Interview with Matthew Taitano

Claire Lavarreda  0:00  
Hmm. Okay, great. Okay, so thank you, Matthew, for joining me for this interview. So my first question I have is, would you mind stating your name, age and current occupation?

Matthew Taitano  0:15  
Sure. My name is Matthew Taitano, I am 27 years old. Born Jun 11 '96. And I'm currently a PhD student at Purdue studying Literature Theory and Cultural Studies.

Claire Lavarreda  0:29  
Hey, awesome. So thank you again for participating in this project, How We Remember. So to get things started, would you mind telling me your indigenous background and where you grew up?

Matthew Taitano  0:40  
Sure. So I'm half Chamorro, which are the native Guam, and I'm half Korean. So I was born and raised in Guam. My dad is Chamorro. And my last name Taitano is actually a native Chamorro last name. It means no land. Which is ironic, because my family has a lot of land in Guam. When I asked about that, he said, actually, the land comes from his mom's side. Because his mom is-- her maiden name is Fernandez. And so her family has some, like, a supposed linkage to like the Spanish colonizers that colonized the island of Guam. And so because of that, like her family has, like a lot of like resources and stuff like that. So when my grandpa married her, you know, he got like, a lot of the land as well. So yeah, like, in real---also talking colonization---Guam is interesting, because we were colonized by three different countries, first by Spain, and by Japan, and then the US. And so currently, we are a US unincorporated territory. So people who are born in Guam or citizens, I grew up in the public education system in one which basically is the same as the American public education system. The only difference is that we are also required to take Guam history and Chamorro language courses in school, to-- people like preserve the culture and the native language, which I actually think is really important. And something that I didn't really appreciate. At the time, when I was taking the courses, I was sort of just taking them because I had to. But looking back, I wish I had like engaged with it more, because even though I'm fluent in Korean, I don't really speak Chamorro. Because growing up, like my dad just spoke to my brother and I in English, because he's fluent in English. Whereas my mom, she's not really good at English. And also her mom, my grandma lived in the same house up and helped raise my brother and me. And she didn't speak any English at all, only Korean. So my brother and I had to learn Korean in order to communicate with her. Whereas, like, a lot of Chamorro people also know English, because, like, when the US colonized, obviously, like English became the language and everything in Guam was like in English, other documents, you know, everyone communicates in English. So yeah, but I think now there's definitely more of a push for, like the preservation of the culture, and more of a push of like informing just people on the island about like, Chamorro culture, like, for example, a big thing that happened was that a lot of like our villages in Guam, we don't call them like cities, we call them villages. Like a lot of like, when, before on documents, like government, they built them out using like, the American way of spelling it. But recently, they've changed all the village names to represent the original, like, Chamorro way of spelling it. So like something small like that, I think, is really important. And like, you know, there are a lot of like activists who are pushing for that kind of stuff. So...

Claire Lavarreda  4:25  
Right, right, like reclaiming that part. Thank you for sharing all that. And I didn't know --  I only knew of like Guam with the, like U.S. colonization as well as Spain. But I didn't know about Japan. So that was really interesting to know. And I know you've got three different, like nations coming in and colonizing it, which makes it really interesting, I think. I don't know -- I think it's like a very unique situation in Guam, because most places only have a history of like one kind of like empire or, like nation coming in. Thank you for sharing that. I also think it's awesome that you fluent in Korean. So that's great. So for my next question, I was wondering how was indigeneity a part of your life as a child? I know you were mentioning the Chamorro language courses that you had in school, as well as how was the history of your community passed down to you?

