Craig Santos Perez: The Poetics of Mapping Diaspora, Navigating Culture, and Being From (Part 4)

[Previous installments of Craig Santos Perez’s “The Poetics of Mapping Diaspora, Navigating Culture, and Being From,” are here: Part 1Part 2 | Part 3]


My first book includes four different maps (illustrated by Ben Viwatmanitsakul). The first (on page 28) shows Guam as an important stop on the Spanish Galleon trade route between Acapulco & Manila. In 2007, a project called “Galleon Trade” launched: “Galleon Trade is a series of international arts exchange projects, focusing on the Philippines, Mexico, and California. Taking the historic Acapulco-Manila galleon route as its metaphor of origin, these exhibitions seek to create new routes of cultural exchange along old routes of commerce and trade” ( This project doesn’t include Guam or any Chamorro artists. We are invisible.

The second map (page 29) is a typical World War II in the Pacific Map. While most histories of the Pacific War focus on Okinawa and Hawai‘i, the fact that Guam was bombed and invaded by the Japanese military around the same time that Pearl Harbor was bombed (but in a different time zone), or the fact that Guam became the only “U.S. territory” to ever be occupied by a “foreign” power during war (Japan occupied Guam for about 3 years) is almost never discussed in U.S. history books. We are invisible.

After the U.S. re-occupied Guam during the war, Guam once again became a colonial possession of our Uncle Sam (accepting custodial duties after our Father San Espana died after Spanish-American War of 1898). In 1950, we became an “unincorporated territory” of the United States. We became citizens of Uncle’s empire.

Guam’s official slogan: “Where America’s Day Begins.” I’m not kidding. Guam is “literally the first American community to greet each new day.” Guam is “the westernmost frontier of the United States and 15 hours ahead of the Eastern Seaboard Time Zone.” Guam is “westernmost furthest forward sovereign U.S. territory in the Pacific.”

We are strategic, yet invisible. We are strategically invisible. We are…
Guam is, “geographically, where America’s Dream ends.”

The third map (page 30) is a contemporary airline map, showing Guam as a transit hub for Asia, America, and other islands in Micronesia. Guam is sometimes referred to exotically as “Asia’s gateway to America.” Guam is sometimes referred to militarily as “The Tip of America’s Spear in Asia.”

When the body of Guam does become visible, it is mapped as a tourist destination, a migratory stopover, and a military possession. In these ways, global imperialism has mapped and remapped Guam in violently visible ways.

The fourth map (page 85) is a map showing the military footprint on Guam; the U.S. military occupies about a third of the island, an island whose landmass is merely 212 square miles. In addition, the Department of Defense plans on destroying more than 2,000 acres of jungle as part of the current military buildup ( About a 1,000 of those acres are recovery habitats for native birds that were driven to endangered status and forced into captivity by the invasive brown tree snakes.

The U.S. military is an invasive species. We are endangered.

The second part of the passage from my preface reads: “On some maps, Guam is named ‘Guam, USA.’ I say, ‘I’m from a territory of the United States.’”

The scene from my mother’s story ends with her friend helping her find Guam: “[She] knelt down next to me and we looked really carefully and finally she said, “Here it is, see this little dot, it says ‘Guam, USA.’” I stared and leaned closer to get a good look, and there it was, just a tiny dot on this big map.”

Craig Santos Perez, a native Chamoru from the Pacific Island of Guahan (Guam), is the co-founder of Achiote Press and Ala Press, and the author of two poetry books: from unincorporated territory [hacha] (Tinfish Press, 2008) and from unincorporated territory [saina] (Omnidawn Publishing, 2010), recently noted as a finalist for the 2011 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Poetry. Beginning Fall 2011, he will be an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing in the English Department at the University of Hawai’i, Manoa. Find him online at


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One Thought on “Craig Santos Perez: The Poetics of Mapping Diaspora, Navigating Culture, and Being From (Part 4)

  1. Pingback: Part 4: Decolonialism and The American Apocalypse | Pigafetta, Poetry, and Painkillers

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