Thursday, May 01, 2008

Exploring the American Empire: WTF is with Guam?

I decided to take a break from presidential blogging this Thursday and instead took a closer look at one of America's not-states. Because I've kind of been wondering what the deal is with them, and I know you're dying to find out too!

Guam is pretty. And full of U.S. military installations.

Ever since I first knew it existed, I had a vague idea that Guam was some Puerto Rico-like island holding of the U.S., but in the Pacific Ocean. And like Puerto Rico, we won Guam in the Spanish-American War. Unfortunately, Teddy Roosevelt never went there. In my very limited research, it looks like the only President who has been there is Bill Clinton in 1998. And he managed not to throw up on anyone, so bully for him! Now, the island of Guam is about 210 square miles, or roughly the size of three Districts of Columbia.* Now you can picture it. It is the biggest and southernmost of the U.S.-held Mariana Islands, as well as the largest island in Micronesia. Which is not a country, evidently. Guam apparently doesn't have the shady reputation for forced labor practices, etc. like those silly Northern Marianas Islands. So, you know, that's good. Guam was occupied by the Japanese for a few years during WWII; which, as you can imagine, did not bode well for the local population. But the U.S. won it back in the Battle of Guam in July 1944, and we let them have their own civilian government and U.S. citizenship in 1950. They're a "territory" and I just learned that we have a Territorial Clause in the Constitution that we've been using to fuck over brown people for a long time.

Now, speaking of the local population: who are they? you might ask. Well, that is why you have me to read the Wikipedia articles and then summarize them in an amusing manner (hopefully). The Marianas have been inhabited by the indigenous Chamorros for about 4,000 years. People who are experts about this sort of thing think today's Chamorros' ancestors came by boat from Indonesia in about 2000 B.C.E. And then they built, like, a culture and were traders and sailors, and even invented a stringed instrument called a belembaotuyan, which is made out of a gourd. Which is probably cheaper than a guitar. I would guess. So Magellan--no, not THAT Magellan, the explorer--hit Guam in 1521 during his ill-fated round-the-world cruise. Some other guy claimed the island for Spain 1565, at which point it was considered part of the Spanish colony of the Philippines (we also won that in the Spanish-American War. Wow, we really kicked those conquistadors' asses!). Some priest guy took it upon himself to bring the wrath of the Roman Catholic Church to Guam in the seventeenth century. The Chamorros didn't really appreciate the Church's efforts. There was a war. For like a quarter-century. But the Church always wins.**

Luckily, the Chamorro matriarchs were able to preserve some of the indigenous culture through the centuries of European rule. About 85% of Guamanians (giggle) are Catholic to this day. Sooo... good job with the forcible conversions, team. Most of the island's population is Chamorro, with large Filipino and white minorities. English and Chamorro are the official languages of Guam. Chamorro is an agglutinating language. Which has nothing to do with bread. It is related to other Austronesian languages like Malay, Indonesian, and Javanese. Chomorro has borrowed a lot of Spanish over the years, but it's not a pidgin or a creole, it just takes words and incorporates them into the Chomorro morphosyntactic rules. But English is starting to replace Chomorro with younger Guamanians, many of whom choose to move to the mainland U.S. It is now time to stop writing paragraphs, and start listing random facts about Guam:

1. Guam's economy is propped up by Japanese tourists and U.S. military bases. In fact, we're moving a bunch of marines or something there from Okinawa in the next several years, bumping up the island's population by like, 25%. Sorry in advance, Guam.

2. Guam elects a non-voting member to the House of Representatives. But they're just a motherfucking territory, so they count for nothing. Their presidential straw poll doesn't count for much, either, since they have no electoral votes, but at least the parties let them send delegates to the convention. Wouldn't it be awesome if HRod Clinton staged a comeback with a bunch of delegates from all the U.S. territories? Suck on that, Iowa!

3. It's hot there. 76-86 degrees Fahrenheit. And sometimes they have earthquakes because they're right by a huge fault line or whatever. Luckily the active volcanoes are only in the Northern Marianas. But they do get typhoons.

4. Guam is sometimes called "America in Asia." This is apparently because rich Japanese people come to the resorts and go shopping at all the duty-free designer retail outlets.

5. Guam's natural animal population has been fucked up by bioinvasion, especially by the brown tree snake, which I saw in a picture and it looked yellow. But it could've been the flash 'cause it was nighttime 'cause they're nocturnal.

6. Guam has a K-Mart.

7. I have a sinking feeling that things do not bode well for Guam. Bless America's heart, but seriously, I'm sure we'll fuck it up like we do everything else.

* But the same amount of federal representation! (-1 congressperson)

**Some may say that this is because god is on their side. I'm skeptical. The Sexy Gay Jesus would certainly never involve himself in oppression and genocide. But I suppose that's probably why it was never called the "Holy Sexy Gay Jesus Empire." 'Tis a shame, really. I would totally join that empire.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, the simple joy of a "Eureka's Castle" reference.