Matthew Taitano  5:17  
Right. So one big thing about like, the Chamorro, language courses and stuff like that, like, I remember, when I was in elementary school, I don't exactly remember what age I was, or what grade but I'm assuming maybe like, first or second grade, there was this program where they were, like, making the students do Chamorro cultural dances. And, like, we would practice the cultural dances and at the end, we would like perform it in front of our parents. So I remember, like, practicing that. And even though it was like, so long ago, I distinctly remember, like, all of us wearing, like, the garments, because men, for example, shirtless, and we would just wear something to cover, like the genital area, basically. And woman wore something similar, but they also like, cover their breasts as well. And I remember, like, just like the feeling of like, at first feeling very exposed. Because like, you know, in the US, we're used to just wearing like, you know, shirts, and shorts and stuff like that, and being covered up and stuff. But like, once the, we started performing all together, and like, be like, that sense of feeling that vibration, of like, the music and us singing and dancing, like it was like, a liberating feeling. I remember that, like, I started to feel less like self conscious, if that makes sense. Yeah. And, also, I think, in a lot of ways, which is really cool, because, like, when, like, like, that was like my introduction to like, traditional Chamorro cultural dance. And in my, like, when I went to high school, and it was my junior year, and I was like, you know, I took another Chamorro course, and we did two more cultural dances in that class, as well. And we performed in front of the whole school. And it was like a full circle moment, you know, and aiming to, like, do that at such a young age. And then to, like, revisit it again. In high school, near graduation, and a song that I enjoyed performing the most, during that time was is called [title in Chamorro]. And it's really interesting, because like, I remember when we're practicing those dances in high school, they were very strict on like, the roles that women and like men played in the dance. So women had a specific choreo like choreography, and men has specific choreography. And I remember, like, one of the male students was like, you know, joking around and doing the female choreography and our teacher, like, got really upset about it. He's like, No, you're not supposed to do that. And you're like, you know, there's a strict rules and stuff like that, which is interesting, if you look at it from like, the queer perspective, right? Because that kind of like, especially queer in the sense of like, the constructed in the West, right? Right. So it's like, there's that clash. And me being a queer person myself. You know, it was there was like that inner like, war, but at the same time, I think, I don't know, like, I, I wanted to, like respect the culture and like, respect my teacher, you know what I mean? So I just, like followed what he said, but at the same time, like I didn't, it's interesting how I did like, like, looking back, because at the time, I didn't have the language to articulate, like, female queerness and stuff like that. But looking back, it was interesting, because like, when I would perform the dances and like, have to adhere to like the, like, the male choreography strictly. Like, it didn't feel like I was compromising my queer identity. Like, I didn't see it like that, you know, I saw it instead as like me celebrating like my tribal identity. Right, right. They didn't feel like they were at, like tension with each other. You know what I mean? And then when the dance is over, and I go back to my life, I I'm able to express like my queerness. Like, my gender identity. And, you know, I feel liberated in that way, you know. So it's like this, like going in and out of it, which is interesting. Looking back at it in hindsight. Yeah, I think that, like, the cultural dances for me, were like, my favorite part of learning about my culture, because I like to dance, but I don't consider myself a good dancer. And I find myself having the opportunities to dance often. So like being in that, like, in those courses, and in that space, like, forced me to dance, which was good, and allowed me to, like express. And to dance in a way that like, expressed my culture, which was even great. And also like, leading up to it, like we would perform like in front of the whole school, like I would say. And it was nice to like, because it felt like we were working in up towards some, you know, and, and so like, at the end, when we will perform at the end of the semester. It felt like, you know, it was, like, I guess the equivalent of the dance team, like practicing for like the big performance, you know what I mean? But yeah, I really enjoyed that experience. And I wish I still had that type of space, currently. But it's kind of hard to find, like Chamorro spaces, like, stateside, if you're not living in like California, basically, a lot of people in Guam from California, from Guam living in California. Because a lot of, like, join the military. And like, there's a lot of like bases that are located in California. And because California is like, the closest in terms of like climate, and just like environment to Guam. A lot of people from Guam are compelled to, like, choose California, if they're like, you know, picking locations to be stationed out. Right? Like, even my older brothers in California right now, he's not in the military, but he's doing his residency there. But he wanted to go to California. Right, right. Because he, you know, a lot of his friends who, like joined the military were like living in California, and like, a lot of people around him. And a lot of people want to California. So yeah, yeah.

Claire Lavarreda  12:34  
I think also, thank you for sharing all that. But I think it's really beautiful when you're talking about navigating kind of your, your multiple identities in the sense of, you know, practicing your Chamorro culture, but also realizing that you still had like that queer identity. And that's something you can still practice and it wasn't something you had to, like, stifle so much is just sort of balance, which I think was really interesting. And also sounds amazing that they had these programs there. I kind of wish more more places would do that, or have programs for like Indigenous students to practice, like, their Indigenous identity. And then I think my next question had been, is there a specific memory that sticks out to you, but I feel like maybe you address that already with talking about dance, unless there's another memory you want to talk about from specifically childhood?

