I, for one, am against open borders. Foreigners claim to be “in search of a better life,” but all they do is take away our livelihoods and bring their diseases and social ills. I am still in disbelief that our country celebrates this foreign invasion with Columbus Day!
Columbus never set foot in North America, of course. But the Spanish conquistadors did set foot in what are now our home islands. And they gave us a name that’s stuck through the centuries!
Don’t you know? The Marianas are the Islands of the Thieves! Every know-it-all in the Marianas will repeat it from their barstool or keyboard. It’s perhaps the only history they know!
Oh, history! It’s like Carlos Santana said: Those who don’t remember it are condemned to repeat it. I’m something of a historical relic myself, but I sure hope nobody is condemned to repeat me.
The usual story, which one of those know-it-alls will be all too glad to tell you if you buy him another cold one, is that the Spanish left their possessions on the beach, and when they came back, their stuff had been taken. Because these are the Islands of the Thieves. By the way, it’s los ladrones, not las ladrones, you cunning linguists.
Then come the apologists or debunkers, with the competing story: the Spanish had taken goods from the Chamorros, and the Chamorros were just collecting what was due.
Nice barstool stories. But both stories are even more false than the risible pseudohistorical malana that CB Cook writes.
You see, the Chamorros, like most Pacific Islander societies of the time — and indeed, most of the world at the time — had no concept of private property. Even in “enlightened” Europe, most people had no rights to private property. Property, especially land, was controlled and distributed by the local lord. Heck, in the Americas, many people had no right to their own bodies, nor to their offspring.
In fact, all those ships that were “robbed” by the Chamorros — they certainly didn’t belong to the people riding on those ships. They belonged exclusively to the Spanish royal family. (You think they called it the Mariana-s and the Philip-pines just for funsies?)
You do realize that private property is a human social construct, right? And is highly dependent on place and time?
So for 16th or 17th century Chamorros, there was no concept of anything belonging to anyone. The lord or chief or whatever you want to call him decided who can use what. It was a bit like North Korea, other than the haircuts.
The chief saw the boat and the metal and the cloth sitting there on the beach, and he allocated who could use it, and how and where. So when the Spanish went back to their boats to take a break from their robbing and raping of the locals, they found a lot of “their” (really, the Spanish royal family’s) stuff was missing — allocated by the island chief. And so they dubbed us “thieves,” because we didn’t honor the Spanish royal family’s claiming exclusive property rights to those boats from 12,000 miles away.
Does a clash of cultural beliefs about property rights ring any bells? How about the ancient Chamorro custom of only the high-caste Chamorros being allowed to conduct trade with outsiders, and that right being closely held and doled out only as a great personal favor?
The more things look different, the more they look the same. They had their know-it-alls too. Here’s leading colonial apologist Juan Gines de Sepulveda:
“The Spaniards are as superior to the Indians as adults are to children, or men to women, for there exists as much difference between the two as between savage and cruel races and the most merciful, between the most intemperate and the temperate and, finally, between the most unjust and the most just.”
I think I heard that same line at Godfather’s.
Mabel Doge Luhan is a rootless cosmopolitan and a woman of loose morals. She resides in Kagman V, where she pursues her passions of crocheting, beatboxing, and falconry.