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Off-Island Chamorros

My family migrated from Guam to California when I was 15 years old.
I descend from navigators, yet I was shipwrecked on a strange continent.
“Are you a citizen?” Yes, Guam is an American territory. We dream American
dreams; we die in American wars. “You speak English well, with almost no accent.”
And isn’t that what it means to be a diasporic Chamorro: to feel foreign in a domestic
sense. We migrate to seek better jobs, schools, and hospitals; we migrate to serve
in the military. We’re the most “geographically dispersed” Pacific Islanders
in the United States, and off-island Chamorros now outnumber our on-island kin.
Over time, we lose contact. Guam changes until it becomes unfamiliar. And isn’t that,
too, what it means to be a diasporic Chamorro: to feel foreign in your own homeland.
Days will come when we ask: What if we stayed? What if we returned? When the undertow
of these questions pull you out to sea, remember: migration flows through our blood.
Remember: we carry our culture in the canoes of our bodies. Remember: home is
not simply a house, village, or island; home is an archipelago of belonging.  
    • Listen: Craig Santos Perez reciting Off-Island Chamorros
Craig Santos Perez

Craig Santos Perez

Craig Santos Perez is the author of two poetry collections, unincorporated territory [hacha] and from unincorporated territory [saina] ...