Matthew Taitano  13:30  
I think, Oh, this is something small, but it's like, a very comforting thing for me. But the one thing that I don't know if it's just Chamorro people, but like, a lot of the elderly teach more people kiss. It's like, it's really interesting, because Bill like, for example, my grandma, my dad's mom, she like lived right next door. So it was a very friendly woman every time I would see her, you know, would hug her and the way she would kiss me was she like kissed me on my cheek, but she wouldn't just like, you know, kissing her lips, she would sniff me like, *sniffs* and a lot of Chamorro elders do that. I don't know if it's just Chamorro elders because, for like example, I see like a, like a teenager. It's like holding a baby. I see them do that too, like the Chamorro teens, but it's essentially them sniffing your essence and like remembering your scent. And like them wanting to like remember it. It's like that sign of affection like, Oh, I love or remember. Beautiful. Yeah, so like, I remember like, like my grandma every time like I would like greet her. She would do that. And yeah, she wouldn't even do that to my dad, you know? So, and I missed that, you know, because she passed away. I think it was 2017 or 18. And so, yeah, thank you. But it was like something where it's like, you know, those small things that people do. But I'm not sure if it's just the Chamorro. But I noticed that small people do it. And I've never seen people do it, either, like other races and stuff, do it before.

Claire Lavarreda  15:39  
Right, right. And then I think so, we've already spoken about some ways you've practiced your indigenous culture as a child, you've spoken about dance. So that aside, what was the rest of school like for you? And how did you navigate that with your Chamorro identity, as well as any other identities you had?

Matthew Taitano  16:02  
Well, outside of me at school, I was a nerd, I just studied all the time. I wasn't even really involved in extracurriculars I legit just studied all the time, because my goal was to graduate the top of my class, which thankfully, I was able to. Like my mom, she's, you know, I mentioned she's a Korean immigrant, and has, like, a lot of what I think immigrant parents had, like those very high expectations for the kids to excel, academically. And so like, what I will say that it's interesting, looking back, because I didn't realize at the time, but like, I guess a sense of Chamorro privilege in Guam, which is, because in Chamorros, are the native people in Guam, but like, for example, and Guam has a very, and the Chamorro culture, in general is a very, like family oriented culture. And so like, for example, like, people at school, who I didn't even know, would treat me nicely because of my last name, because Taitano is a native, Chamorro last name, and it's like, a last name that people know, on island. So they'll be like, oh, like, you're Taitano, like, a lot of them would either say, like, "I'm related to you," or, like, "I am a friend of your relative." You know, I mean, like, I was very, like, me, and my brother were very, like, sheltered, like, we hung around ourselves a lot. And also, we, well, I can't really speak on my brother that much, but I, you know, have my friends at school and have my friends at church, because church. And, like, for example, in Guam, it's popular, like, it's common for like, after school, you go to like, your neighbor and your neighbors, like, usually your cousin or something, and you go and hang out, you know, like, all the kids in the neighborhood hang out. But like, my mom didn't really allow, like, for me and my brother to do that. I think because she's like an immigrant, and she's sort of just like, wants to protect us and stuff. So normally after school, like, we would just come straight back home. And she would only like for us to hang out with like, our church members, like, you know. So I'm saying that I did have a lot of like, people, and I didn't really know a lot of like my family members -- so they would come up to me, like they said, like, "Oh, we're related." And I would just like, take their word for it. Okay. All right, believe them. Yeah. But um, because of that, like, I didn't realize that, for example, that's the reason why I never had to deal with like, bullying, I guess, like, I've had some bully experiences, but like, for the most part, people treated me like really nicely. And so, there's that and also, like a small thing, like my last name Taitano like, pronouncing it correctly in Guam, because it's a common last name. When I came to the States for the first time in undergrad, I did my undergrad in New Jersey. Like, everyone in the states pronounces it Tai - TAhno. And, you know, it's a small thing, but like, I didn't have to encounter that growing up in Guam, because people just knew how to pronounce, you know, my family's last name because it's a common, like, Chamorro last name. But yeah, just something like that.

