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Young Voices on a Targeted Island: ‘Very Lucky to Be From Guam’

The Chamorro people have a lot of pride in their history and culture, which is a really great thing, but sometimes they can insist that we don’t need the U.S. on our side and should separate. As someone who was born and raised on Guam, who is half Chamorro and half African-American, I feel like the diversity of the people on Guam and its connection to the United States are what make it the special place that it is. I hope that Guam as a whole can be appreciated more for all the great things it has to offer.


Credit Nancy Borowick for The New York Times

Emma Sheedy, 17

High school senior and track star, recently crowned Miss Earth Guam

Growing up on Guam is a really incredible experience, to say the least. The people here are so welcoming and family-orientated, and everyone knows everyone. You can meet someone on the street, and somehow they will be related to a friend of yours, and once they find that out, you’re invited to every single one of their barbecues, which of course happens every weekend.

Being from Guam can mean many different things to many different people. I have an interesting experience myself; born in Japan, but growing up on Guam, I call myself Guamanian. Guamanian is a term Chamorros use for people who aren’t Chamorro (local) but have made the island their home. This is what I am. I am a Guamanian. Guam is my home, where I feel most comfortable and where I have made myself who I am. My family is all from the U.S.A., but we have lived here for almost nine years.

For the future of Guam, I hope for us to be more eco-friendly. I think it’s important to protect our island, the coral reefs especially. Due to the dirt runoff from off-roading and illegal dumping, the coral reefs are in danger. The reef protects us from tsunamis, and it brings in the tourism, which brings the most money to the island.


Credit Nancy Borowick for The New York Times

Noelle Monge, 18

Sophomore and English major at Boston University

My strongest and fondest memories as a kid are memories of my family. I remember chasing my cousins around the neighborhood during weekly family dinners and riding with my great-grandpa during the Liberation Day parades. Family was the best part of growing up in Guam because it was all around. And it wasn’t just blood relatives, but family friends and my parents’ co-workers. Everywhere you went, there was a familiar face with an endless amount of smiles and good vibes.

As a whole I think Guam is pretty centrist. I don’t really think people cling to partisan political identities like on the mainland, and people act more on emotional connections and have diverse opinions.

I hope people realize and remember that Guam is a real place with the most genuine people. We are not uncivilized, insignificant numbers who wouldn’t matter as casualties of war. I also hope that they stop the stereotyping of islanders. Since the recent threat from North Korea, I have seen so many ignorant social media posts that maybe wouldn’t be posted if people just educated themselves more about our U.S. territory.

A lot of people off-island question our calm reaction to the threats. I think we are calm because of the strength that runs through our blood and our land. Just three generations ago, my great-grandmother endured Japanese occupation during World War II. She’s thriving and alive today, and stands as an inspiration to keep on and carry on in the face of danger and oppression. I also think that the beauty nature has gifted us acts as a daily reminder to appreciate every day we’re alive and healthy.


Credit Nancy Borowick for The New York Times

Sean Rodriguez, 23

Former friar working toward becoming a Roman Catholic priest

As a child on Guam, I grew up with a lot of family around, some of which I saw daily. Family gatherings were a normal thing. This was when I saw my grandparents’ brothers and sisters and the majority of them were priests and religious sisters, so this is where I think I fell in love with the church and found my religious vocation.

I identify myself as a Catholic first, a Chamorro second and an American third. I’ve always believed that my spiritual identity trumps any sort of race or class that I might otherwise identify myself as.

I feel that sometimes people get carried away with their identities as Chamorros. I know that sometimes my pride of being Chamorro can lead me to thinking that our people and our culture are better than everyone else’s, using it as a tool to look down on those who are different from me, but this is not the Chamorro way.

I hope that the people of Guam will eventually receive what it’s been deprived of us these last few centuries, the right to decide for ourselves what kind of future we want without any interference.

I hope that people will learn that we are not political pawns, religious fanatics or closed-minded people. We are islanders. If you’re hungry, we will feed you; if you’re a stranger, we will be like a second family to you; and if you love us, we will love you.


Credit Nancy Borowick for The New York Times

Akasha-Mahkeer Weber, 17

High school senior headed to Marine Corps boot camp after graduation

I moved to Guam about five years ago from Palau, a nearby island, but so far everything here has been great for me. I get much better opportunities here than I would have there, so I am happy to be here. While I currently live here on Guam, I identify myself as a strong and independent Palauan woman. I come from a Palauan and Japanese family and just started my senior year at George Washington High School. After high school I will be headed to boot camp for the Marine Corps. Many of my family members have been in the military, and while they often told me I was too small and too weak to join, this made me want to be a part of the Marines even more.

I hope that one day Guam can become a U.S. state so we can all vote for the president and Congress, but I guess I’m asking for way too much. I think Guam should focus more on education… be a little more strict when it comes to school policies so students can and will graduate on time.

I wish people could understand that Guam doesn’t only contain American military families but that it also contains Chamorro families and Guamanians. I want Guam to be recognized as the beautiful island with wonderful people that it is.


Credit Nancy Borowick for The New York Times

Irie Fitzgerald, 13

A champion junior surfer

Growing up on Guam has been pretty great, and different, I imagine, from growing up other places. It’s a small island, so you meet and run into many of the same people often — I run into my friends everywhere I go. It’s a simple life. It’s not busy. You have more opportunities, and more chances, to compete and succeed because maybe there is not as much competition.

When people ask where I am from, I tell them that I’m from Guam, but I’m also half Japanese and half Irish, so I’m technically an islander anyway.

I hope people would take more care of the environment here on the island… to keep it clean… clean energy, maybe solar panels, because, you know, we have a lot of sun. I also hope we can build more farms, and produce more of our fruits and vegetables locally.

I hope with this attention now on Guam, people will look at it as a modern place, not some foreign island with nothing to offer. I hope people realize that it is not just military bases and that other people live here. I hope they appreciate its culture, its beauty, its history, and not just in comparison to other places. Guam is its own special place.

Source: NYT > World

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