Four Selections
by Craig Santos Perez

Inafa’maolek

The word ‘maolek’ means ‘good.’

Inafa’maolek literally means ‘making it good for each other.’

The first two hours consist of presentations by Inafa Maolek on “Tough Love.”

A centerpiece of modernity was the doing away with the primitive and premodern idea that everything is inafa’maolek.

Inafa’Maolek literally means “to make peace.”

There are two parts of our consciousness on Guam: Inafa’maolek and that you must tuck in your shirt handsome.

Inafa’maolek, or the spirit of loving and giving. Literally, the importance of the clan.

Families that starved and suffered were presented with an “Inafa Maolek” coin shadow box.

The spirit of inafa’maolek is tossed around like it’s “democracy” or “patriotism” nowadays.

The result is that many of our people come out of this system culturally lost!

Thus, forming the opinion that Chenchule’, inagofli’e, inafa’maolek, dinanah, mangginge’, poksai, ika, Saina, etc., are Spanish values.

Inafa’maolek, literally the word interdependence.

I recently attended an Inafa’Maolek meeting where the cast put on a short skit about Customer Service.

The spirit of inafa’maolek will prevail just as the aloha spirit does in Hawaii.

Inafa’ Maolek will hold its annual peacemaking conference “Peacestock” today and tomorrow at the Royal Orchid Hotel in Tumon.

It is simply a rationalization for thievery, done in the name of Inafa’maolek.

Inafa’maolek, literally, is an umbrella concept.

Being Chamorro means inafa’maolek as in you help each other to make things go well for another person and not your self-interests.

The value of inafa’maolek literally translates as “to make good.”

Abiba I Inafa’maolek yan Pas gu Enteru Mundo.

This concept bonds people to the root of Chamorro culture, and was passed on even to modern generations who left the island.

Inafa’ Maolek has been the lone voice on Guam.

Islas de los Ladrones

Angry at larcenous natives, Magellan first dubbed the islands ‘Las Islas de los Ladrones’.

The name ‘Islas de los Ladrones’ (or ‘Islands of the Thieves’) was given them by the ship’s crew of Magellan on account of the thieving propensity of the natives.

He called them ‘Islas de los Ladrones’ following the disappearance of numerous objects during his stay.

Magellan calls them ‘Islas de los Ladrones’ (‘Islands of Thieves’) because the natives steal articles from his ships.

In anger over the islanders taking property from his ship, Magellan renamed the islands ‘Las Islas de los Ladrones’.

Later named ‘Islas de Los Ladrones’ (‘The Islands of Thieving’) after an incident wherein the islanders were considered to have stolen iron from the ships.

Angered by the islanders’ penchant for stealing from his ships, he renamed the archipelago ‘Las Islas de los Ladrones’.

The Marianas were named ‘Islas de los Ladrones’ (‘Thieves’ Islands’) by Magellan owing to the theft of the boat of the ‘Trinidad’.

In the Ladrones, Magellan christened the friendly but overcurious natives with a blood bath.

These islands were called by Magellan ‘Islas de los Ladrones’, or ‘The Islands of Robbers’, because those people, not being perfectly versed in the ‘meum et tuum’, happened to eat some of their ship.

Wikipedia explains that the conception of Chamorros as thieves was probably actually a culturally different notion of property.

However, this notion of property is still alive and well in the the Chamorro custom of ‘let me fan borrow.’

Preface to the translations of Y Salmo Sija

Almost every Sunday, my grandmother dragged me to Catholic mass at the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral Basilica in the village of Hagatna, the capital of the Pacific Island of Guahan (Guam, in English). The Basilica marks the site where the first Catholic church on Guahan was constructed in 1669 under the guidance of Padre San Vitores. Guahan, a Spanish colony from the 17th century to 1898, has been a US territory since the Spanish-American War.

Although mass was held in English, each night my grandmother recited the rosary in Chamorro, the native language of Guahan. She said her mother taught her the prayers in Chamorro, and that her mother would read her the psalms from the Chamorro Bible. Bored during mass, I read the psalms in the English language Bibles. The voice of the psalms — helpless, threatened, confused, hopeful, and trusting — continues to haunt me.

My family immigrated to California in 1995, when I was 15 years old. We stopped going to church. I stopped hearing my grandmother’s voice saying her prayers in Chamorro. When I spoke to her on the phone, I asked if she still had her mother’s Chamorro Bible, but she said that it was lost when she was still a young girl. It wasn’t until about a year ago, when I began searching for the Chamorro Bible online, that I learned its tumultuous history.