Claire Lavarreda  20:00  
So would you -- and this is just out of curiosity -- So is like the indigenous community in the majority then in Guam, like is Chamorro sort of the main culture as opposed to like, I know, like, up here or even in like New England, it's a, you know, default kind of colonizer European culture is the main, like, group now, like demographically? or like that's the default is would you say that Chamorro is the main sort of structure of society in Guam?

Matthew Taitano  20:35  
Well, the US, culture is always looming, you know, it's always the I think, thing kind of pulling the strings because we are a US territory. They will say that, like, yes, I think a lot of people are compelled to learn about the Chamorro culture. But it's interesting because we have such a plethora of cultures on island, like, for example, Filipinos, I think might actually take more of the population than Chamorro people do now, I believe. When I was growing up, I think that wasn't the case. But we've been having a lot of like people from the Philippines that Korea is welcoming in recent years. So I think that the Filipino population especially has increased significantly. A lot of like, for example, I, like I had a lot of Filipino friends growing up, they but they were like, you know, what, like, the ones participating a lot in the Chamorro language courses, they were the ones like, always saying, like, Oh, I love Fina’denne’, which is like a Chamorro sauce, I love Chamorro food. And a lot of them were actually like, the ones on campus active, being activists for like Chamorro culture and representation. So I think there's like a mix. And there's also like, you know, Chamorro people will learn about the Filipino culture and stuff. So it really is such a hodge-podge. I will say that something interesting I notice is that growing up, like there was a lot of like Japanese influence, like most of our tourists coming in were Japanese, before, like in the early 2000s. But now, Japanese tourism has shrink significantly and Korean tourism has increased exponentially. And so it's stuff like -- if you go to one village in Guam called Tumon, which is where all like the hotels and like, you know, the beaches are very manicured. The signs, a lot of them used to be just in English. And then because most of the tourists were Japanese, when now a lot of the Japanese translations have been either like replaced by Korean, or like Korean is also included there now. Why that is? I'm not entirely sure. I mean, for the Korean tourism industry increasing? I think it's just because like Korea in general has been booming over the recent years, both as to why the Japanese tourism has decreased I'm not sure what...

Claire Lavarreda  23:21  
Thank you for sharing that it was really interesting, because I was just curious, and I didn't know too much. And so I know you mentioned food. Is there like a favorite recipe or a cultural dish you have? You know, is there one that sticks out to you?

Matthew Taitano  23:36  
Well, I mentioned Fina’denne’. So basically, it's just like a dipping sauce. It's like soy sauce. There's two specific types. They're like a sauce based one that has like, peppers leaves, like these tiny peppers called donne' peppers. They're really small, but very hot. So you put that in and you put onions and you put some, I think vinegar and, and some other stuff. People put like different things, but those are like, the base ingredients. Like you can put anything like you dip like barbecue meats. And like in Chamorro culture, we have a lot of barbecue. A lot of like fish and stuff. So you eat like, usually if you're eating, like beef or pork, you use the soy sauce fina'denne' or you have the lemon fina'denne', which is clear. Um, you use like, lemon juice, or you can use like Calamansi juice. Calamansi is like similar to the lemon. It's kind of like a mix between a lemon and a lime. Okay. And that it's better to eat fish with that type of thing. Because you know how like, people in general, like eat like they'll have like a lemon wedge with fish and stuff. Right, right. Yeah, so it's like kind of this like a similar concept. So that's a popular dish. Um, well, it's not really a dish, I guess it's more of like the side. Right, right. It's not like an actual dish, I like kudu, which is a beef stew, basically. And you cook it like over a long period of time to the point where like the beef, just like balls off the bone. It's very, like, soothing and you leave with rice, you'll have the soup and you have the rice on the side. Some people like we'll get the soup, like a spoon of the soup and like put on top of the rice and eat it that way with the meat or they'll just like dunk the rice in the soup itself.

Claire Lavarreda  25:39  
Well, yeah, it sounds so good. It sounds really good. Yeah. Um.

