Sunday, January 10, 2010

Not Just Making Noise

So, if you've been following this blog since the start, then you know what's going down on Guam. I just set foot on the island for the first time in December, but I've been aware of, and supportive of the Chamorro community's struggle for self-determination for years. Currently, the U.S. Government directly controls 1/3 of the island, primarily for military bases. On top of that, the current planned military buildup will bring an additional 79,000 people (at its height) to an island, increasing the population by up to 40 percent.

In recent weeks, the people's movement to oppose this plan has picked up new momentum right before my eyes. What started as a frustrated handful of friends, has now evolved into a highly organized opposition... "We Are Guahan." "Guahan" is a Chamorro word that means "what we have," and is the original name for the island... before the Spanish Conquest.

Within the span of one week, We Are Guahan has made some big noise, attracting international and local press. If you've got a sec, please click on the links below to check it out:

Wall Street Journal

PRI's "The World"

Pacific Daily News

On a more personal note, I had an adventure that really opened my eyes to exactly what is at stake... some of the most beautiful land on the planet! We Are Guahan led an all-day group hike to Pagat, an ancient Chamorro village and burial ground located right on the coast of the the island. Instead of trying to describe it, I'll just show you a few of the pictures:

While the trip was fun, there was definitely a heavier side to it. If the military buildup goes as planned, access to Pagat will be cut off so that the Marines can have another "live fire" ammunitions range. Our original motivation for organizing the hike was to find a non-political way to connect with locals, and get them to realize exactly what was on the chopping block. Just look at the pictures above again for a second, and then ask yourself what's more important?

I feel lucky to have been on the hike. Who knows, next time I'm on Guam, I may not be able to visit Pagat at all. Besides, how often do you get a chance to swim in an underground freshwater cave AND jump off a cliff in the same day? (click on video below)

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