Gathering in Gratefulness

A typical spread at a Chamorro Fiesta on Guam

As Thanksgiving approaches my mind and heart take me home to the memories of my childhood to a place in the far flung Pacific Ocean.  It is a place were American tradition, Spanish influenced Catholicism and ancient island culture have merged to make this holiday of Pilgrims even more unique and poignant.

In my house and through the influence of my devout Catholic mother, it was a day that  meant going to Mass first.   It is ironic that a holiday commemorating a group of religionists seeking the freedom to worship freely was being remembered ( and celebrated) by our family in a Roman Catholic Mass.  Times have changed.

It is also ironic that on an island where the native people where violently conquered by outside nations like the Spanish and then handed over to the Americans through a treaty- and then again violently  over for a brief period by the Japanese during World War II, we have adopted a holiday that has been essentially forced upon us to celebrate.

This island is the United States territory of Guam and it’s citizens were granted U.S. citizenship in 1950 through an Act of Congress called the Organic Act with some limitations.  As long as they remained residents of Guam, there is no right to vote for President and there is no right for the territory to have a voting member of Congress on the floor.  It is essentially a second class citizenship until you become a resident of a state.

True, Guam does not really pay federal taxes ( taxes collected  are kept locally).  This is often emphasized by the Feds like it is some great gift from a benevolent parent.   However, like most programs to native indigenous peoples, the United States has fallen short in its wisdom in carrying out truly effective programs, that in the long run,  benefit both the people and the national interest.  Most decisions are simply for  national defense or national resources and lack a real concern for the local people.   Policy over principle.

True there have been many shortfalls of the local leadership but the lack of true federal interest in developing real substantial progress in its indigineous populations is even seen today  in some of the difficulties in even supporting the local businesses who want to participate in the very impactful  upcoming military build up on the island.

I give you some of this background because despite  these ironies, the people of Guam have developed a strong loyalty to American traditions and principles.   Some of the reasons for this include that foreign intrusion basically created a very mixed race population on the island. There is  no pure Chamorro native on the island.  This has caused a hybrid adaptation of many different cultures especially Roman Catholicism and Americanism into the very strong Chamorro cultural self identity of the people.

So on Thanksgiving after Mass, my family will often join our extended family of cousins and assorted relatives and often guests that include military personnel for Thanksgiving Fiesta Meal.  This included  a banquet table with the traditional turkey and stuffing ( my mom had her own recipe), mashed potatoes and gravy, yams, corn on the cob, ham,  pumpkin pie, assorted Chamorro dishes, Asian dishes, and other foods.  It was a feast galore.   Our Christmas tree came up.

We gathered in gratefulness for each other and our families.  We were grateful for freedoms we had and like the pilgrims are still yearning for full freedoms that have been owed our forefathers.   We need to navigate the best way to do this in current political waters.  It begins with gaining mutual respect and not to be treated like territorial children or lessor citizens of these United States.

Thanksgiving is to feel like free men and free women on free soil forging our destinies fully by choice.

8 thoughts on “Gathering in Gratefulness

  1. Thanks for sharing this, it was nice to read it! Hope you had a good Thanksgiving shared with family and people you love!

  2. Hello, how are you?

    you are invited to join our potluck week 12 at Jingle Poetry :

    Write a poem fitting our week 12 theme (Nature, Plants, Creations & The Cosmos), post it, and link in to our potluck, you are also allowed to link in unrelated poems. we are open Sunday, 8pm, American central time.

    We value your contribution on previous weeks, Hope to see you in.

    Let me know if you have questions.


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