Matthew Taitano  25:47  
Yeah, I was gonna say, it's interesting, though, because with like, like, the influence of like, our colonized, like the people who colonized us in the past, like, there's a lot of like, dishes in Chamorro culture that are similar to those cultures. Like, for example, we have things like similar to tortillas. I and like, like, a lot, I would say mostly like Spanish influence in our cuisine, which is interesting. Although we do use a lot of soy sauce. So I think that's like, indicative of like... [the Japanese influence]...

Claire Lavarreda  26:26  

Matthew Taitano  26:28  
Yeah, a lot of mix and match in our cuisine as well.

Claire Lavarreda  26:32  
That was actually gonna be the question I was going to ask you is gonna say, is there any has there been any, like new or like, fusion dishes created because of so many different, like, communities involved? Yeah.

Matthew Taitano  26:50  
Specific dishes, um, like, I can see them in my mind, the food. Yeah, the name of them is not coming. So...

Claire Lavarreda  26:59  
Yeah, it's totally fine. Some stuff I feel like doesn't have a name, but like, you just know it or like you consume it.

Matthew Taitano  27:08  
Yeah. Like we have something I think similar to like, leche flan. But I'm forgetting the name of it. Because I like -- because there's like, two things that I don't want to get their names mixed up because they have similar pronunciation. But yeah, something similar to leche flan. You know, nowadays -- I will say in Guam-- what's interesting is that, despite the prominence of Starbucks globally, people in Guam, we don't really drink Starbucks. We have like, one, or both in a hotel. But like, no one goes there. Basically, it's just like, for the tourists who come who are staying at the hotel. Yeah, I don't know why it's because we have a coffee chain called Infusion. Okay, like started by like a local person. And like, it became a chain on Guam. And I think now they have locations in Hawaii and stuff. Like everyone drinks that Infusion. And even like, it's funny, because when people come stateside to Guam, and they try Infusion, they also are converted to get to that Infusion. Yeah, so yeah, I think that's one interesting thing. Starbucks hasn't gotten to us.

Claire Lavarreda  28:33  
Yes. Good. I mean, Starbucks is too expensive. Anyway. So not ideal.

Matthew Taitano  28:38  
Yeah, but it's interesting. One last thing, like it's interesting, like fast food places like McDonald's, KFC, our local meals you can get so like, you can get the standard like Big Mac and stuff. But like, for example, during breakfast, they have like something called like a local deluxe breakfast where you could rice, spam, eggs. Spam is very popular in Guam. It became popular when the US came actually. And we have like Portuguese sausage. And like, it also comes with fina’denne’. So you can get like local stuff, like at the fast food chains because they're, you know, they know that people would like... 

Claire Lavarreda  28:38  
to eat that. That's so interesting that they they kind of tailor it. Although that was my experience also when I went went to Guatemala and we went to a McDonald's, and they had like, they had food that they know people would like enjoy locally. And also I found that I feel like from what I've heard that like, McDonald's outside the US is actually better, than McDonald's in the US, [which]  is kind of lame. So this is also interesting to know.

Matthew Taitano  29:52  
Yeah, in Korea, they have like bulogi burgers and stuff like that. You know, where they have like the bulgogi meat in hamburgers and stuff.

Claire Lavarreda  30:05  
And so my next question was as an adult now, what is your relationship with your indigenous community and your heritage? Has it changed at all since you were a child or teenager?

