GUAM FAMILIES WEEP AS MILITARY RETURNS LAND

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HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, May 21) - Original landowners
shed tears of joy yesterday as Gov. Felix Camacho signed 29 deeds to return land
condemned by the military after World War II.

Dozens of people whose families originally owned the land
attended the deed-signing ceremony. Many expressed relief at the return of land
the federal government condemned and took after the war.

"Knowing how my father and mother worked so hard for that
land, I feel so good to get it back," said Lorenzo Cruz, 75, of Agat.
"It feels so good, and it's very emotional, because that's where I grew up,
you know?"

Cruz said he was 19 years old when the land was condemned and
his family had to leave.

According to Ancestral Lands Commission Vice Chairman Antonio
Sablan, landowners were usually compensated about $12 per acre for the land when
they were removed.

Another recipient of a deed yesterday, 81-year-old Maria de
Jesus Salas of Asan, reclaimed land that belonged to her husband's parents. She
lived on her in-laws' ranch when she was first married, but said they were
forced off the property during the Japanese occupation during the war.

Salas recalled the day they had to leave.

"I remember I was sobbing and crying. We had two children
who were very sick, and we had to carry them up to Yona," she said. She
said she plans to split the 51 acres they received among family members.

Her granddaughter, 26-year-old Aggie Rodriguez of Asan, said the
family was relieved to receive the property.

"We've been fighting for a long time for this land,"
Rodriguez said. "It's good, because now we know we have a piece of the
island, and we'll always have some place that we can come back to."

This is the third set of deeds to be turned over to landowners
by the Guam Ancestral Lands Commission, which is in charge of returning several
thousand acres of land deemed excess by the federal government.

A title hearing concerning 32 more plots began yesterday
afternoon.

Commission members have said they have identified about 650
parcels to be returned to landowners, according to Pacific Daily News files.

After signing the deeds, the governor spoke to the landowners
and their families.

"This is the start of much more to come," Camacho
said. "It is my wish that you take this land that has been given back to
you and make the best possible use of it. It is now in your hands.

May 21, 2003

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com 

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