Decolonizing Guam With Poetry: “Everyday Objects With Mission” in Craig Santos Perez's Poetry

Decolonizing Guam With Poetry: “Everyday Objects With Mission” in Craig Santos Perez's Poetry

Anna Erzsebet Szucs (National Sun Yat-sen University, Taiwan)
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3729-9.ch001
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Abstract

Craig Santos Perez, poet and activist from Guam, uses his poetry to call attention to the negative effects of colonialism and militarization on his homeland and the Pacific. He reminds his readers of the mistreatment of his people the Chamorros, the special “unincorporated” status of Guam and the land that is taken over little by little by the US Army. His poems reveal information about the life circumstances of the author's community and respond to, as well as critique, the colonial conditions of Guam. This study looks at everyday objects mentioned in Perez's poetry and seeks to unfold the “mission” of these objects. “Everyday objects” do not only refer to traditional objects, but also, to modern objects (borrowed from western culture) which relate to the everyday life of the Indigenous people of Guam. The argument of this research is that ordinary objects, which have significance in Pacific culture, are deliberately placed in the poems by Perez. They convey the message of resistance, decolonial protest and pursuit of survival and can be considered as representations of activism.
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Introduction

Literature is an important platform for speaking up against injustice. Activism and Indigenous literature are often connected and Indigenous authors write as a political act. Craig Santos Perez, poet and activist from Guam, uses his poetry to call attention to the negative effects of colonialism and militarization on his homeland and throughout the Pacific. In his poetry, he constantly reminds his readers of the mistreatment of his people the Chamorros, the special status of his home country (an “unincorporated territory” of the United States of America) and the disappearing land that is taken over little by little by the US Army. Guam is a strategically important place for the US Navy due to its central location in the Pacific Ocean. However, it is rarely talked about in the media and generally presented as a holiday paradise, and not as an important military base it is. It is invisible to the public. Perez, living in diaspora and looking at his original home from afar, wants to show the reader the reality of the colonized Guam through poetry. “I started writing poetry after my family migrated from our home(is)land of Guahan (Guam) to the state of California. Poetry became a way for me to stay connected – to remember where I come from.” This connectedness to the land is clearly represented in his poetry. Perez criticizes the US Army that occupies increasingly larger areas of the island of Guam and mistreats the Natives on their own land. His poems can be read as activist texts because they reveal important information about the life circumstances of the author’s community and respond to, as well as critique, colonial and post-colonial conditions of the Pacific and Guam. This study looks at everyday objects mentioned in Perez’s poetry and seeks to unfold their “mission.” “Everyday objects” do not only refer to traditional objects of the Chamorro culture, but also, they can be examples of modern objects (borrowed from western culture) that relate to the everyday life of the Indigenous people of Guam. The research analyzes poetry from the poet’s ongoing multi-book series titled from unincorporated territory, which currently stands at four books; [hacha], [saina], [guma’] and [lukao].

Key Terms in this Chapter

Survivance: It is a term coined by a Native American scholar and writer Gerald Vizenor. He claims that Indigenous communities can only survive if they resist and reject western dominance, and by adopting and incorporating old traditions and tribal wisdom into their daily lives.

Unincorporated Territory: An unincorporated territory of the United States is a self-governing country which is, however, dependent on the absolute power of the US Congress, as well as the US armed forces exercise extensive control over it. The citizens of an unincorporated territory are under the control of the Department of Interior and thus, they are not given the full rights of US citizenship.

Guam Organic Act (48 U.S.C. § 1421 et seq.): The Organic Act is a federal law that named Guam an unincorporated territory of the United States of America in 1950.

Latte: Large stone foundations of Chamorro buildings and houses from prehistorical times.

Chamorro: The Native people of Guam. Also, the native language of Guam.

Guam: A small island country in the Pacific Ocean. Guam is an unincorporated territory of the United States of America.

Militourism: It is a term coined by scholar and poet Teresia Teaiwa by combining militarism and tourism. It refers to a phenomenon when the military establishes the tourist industry which later conceals the original source that controls it.

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