Matthew Taitano  30:16  
I think I've become more I don't know. I don't want to say urgency. I think that's too strong of a word. But like feeling a sense of like wanting to connect with my Chamorro culture more, I feel like I connect, I have a lot of opportunities to connect with my Korean identity. Like, for example, when I was at Northeastern, I went to a Korean church there. At Purdue, I found the Korean church. And actually, I feel like there's more Koreans here at Purdue than than there was in Northeastern. So I want to have that same like those with like, my Chamorro identity. And one way of thinking about doing that here at Purdue is we do have like a Native Cultural Center. It is more catered towards, like Native American students, as well as like students from like, some Pacific islands like me, specifically, like Hawaii. But like, for example, here, I met someone who is from an island that's from the same island chain as Guam. And even just seeing him, like I, when I saw him look like someone who would be from Guam. And he came up to me, because I guess he recognized my last name. And we're like, oh, you know, I'm forgetting which island he was from exactly. But he's like, you know, I'm from the same vicinity, basically, where he grew up in Texas, but you know, his family's from the island. And that encouraged me to like, and when we visited the Native Cultural Center, like the person running, it was like, oh, you know, we would love to have you so we can have, like, you know, more representation and stuff like that at the center. So I think I might do that. I don't know how formally involved I'll be with the center, but I do want to be involved in some to, like, put Guam on the map and stuff like that. Yeah, because I think especially here at Purdue, a lot of people from Guam, like, in terms of like education would like be able to thrive here. A lot of people from Guam are very interested in STEM actually, like, especially like the agricultural sciences, marine bio, marine biological Sciences, and stuff like that. And Purdue is really good at like, agricultural sciences. So I think if people from Guam, who are interested in agricultural sciences want to study that , Purdue would be a good place to do that. So I want to get Guam on the map here. Potentially open doors for other people on the island.

Claire Lavarreda  33:16  
You'd be like the pioneer of the growing like, maybe Chamorro or Guam community at Purdue, which would be awesome. Hopefully. Yeah. Oh, that would probably be a big project considering everything. You're starting now with your doctoral studies. Yeah. Um, so then, currently, how is your indigenous heritage part of your work and studies? If it is, and what is it been like navigating academia, with your, your identities and your indigeneity?

Matthew Taitano  33:51  
To be quite honest, there, my native identity is not very much involved. I think it's involved in or directly at least, I think it's involved in a roundabout way. Because, like, for example, I studied Korean literature, like critical race theory. And also like, I'm interested in like, post colonial theory. And I think my propensity towards post colonial studies comes from coming from Guam, you know, looking at, like, noticing the influence of colonization on the island and becoming more aware of it as I like, get more, you know, like, get older and get more education and stuff like that. So I'm always looking at it through that way. You know, what I mean? I'm always like, trying to just work that offers like a unique perspective, that opposite perspective that I think reflects my own experiences, my native identity being a part of that, but um, Yeah, and I don't know -- I feel like I just haven't. And to be quite fair, when I first started off studying, like, in undergrad, I remember, a lot of my professors were sort of pushing me towards, like, Pacific Island Studies, just simply because I came from Guam. But, you know, I came came in...

as an English major, not entirely sure yet what literature I want to study, but

at the time, I sort of felt like they were trying to pigeon-hole me, you know, or even tokenizing in a way. So initially, I was kind of like, distancing myself directly studying, not just, you know, Chamorro topics, but also Korean topics and stuff like that. Although I did take Korean in undergrad as like my second language requirement. But, yeah, I am more open to incorporating, like, my native identity, in my studies. How, I'm not entirely sure yet.

Claire Lavarreda  36:15  
Right, right. I think also, it's like, important to note that like, because you are like Indigenous, it is always part of your work. Which I think -- I feel like so many, like, lots of times we think like, oh, then you must, you need to study Pacific islands, or you need to study Indigenous, you know, history to, for it to count as incorporating your heritage or something. But I think naturally, just you being you is already is already having that incorporated, if that makes sense. I'm not super eloquent. So hopefully that made logical sense. Yes, that's why we always have the like English department to help us like historians out because we just say things really confusing and backwards. So then how? Alright, so I really asked you, how long has it been navigating academia and indigeneity? So how, in your own words, do you feel about the concept of cultural preservation? So it doesn't just have to pertain to museums, libraries, and archives. But just the concept of preserving indigeneity and your Chamorro culture?

