(Video: We are Guahan; taken during a hike to Pagat Caves)
Pagat, a sacred site in Guam, has served as a center for the communal revitalization of the indigenous Chamorro people for millennia. Now, sixty-five years after the U.S. liberation of the tiny island (half the size of Okinawa) from imperial Japan—the U.S. military wants to transform this beloved gathering spot into a firing range. This threat to the sacred is one of many proposed threats to the traditional culture and natural environment of Guam in the US plan to militarize even more of Guam. Thirty percent of the island is already covered with military bases.
Kuam.com has posted a heartrending video of protesters—many whom are elder survivors of Japanese military colonization; many whom are crying. One of the participants of the human chain along the back road to Anderson Air Force Base holds a sign: "Military buildup catastrophic to Guam."
The partnering of Guam's current colonizer, the U.S., with its former colonizer, Japan, in the funding and proposed construction of the buildup casts an eerie light on what the Pacific War turned out to be about. Instead of freeing former Japanese imperial island colonies, the U.S. assumed dominion over them.
Drea, a young Chamorro artist, writes about the liberation of Pagat, at her soulful blog, Waiting in Wonderland:
Today is the day we celebrate Guam's liberation from the Japanese. As a child, my grandmother would have our mothers get all of us together. We'd go to the parade and watch as all the amazing floats rolled by. The floats are always really amazing. It was so much fun for us kids, but for my Grandma it was deeper than just candy, music, and floats. When she was our age they weren't marching in parades. The marching they did was different. My grandma is gone now, but I still respect today as her day. I see today more as a memorial day for those who lived through and those who lost their lives, during the occupation and ending it.For more information, see SavePagatVilllage.Com and "They want to turn a sacred historic site into a firing range?" posted here earlier this month.
Instead of going to the parade or even watching it on t.v., I decided to stay home and make posters for the rally on Friday. We will be lining route 15 to show the military officials and the CEQ that we care about Pagat. And really, it isn't just the ancient village that is being affected. There are families who will be asked to give up their land. The Raceway Park, that has helped to keep our roads safe from illegal drag racing, will have to relocate. How long will it take for them to rebuild?
There is also an endangered species of Butterflies, the Marianas 8 Spot Butterfly, that calls Pagat home. And then there is the noise pollution and environmental problems that the firing range can cause. Not to mention, the military already has 1/3 of the island.
What will be left for us when they're done? Will they ever be done?