Americans on Guam – Dealing with Second Class Citizenship

Children in the U.S. Territory of Guam

Children in the U.S. Territory of Guam

I included my mother’s article from the Pacific Edge which illustrates the unique kind of American Citizenship enjoyed by residents of Guam and other residents of U.S. Territories. I have always wondered if such is such classifications on citizentry need to be revisited in this modern age.





I notice politics is a favorite pastime on Guam…but can they vote

for the President of the United States?


Ask Joyce- The Pacific Edge- Nov. 7, 2008


Yes, you are correct in your observation. Elections are almost over, or are they?


Chamorro passion for freedom and rights became more intense after World War II. The atrocities experienced at the hands of the enemies became the catalyst for Chamorros to remain free after their liberation by the American forces in 1944. Their beliefs and loyalties to the American ideals became the torch for persistent pursuit for citizenship, which became true to a certain extent in 1950 when the Organic Act of Guam was signed.


During those years, Guam was under the U.S. Navy’s jurisdiction and cooperation and understanding developed to endeavor together this desire to become United States Citizens. At that time, there were men and women in what was then the Guam Congress. One key individual who played a major role was Antonio B. Won Pat, a 35-year-old who later was elected as Guam’s delegate to Congress.


According to my research, the Secretary of Interior Harold Krug visited Guam in February 1947 to determine if the Chamorros were truly ready to be U.S. citizens and to be self-governed. His report to Congress was positive and the Chamorros were joyous to hear the news of great possibilities. Of course, Won Pat was supported by a few with the same views, but there were those who feared loss of Navy support who testified “Guam’s economy would collapse without the U.S. Navy.”


Amazingly after the great dispute (a civil service employee did not respond to a subpoena) between the U.S. Navy and the Guam Congress, the assembly members walked out en masse. In 1949 Governor Pownell supported the U.S. Navy and this angered the Chamorros. The Chamorros felt betrayed by the governor.


United States citizenship with support from quite a majority of the Congress passed the Organic Act of Guam and on July 21, 1950. President Harry Truman signed the Organic Act of Guam into a true document, giving the Chamorros American citizenships. This established three branches of the government – executive, legislative and judicial.


Known as the godfathers of the organic act were Honorable Baltazar Jerome Bordallo (aka BJ or “Tun Kiko Zoilo”), Francisco Baza Leon Guerrero, Carlos P. Taitano, and none other than Antonio B. Won Pat, who rendered the most passionate plea to the American Senate.


The Organic Act brought about competitive election to political positions. The whole island became overzealous in campaigning for their “gayu” (rooster, candidate).


Back then, it was the Territorial Party against Democrats and then the parties became Republicans and Democrats. The campaign trail was demanding and ugly at times. There were silent duels among families—many not speaking to each other for years. Then there were all the gatherings and barbecues where followers gathered to plan strategies to ensure their “gayu” wins.


Now families are a lot more considerate, less confrontational and go beyond for those they support. The bottom line—many people work hard for their parties and possibly garner the rewards of a job if their candidate wins. The younger voters of Guam are now swaying away from favorite or cousin and looking more at the qualifications of the candidates.


To the winning political candidates on island or in our Nation, we hope they will selflessly work together to ensure America retains its greatness for generations to come. We hope the new leaders on Guam will also work selflessly to bring Guam back on its feet and make this island an island of inafa’maolek for all people.


As we move forward, may we seek our political destiny? Many people foresee Guam as a state; others foresee commonwealth and still others foresee independence. Is becoming a state far-fetched? Is it premature to dream the impossible—to be full-fledged U.S. citizens and be allowed to vote for the President of the United States?


To those who wonder whether Chamorros could vote for the President of the United States – No, Chamorros are not able to vote, but they are Americans. Many patriotic Chamorro souls have given the ultimate sacrifice—their lives—their gifts to each of us, Guam and America.



si Joyce I. Martratt





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