Matthew Taitano  37:28  
Yeah, I think cultural preservation is great. But I think what's interesting, because I think when people think cultural preservation, they're automatically like onboard. But I think there's specific instances where you can create some tension, which I think is interesting, like for Guam, specifically, for example, like the Chamorro language, modern Chamorro language has a lot of like Spanish and Japanese influence, because of colonization, like for example, in Chamorro, we use similar the similar accounting system to expand it. So we say like, Uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco. And we have like, a lot of Spanish words and Chamorro. And we have a lot of like Japanese where it's like, for example, like I'm wearing, like, you know, flip flops. In Chamorro, we call this story. And story is actually a Japanese word. So if it's in, in Japanese culture, like traditional Japanese culture, you'll see like a lot of like, Samurais and people in general, like wearing these with, like, soft siping that's where, you know, we in Chamorro will say sorry, but it comes from Japan. So, my dad's generation, for example, they speak the modern language more, which they don't see it as modern Chamorro, they just see it as Chamorro. Whereas we have Fino’ Håya which is the Chamorro language that is touched by colonization. So like, what some people might say, like, you know, traditional Chamorro or maybe even quote unquote, real Chamorro so like, for example, in that in you know, Fino’ Håya we don't use, like uno, tres, quatro, we use, like, [counts in language] completely different counting system. And like a lot of -- there's a lot of activists on island who are advocating for cultural preservation, meaning they are specifically they're advocating for the preservation of the Fino’ Håya, and not just advocating for the preservation of it, but the practice of it. And some of them are actually advocating for the replace of modern with Fino’ Håya. Because they don't want to endorse, like colonization, you know what I mean? They see, like, if you're using modern Chamorro, then you're using like the colonizers tongue basically, not all activists, but there are right that are like that. And like a lot of people like my dad, like my, I don't know, my dad's opinions about this, because I never really talked to him about it, to be quite honest. But people from my dad's generation who grew up speaking, you know, more with the Spanish influence. They're, like, upset with these activists, because they're like, we can't speak Fino’ Håya you know what I mean? It's almost like a different language. And it's not the language. Like a lot of them, they would say, like, this is not the language we spoke at home growing up with our parents, you know. And so and also, I do think that a lot of the activists who are like I, or, you know, how to, like, some of them come up as kind of like elitist, or like, sort of, like, pretentious in a way where it's like, oh, we're using like, the pure Chamorro. Like, like, in a sense of, like, feeling more entitled or lightened in a way we're using, you know, Fino’ Håya over like, you know, Chamorro and which, you know, like, but a lot of them didn't grow up culturally, just like speaking. On a day to day basis, they learned Fino’ Håya and like, sort of like an academics that was putting it in school and stuff like that, because, you know, you're not going to, on a day to day basis, hear a lot of people speaking, you know, Fino’ Håya. You know what I mean? But you'll hear more people speaking, like the regular Chamorro, like my dad's generation spoke. A lot of people who do you know how to me, me, too. I was introduced to Fino’ Håya in school in high school, because like, my high school Chamorro teacher was actually one of like, the leading activists, you know. But he didn't see like, well, I don't know, looking back, maybe he kind of did. Because he didn't really was using like, the Spanish version of the language. Like, I remember sometimes when someone would say, like a Spanish version of the word, he would be like, No, that's not the word. It's right. That's not. But I don't know. But yeah, there's, I think that's an interesting topic. I personally think it's like, I'm kind of like, in the middle, I think, the Chamorro that my dad's generation spoke should be preserved. I don't think it should be replaced. And I think I was talking to someone who's from Guam, actually. Talking about like, we were food and how, like, you know, Guam has like, a lot of Spanish cuisine, because of colonization is saying, stuff like, you know, that's Chamorro to me, like, I grew up eating that with, like, my [intelligible] like, family like that, to me. I'm not ashamed of that, you know. We got to I think, you know, there's a, we should reclaim that we shouldn't be ashamed of that. You know, what I mean? We shouldn't erase that history. But also, I think we, we should educate people more on Fino’ Håya. I think it's a beautiful thing. And I want to watch the work of the teaching documents and stuff like that, for Fino’ Håya, I think they're doing really great work, but it should be in the middle.

Claire Lavarreda  43:59  
But yeah, trying to find a balance between like, you know, people saying this is what we should preserve or like, this is the purest like this is the actual experience as opposed to like the lived experience of the people who's speaking it. I know, when I went to like a Nahuatl/Nawat Institute in Chicago, there was like discussion over the tension between, like speaking pure Nawat, as opposed to like modern day which has become integrated with maybe colonizer language, but is more of the common shared, lived experience of the Indigenous community and is equally valid. So it's an interesting, it's an interesting tension going on. And so then, what do you wish that people who are not Chamorro, or not Indigenous, understood about your community and Indigenous communities in general?

