passport, but as you can see sir, this ID says ‘Guam USA, Where America’s Day Begins.’”
“I see that, but Washington State Law requires a valid state ID.”
Here is the point in the conversation where I whip out my smartphone, pull up the bookmarked Washington State Liquor Control Board page with the relevant laws and read out loud: Types of Acceptable ID, Driver’s License, Instruction Permit, or I.D. Card issued by any U.S. State, U.S. Territory and District of Columbia.
“I’ll let you in tonight, but next time bring your passport.”
Because, even though I was born in America, my Guam ID makes me a little less American.
It’s pretty frustrating having to explain U.S. History every time I want to go out to dance. But that’s just one of the smallest injustices the Chamorro people face.
Resilience runs in the blood.
When the United States seized Guam in 1899, as a part of the U.S.-Spanish War, a navy governor was appointed to be the supreme lawmaker of the island.
The governor passed general orders banning our native language, prohibiting whistling, banning dancing after 10:00 p.m., banning interracial marriages. Governor Adelbert Althouse even collected all of the Chamorro books and burned them.
At a time when Chamorros were not even considered citizens of the United States, my grandfather, like many of his generation, served in the U.S. Military during World War II. Stationed at Pearl Harbor, he survived the kamikaze attacks. Hours before the infamous bombing, Guam was invaded by the Japanese en route to Hawai‘i. The American military, predicting the invasion, evacuated all of their personnel and dependents, leaving the Chamorro people to fend for themselves in a war fought between superpowers.
In 1944, American Troops re-invaded Guam and carpet bombed the island. Luckily, the Japanese had interned the Chamorros in concentration camps, so they survived. After the successful, “liberation” of the Chamorros, the U.S. seized two-thirds of the island for military bases. Ironically, the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the bombs that ended World War II, were stored and flown out of Chamorro land.
In 1949, the Guam Assembly walked out of session, forcing the federal government to grant self-government and citizenship to the people of Guam. So unlike our grandparents, our generation has U.S. Citizenship—we just don’t get to vote for president.
Over 70 years after World War II, the federal government refuses to provide reparations to the only Americans who lived through enemy occupation. The United States continues to evade responsibility for establishing over 100 toxic dumpsites (nuclear and chemical weapons) on Guam, an island eight miles wide and 31 miles long.
Today, Chamorros enlist and die in the military at the highest rates per capita, higher than any U.S. state.
As part of what the White House is calling the “Pacific Pivot,” Obama plans to move 60 percent of the military to the Pacific.
In 2009, the U.S. Military released a 10,000 page document, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, detailing the upcoming “military build-up.” Part of the plan is to dredge of 70 acres of healthy coral reef to house a Nuclear Air Craft Carrier, build a Missile Defense program and 5-Range Firing Complex on an ancient burial ground, seizing the entire island of Pågan, and exposing residents to mortars, howitzers, artillery, high explosive munitions and anti-tank weapons.
After several generations of military occupation, subsequent migration and attempted assimilation, my family is still not free. After my Grandpa, my dad, his brothers and so many of my cousins have fought for the freedom of Americans, my family is still not free. Even though our bodies have been poisoned, our language has been outlawed, and our land has been stolen, I am alive. I am alive and all generations of my ancestors are alive in me.
Hu lå’la’la’ ya i pengnga-ta ya i fino’-ta ha lå’la’la’ gi guahu. I am living and our traditions, our language live inside of me.
With all of this trauma in my body, sometimes I just need to cleanse. On nights when I’m feeling like sweating the radiation out of my system, I’ve got to fight to get into the club.
Well, unless I bring proof of my legitimate citizenship.
I’m frustrated, but not surprised. I’m from Guam USA, where America’s day begins with injustice.
People and organizations all over the world have rallied to oppose the Department of Defense’s proposed “Military Build-Up.” Together we can protect our home. Take Action Now! Visit http://www.arkiology.tv/2013/11/14/take-action/.
This story originally appeared at The Seattle Globalist at seattleglobalist.com.