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Citizens of silence

| Monday, November 1, 2021

I’ve gotten used to silence in my time at Notre Dame. In the pause before questions of my US citizenship and compliments on my “Good English.” In the blank stare after having been called exotic. In the interview before I explained that I wasn’t on Guam for a mission trip — it is my home.

And my home has endured centuries of colonization.

In 1521, Spain arrived on Guam and launched the island into a grueling history of physical and cultural genocide of the indigenous CHamoru people. The United States’ possession of our island began in 1898 after the Spanish American War and before the invasion of the Japanese, who undertook a violent three year occupation. However, in 1944, the U.S. recaptured Guam and less than a decade later declared it an American territory. But the end of our violent colonial history brought forth a new tragedy, the seizing of our land, of which 30% is occupied by the U.S. military, and further strains on our culture — a burning bridge between our past and our people. 

This history takes us to the present, an unincorporated territory of the United States among others such as Puerto Rico, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa. Still healing from colonial wounds, such as the 1917 U.S. Naval executive order banning our native language from schools, we are currently unable to vote for President despite having a higher military enlistment rate than any U.S. state. We have a non-voting Congressional delegate despite the effects of federal executive decisions on our island. We are a void of unheard voices despite the cries of our land and culture fueled by creeping Westernization. 

I do not encourage the criticism of others for not knowing the history of an island over 7,000 miles away, especially if our value is minimized to a conquest from war in our textbooks. We are learning every day to rewrite and reform our perceptions of our country’s long winded history. Instead, this is a call to closer consideration and open mindedness; there are parts of America beyond the 50 states, and we are flowing with our own culture, tradition and values. We have fought our own battles, written our own stories and I am proud to bring this resilience to the ND community. I have hope that these stories become more visible to the narrow-minded eye. 

I’ve gotten used to silence in my time at Notre Dame. But I don’t want to be silent anymore. And neither should you. 

Sign the Protect Guam Water Petition, a call to protect our main fresh water source from contamination by the construction and use of a U.S. military firing range: https://www.change.org/p/united-states-senate-committee-on-armed-services-protect-guam-s-primary-water-source-from-contamination 

For more information about the Constitutional rights of unincorporated U.S. territories, visit https://ballotpedia.org/Citizenship_status_in_territories_of_the_United_States

Cerila Rapadas


Oct. 28

Editor’s Note: This letter initially stated that Guam was recaptured in 1941. It was been updated to reflect the correct year, 1944. 

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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