Matthew Taitano  45:01  
I think I can speak to maybe about Pacific native as well, something basic is that we're not the same as Hawaiians. I think a lot of people have this image of Guam, where I, when I describe it, they think Hawaii. And even though I love, you know, Hawaii, I'm actually-- I've never even really been there. But I've been through the airports often, but, you know, I'm not, I have nothing against Hawaii. That's not what I'm saying. But it's basically like, you know, we're not the same, there are these nuances between our cultures and big differences, actually, not just nuances. And that we shouldn't be conflated because we should celebrate those differences. You know, what I mean? Like, for example, we don't do hula, you know, that's from Hawaii. And my people sometimes would go, like in Guam, like to hotels, and like-- for example, the dancing, that the performances that they would do at the hotel-- sometimes they would be Hawaiian dances, actually. But they would just do that, because, you know, they're catering towards like, tourists. But I think now there's actually more of a push to perform like traditional Chamorro dances, which is to educate the tourists of what actually is. Right, right. And yeah, this is also an interesting thing. Because, like, I think maybe people from Puerto Rico might sympathize, being like a US territory. But it's interesting, because like, you know, I don't want to push this narrative of like, I'm a US citizen. And so I'm like, you know, like, I'm like a nationalist, you know, what I mean? Or like, or like, in like, Americanist. But, for example, going to like, a bar, and showing your Guam driver's license and not being seen or being like, oh, no, you can't come in. And so I would always have to travel with us passport. Before I used to smoke cigarettes, I would have to show my passport to show to get cigarettes, with my Guam driver's license, physical driver's license and American ID. So they wouldn't believe that, you know, stuff like that. And oftentimes, when I would encounter that situation, I would have, I don't have my passport with me. I would say like, Oh, we're like Puerto Rico. When I bring  Puerto Rico, they're like, Okay, then it should be fine. And then they'll scan it, and then they'll go through. So...

Claire Lavarreda  48:04  
... A concept of like being technically by name, "Oh yeah, you're a part of [us],"

and then not really, you're not getting any of the benefits or assurances of being considered part of the United States.

Matthew Taitano  48:19  
Yeah. And I would hope to see, like, and I want to bring like that, as a whole to see in, like, Guam, like people from Guam able to vote for the US President. Because when I'm able to, we can vote for like our own governors and like the local government, but we can't vote for the US President.

Claire Lavarreda  48:40  
Really?! I actually didn't -- I had no idea about that. Yeah.

Matthew Taitano  48:43  
Yeah. Like we have a we have a pseudo poll. Of course, basically, like, the news out, like the big news outlet in Guam will take people's votes online, and just like, show it, what, like, who, like people, like who people would have voted for. Right, right. But we see that move towards direction because there's a lot of people in Guam. Guam is very important to the US even though they try to treat us like we're not. I mean, that's why we have such large US military involvement in Guam. High recruitment rates of locals into the US military. My dad is a Marine Corps veteran himself. And so like, since we have so many people from Guam, joining the US military, very risk their lives for the country. Fighting to make it better. They think we should have the right to vote for you as president, you know? Absolutely. You're like vote for-- who is sending these people to like, you know, like these these wars and stuff so right. And if not for me then for people like my dad, you know and in Yeah, that's what I would say. And that's what I hope people would hear.

Claire Lavarreda  50:15  
Yes, absolutely. I just think it's so ridiculous I get I had no idea about the voting and like just to think that like yeah, we can we can send you into an active war zone but you're not allowed to choose the leader is kind of stupid. So you for sharing that. So is there anything else you'd like to share? That was sort of all the main questions I had today. So if there's anything else you'd like to state or if you want to plug your own work or projects you could do that now. Whatever works.

Matthew Taitano  50:43  
Um, not much. Not much else to add quite honestly, I feel like I said a little bit. No, I feel like I said everything I had to. And so the only thing I'll say is Si Yu’os Ma’ase, which means thank you in Chamorro.

Claire Lavarreda  51:06  
Okay, thank you so much. So I'm gonna stop recording


Prev Next