10 August 2008

Guahan and Self-Determination

by Jonathan Blas Diaz
2008 Guam Congressional Delegate Candidate

Entertainment comes in many different forms and our political self determination process on Guahan shouldn't be reduced to such levels. It is clear that many before me have tried in vain to change political relationship (and they should be commended), but I am reminded constantly that people in leadership (both here and in the continent) shape our destiny. Where might you be in this script? What character do you play and whose line is up next?

Perhaps we might find that the self-determination process on Guam is complicated because those who have held office have not done enough or have become too jaded over the negotiations with our administering power. Perhaps we have been too apathetic to think that this is the way it has been for so long that we just don't want to see real change.

Yet in my mind, this is insufficient and further dictates our efforts to move forward and start anew if we are willing to share the load. I hope that I can share with you a story so that the message is loud and clear. It is a story filled with hopes and dreams about one who has been in the movement from the sidelines and now speaks to you today. Her name is Maria Nieves Materne and she is my auntie, my mentor, and my friend. It is through her that I understand what self-determination is and what it is not. Many people know this person and she deserves our attention today.

I first met Auntie Nieves last year around this time, although her family and my family went to school together over the years. She knew who my family was because some of her older siblings went to school with my mom and uncles. Auntie Nieves is my reminder of the good ole days when Uncle Angel Santos jerked our consciousness in the 1990's. I was in high school then, but was intently listening, reading and watching from the sidelines.

She was there, right beside our Uncles and Aunties who took a stand over the Chamorro right to own property in our homeland. I was an altar server at that time. I watched Uncle Angel line his kids in full formation at the Barrigada Church after I opened it at 5 a,m. (with the help of Tan Marian Siket) preparing for the 6 a.m. Mass. Uncle Angel was praying to a God that his mother and father, Tan Amanda and Tun Angel knew because it is what they were taught by their parents who lived during the hell years of World War II.

Uncle Angel's gaze was so penetrating that I grew to fear this man who eventually became our hero. He reminds us today to be strong and to push forward with our dream of self-determination. I grew to be afraid of this man that I only knew from a distance because he helped to move us in the right direction. Natural born leaders, like prophets, are feared because they speak the truth. Yet, Auntie Nieves knew him and stood by his side just like the many others who came to his aid.

Like Uncle Angel Santos, Auntie Nieves always gives of herself, no matter the cost to others and for the sake of the next generation. She has always said that to be Chamoru, you must be humble, self-less and never wanting the more. She is almost always by my side and I am very happy that she is now mentoring me to be the gentleman and steward of Guahan, the place that always has something to give even if we don't have it. It is with this kind of steadfast diplomacy that we must use to see to it that our dream of self-determination comes true. We owe it to the next generation of island children who are watching the adults intently at our next move. Auntie Nieves teaches me to be humble and to always remember that everything in life is about relationships – how we treat each other and how we react towards each other.

Self-determination today calls for drastic measures that can be accomplished if we all work together. If you are someone who comes from a different background, whether ethnic or racial, please stand with your Chamoru today who seeks a better life for ALL who call Guahan home. Rise my friends from the ashes of the past, forgive others, and let us move forward. We must educate everyone on this island that the Chamoru has been treated unfairly, unjustly, and unequivocally dehumanized throughout the centuries. Without adequate education or tolerance, our dreams can never come to fruition. If you wish to help, contact your leaders today and encourage them to collect more names on our registry and draft a plebiscite so that everyone can have their input into the process. Non-Chamorus should also help with constructing this plebiscite because Guam is home too.

I remain steadfast that our quest for self-determination is alive and well and will continue forward no matter the cost. We must be humble and determined that we will see a plebiscite drafted so that we can vote in the 2010 elections. We need everyone's cooperation during this process and it is with great hope that we determine what we have dreamed about for centuries. Our pride as individuals should take the back seat so that we can move forward together. Every script is written so that the next generation understands that peace can be achieved if we really want it. There is no more time to waste and with your help, all things can be achieved.

So let's work with our sisters and brothers from the continent so that greed and selfishness does not take precedence. Our very dignity as a collective multicultural community is dependent upon competent and capable servant leaders who can see this through to the very end. Stand in solidarity with your Chamoru sisters and brothers who have long awaited this dream of self-determination.

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