In 1900, a Protestant Minister named Francis Price arrived on Guam. He believed that translating the Bible into Chamorro would help him connect to his congregation. He began by transcribing a Chamorro teacher’s translation of a Spanish Bible into Chamorro. This method proved too slow, so Price then had several Spanish speaking Chamorros translate independently; Price then compiled these translations to suit his ideas of the Chamorro language (which reflected a Spanish-influenced orthography. In 1907, they had translated the four Gospels, Acts, and Psalms into the Chamorro language. Price secured the permission of the American Bible Society to have the books printed in New York at a cost of $250 for 1,000 copies. The bibles were printed and distributed on Guahan in 1908.

By 1922, the US implemented a California based public school system. American teachers and local English-speaking teachers were used in the classrooms, and all instruction was in English; Chamorro was prohibited in schools and on playgrounds. By government order, about 900 Chamorro dictionaries and other books were collected and burned. Some people contribute the loss of the Chamorro Bible to this linguistic colonialism. Some people also point to the destruction of World War 2, during which the Japanese occupied Guahan, forcing the people off their homes and lands into concentration camps. Despite speculation, the disappearance of the original Chamorro Bible remains a mystery.

In 2001, a middle school teacher named Clarence L. Thomas IV began to search for the original Chamorro Bible to use in a class project. He found a reference online to a Chamorro Bible in the general collection of the Mudd Library at Yale. On September 11, 2001, at 3:23 p.m., the library shipped the Chamorro Bible to Guam, and it was transported from Connecticut to Kentucky, California, Hong Kong, and finally arrived on Guam at 12:15 p.m., September 20, Chamorro Standard Time, which is 15 hours ahead of EST.

Now, the Chamorro Bible is available online at chamorrobible.org.

When I first read Y Salmo Sija (the Psalms) in Chamorro, I stumbled through the text because while I lived on Guam, Chamorro was not taught in the schools. But as I continued to navigate the text, I began to hear the etchings of my grandmother’s voice. Staring at a computer screen an ocean away from my homeland, I whispered the words that at one point my grandmother heard her mother whispering.

While reading Y Salmo Sija, I heard another voice. It was not my grandmother’s voice, nor was it the psalmic voice I remember from childhood. It was a voice translating the Chamorro into English, rendering the violent pulse and colonial of currents of the language itself forced into psalm. This voice emerges in these translations, fragmented psalms held together by silence, omissions, and ellipses.

As a result, my translations are neither objective nor transparent. Often, a phrase will translated into its ‘colonial reality’ (“Dichoso y taotao”, literally “Blessed the people”, becomes “we are cursed”). Other times, a phrase will be omitted to show disbelief (“ya todo y finatinasña mumemegae”, which roughly means, “and all he does shall prosper”, becomes “[…]”). Finally, a phrase will often be translated to question its very meaning (“Sa si Jeova jatungo y chalan manunas: lao y chalan manaelaye ufanmalingo” means roughly “God knows the righteous path; the path of sinners shall perish”, but is translated to “will the Landlord of our path ever perish?”). Although this free / open / subjective / experimental translation methodology does not cleanly translate meaning from one language into another, my hope is that these translations clearly translate the voice I hear in the Chamorro psalms, a voice that has been burned and lost and forgotten and recovered.

Salmo 1 / Psalm 1

Salmo 1

1 Dichoso y taotao, ni ti mamomocat gui pinagat y manaelaye, ni y ti sumasaga gui chalan manisao, ni y ti matatachong gui siyan ayo sija y manmanmofefea.

2 Lao guiya lay Jeova, ayo y minagofña, ya y layña jajaso, jaane yan puenge.

3 Ya taegüijeja y trongcon jayo ni y matanme gui oriyan sadog, ya guaja tinegchaña gui tiempoña, ya y jagonña ti umalayo; ya todo y finatinasña mumemegae.

4 Lao ti taegüine y manaelaye; lao parejo yan y paja ni y güinaefe ni y manglo.

5 Sa enao na ti mangajujulo y manaelaye gui sentensia; ni y manisao gui y inetnon manunas.

6 Sa si Jeova jatungo y chalan manunas: lao y chalan manaelaye ufanmalingo.

Psalm 1

we are cursed, in the path of the ungodly […] the blessed sinners make counsel

their law is our Lord […] a colony of day and night

a tree planted in sand; the river is a military landfill […] no fruit, withered leaf

in the ungodly wind […] we become wheat

to their congress of sinners, judgement, and sentence […]

will the Landlord of our path ever perish?

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Craig Santos Perez is a recent graduate of the University of San Francisco MFA program. He is a poet, whose first book, from unicorporated territory, was published by Tinfish Press in 2008. He is also a translator, reviewer, blogger, and founder of a small press, Achiote. Craig is a Ph.D. Student in the Ethnic Studies program at UC Berkeley.


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