By Gary Heathcote

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Mar. 3) – By executive order, the governor declared the year 2005 to be "Åñon Fino' Chamorro yan Kottura: Inina, Deskubri yan Setbisio" -- "The year of the Chamorro Language and Culture: Enlightenment, Discovery and Service."

What better time than now to start taking serious, informed steps in the direction of creating the kind of museum and cultural center that would do Guam proud?

Prior to the last election, I polled the senatorial hopefuls on their positions and ideas about promoting, preserving and educating the public and tourists alike about Guam's rich and distinctive history and cultures. It was heartening to receive replies and read thoughtful, published responses on these issues from a number of candidates, including even a few who won. I was particularly interested in what the candidates had to say about fund-raising, since securing property; building infrastructure; designing and building needed facilities; hiring needed museum professionals, scholars, masters of the arts, cultural traditions and oral history; and training needed para-professional staff will be -- of course -- quite expensive.

The most substantive responses came from Sen. Larry Kasperbauer and former Speaker Ben Pangelinan.

I learned that Kasperbauer had previously proposed that Japan and the United States jointly build a cultural center and museum for the people of Guam to, in part, "resolve the issue of war-time ill-treatment of our people." Who shot that down?

Pangelinan informed me that he was working on a proposal to "charter an NGO (non-government organization) to receive donations from state governments such as Spain, Mexico, Japan, etc., to assist in the financing." In addition, Pangelinan advocated "setting aside a portion of the Tourist Attraction Fund" to fund the construction of new facilities.

I was hoping that, in the last days of the previous Legislature, a bill might be introduced and passed that would incorporate some or all of the above ideas into it. This did not happen. Is any such bill being developed in the current Legislature, in this Åñon Fino' Chamorro yan Kottura?

I thought, perhaps naively, that the pre-election pledges and responses from the candidates were a good sign, as my short memory does not recall a recent election where so many candidates articulated views on preserving and promoting Guam's cultural and historical heritage.

Further, where does the governor stand on this subject? What is his plan? I hope and trust that the good governor and senators who feel passionately about the value and worth of Guam's cultural and historical legacies will very soon work together and couple actions to their words.

I can think of no better legacy that they could leave to the people of Guam, during their time in office ... short of "fixing" GMH, of course.

Gary Heathcote is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Guam and a resident of Yona.

March 3, 2005

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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