News & Politics
Ep. 179 “I Taotao Sumay (People of Sumay): Forced Exiles and Resistance Identities” Rebroadcast
Ep. 179 “I Taotao Sumay (People of Sumay): Forced Exiles and Resistance Identities” (hosted by Dr. Vivian Dames and produced Joy White) first aired 4/6/14 and re-broadcast 4/15/16 (with assistance of Alan Grossman and Robert Wang).
Program guest is James Perez Viernes, historian and educator from the village of Santa Rita and i Taotao Sumay (people of Sumay) descendant. His 2008 master’s thesis “Fanhasso i Taotao Summery: Displacement, Dispossession, and Survival in Guam” examines the displacement of the people of Sumay village by the U.S. Navy and the pervasive “Taotao Sumay” identity as manifested in the post-World War II development of Santa Rita village.
James earned a bachelor’s degree in English Literature at the University of Guam and worked for several years in the island’s government and private sectors before going to the University of Hawai’i- Manoa to complete a Master of Arts degree in Pacific Islands Studies. This thesis garnered the Norman Meller Research Award for best MA research paper in the social sciences and humanities that focused on the Pacific Islands. This research has been published in partnership with the Guam Preservation Trust as “Sumay: Rikuetdo para i Famagu’on-ta (A Legacy for Our Children).
At the time of this 2014 interview, James was a doctoral candidate in the University of Hawaii’s Department of History and an adjunct faculty of the University of Guam. Dr. Viernes is now an assistant professor of Chamorro Studies and History at the University of Guam and a member of the Board of Directors of the Guam Preservation Trust. His doctoral research examines the intersections of Chamorro masculinities and American military colonialism during the first Naval era on Guam (1898-1941).
The village of Sumay in southern Guam, once known as the “Pearl of the Pacific”, was occupied by Japanese forces during World War II and destroyed by U.S. Forces bombardment in the retaking of the island in 1944. The people of this village were relocated to a temporary refugee camp adjacent to Sumay which they went on to develop into the present-day village of Santa Rita. According to Perez, the people of Sumay became “forced exiles” and the only group of Chamorros explicitly and permanently forbidden to return to their home village after the war. This area, once a picturesque and thriving coastal village, is now enclosed by U.S. Naval Base Guam, a Navy-controlled installation that was combined in 2009 with Anderson Air Force Base, in northern Guam, to form Joint Region Marianas.
In the past, i Taotao Sumay and their descendants were allowed to visit the Sumay cemetery on All Souls Day. However, such access depends on the base commander and became more restricted after 9-11. In 2009, U.S. Naval Base Guam, in cooperation with the Santa Rita mayor’s office, began to sponsor an annual Back to Sumay Day when those outside the fence are allowed to visit and to celebrate Mass at the barren site of the former Catholic Church and what remains of the Sumay cemetery. The seventh annual Back to Sumay event was held April 9th.
Music selection is the song “Kantan Sumay (Song for Sumay)”, lyrics by Dolores Lizama and performed by Helen Claveria de Guzman from the album Ai Haga-hu, Haga-hu (Korason Productions, 1993) which tells the story of the eviction of the Sumay people and their resettlement in Santa Rita.
This episode concludes with a reading by James Viernes of his 2001 poem “Beloved Sumay” which has since been published. It is now a reading component in the History of Guam and English composition courses at the University of Guam.
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