When I first began writing my second masters thesis, which was in Ethnic Studies, I first started toying with the use of the term “act of decolonization.” At that point in my life, I was reading way too much of the work of Slavoj Zizek and was engrossed in his conception of the authentic political act or the Act. I ended up using these ideas in my thesis from UCSD titled Everything You Wanted to Know About Guam, But Were Afraid to Ask Zizek. I used it primarily in terms of discussing the act of Angel Santos and members of Nasion Chamoru who jumped a military fence in full view of media, the police and the island, and how their action helped to reshape the coordinates for what was normal on the island as a result. I also went on to write a series of posts on my blog No Rest for the Awake – Minagahet Chamorro, that dealt with various types of “Acts of Decolonization.”
Throughout the writing of that thesis, people often asked me the obvious question which I can answer anecdotally, conversationally and everyday prescriptively, but would sometimes struggle to articulate in any systemic way and that is “why is X an act of decolonization.” Chamorro activist, politician and scholar Robert A. Underwood himself even challenged my ideas, as for him, decolonization is something very specific, and if we broaden the definition too much, he argued we risk seeing colonization everywhere and decolonization everywhere, and therefore can never accomplish much of anything. I understand this point, both pragmatically and theoretically, but also have to insist that decolonization not be something narrowly limited to just a political status vote or a change in formal political governance. Colonization itself never keeps such neat and tidy boundaries and neither should decolonization.
I recently started writing a new Zizek book Trouble in Paradise, and it made my nostalgic for those days when I was actively working to develop concepts and drawing from this and from that, seeking to put it all together. I remember when the notion of decolonization being better understood as “acts” and how that started to guide me and how I wrote about things and studied them. This has stayed with me up until today, and so in honor of that era of epiphanies, I thought I would share what was my first official “act of decolonization” which far from being “political” in the most depoliticized sense, can be considered political in a much more intimate sense:
Act of Decolonization Hacha:
The period between the end of the Spanish Chamorro Wars and the American take over of Guam (1698 – 1898) is often thought of as being a boring barely historically important time in Guam, save for the facts that this is when Filipinos marry Chamorro women and when Chamoros start adopting Spanish ways, providing more evidence as to their extinction. Such is hardly true in the case of Jose de Salas, a Chamorro soldier and Chamorro patriot serving in the Spanish Army on Guam, who in 1884 just happened to kill a Spanish Governor.
According to Spanish documents, the killing of the current Spanish Governor was only the beginning, a revolution on Guam was the intention of Salas and others he was working. After the Governor was dead, the rest would begin the slaughter and expulsion of the remaining Spanish on the island. The rest of the plan however, never took place and Salas and several others were executed on the beach in Hagatna.
This act of Chamorro nationalism is naturally largely forgotten today, this type of radicalism almost completely removed from Chamorro representations and Chamorro perceptions of themselves. In fact, most that I speak to about this, don’t believe that it could have happened. The people who Malafunkshun portrays, getting off their food stamp fed daggans and doing something like this? No way!
The names of those executed in 1884 for this act of attempted decolonization are, Jose de Salas, Manuel Mendiola, Vicente Acosta and Manuel Aguon. Your simple at of decolonization for today is to go to MARC, your elder relatives or any genealogy notes for your family and find out if and how you are related to any of these men.
Only one note of advice for this, and that’s that your reward, the decolonization is not in the goal (finding the link parientes) but in the process and the historical journey in getting their, what you do to find or miss that goal.