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Taitano found against U.S. military rule

By Dionesis Tamondong

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Mar. 27, 2009) - A man known for leading the charge against autocratic military rule on Guam and for providing citizenship and civil rights for its people died Wednesday.

Former legislative speaker Carlos P. Taitano died peacefully at his home in Los Angeles, according to his family. He was 92. Funeral services are scheduled for April 3.

Taitano was best known for leading members of the Guam Congress in 1949 to walk out in protest against the U.S. Naval governor, who refused to recognize the local legislature’s authority. The walkout helped spur the U.S. Congress to pass the Organic Act of Guam, which granted citizenship and established a civil government.

Taitano’s commitment to his island went beyond politics. He always encouraged people to understand their culture, said University of Guam President Robert Underwood.

The former Guam delegate described Taitano as an early advocate of cultural reflection and introspection in addition to his political and historical roles.

"He was one of the earliest individuals I knew that was interested in understanding our cultural roots," Underwood said, adding that Taitano urged people to do the same.

He also called Taitano a "chief agitator" because "he never missed an opportunity to congratulate the existing political leadership on what they’re doing, but urging them to move forward, asking them ‘what more are you doing?’"

While Taitano was proud of the American citizenship he fought for, Underwood said Taitano also wanted Guam’s people to take the next step and fight for more control and more rights.

If there is one lesson today’s generation can learn from Taitano, Underwood said, it would be to "never be satisfied with your achievements and continue to strive to do more."

Before the Organic Act, Chamorros received little or no education, were paid less for the same jobs done by American citizens and couldn’t leave the island without the Navy admiral’s approval.

Though Guam’s leaders at the time pushed for U.S. citizenship, federal officials told them Guam’s people weren’t ready for it, according to Pacific Daily News files.

Taitano fed the media news of the walkout -- which made headlines in The New York Times, The Washington Post and other reputable newspapers -- creating widespread sympathy for Guam’s cause.

On August 1, 1950, President Truman signed the Organic Act with Taitano standing by his side.

"If there is one lesson I would draw from his life, it’s courage. He had the courage to change his life and his community for the better," said his son Tyrone Taitano. "He taught me that we do not have to accept the way things are. We can change things -- if only we have the courage to try."

To his grandson Victor J. Lujan, Taitano was more than a World War II veteran, attorney and businessman. His grandfather was a wealth of knowledge who always urged others to learn as much as they can.

Lujan, 41, of Nimitz Hill, recalls going on many family trips with his grandfather.

"Those trips broadened my perspective of the world in such a way that helped me appreciate our island, our culture and our people," Lujan said.

One of the first things Taitano made his children and grandchildren do when landing at their destination was to visit a library and learn more about the place they were visiting.

"It was painful at the time as a 12-year-old kid, but it made the trips more memorable," Lujan said.

Local officials yesterday praised Taitano for his accomplishments and his legacy.

"He was a dedicated public servant whose legacy will continue to inspire young leaders from our island for generations to come. His bold leadership and his love for his island and our people are what I remember most about him," Delegate Madeleine Bordallo stated in a news release.

Governor Felix Camacho and Lt. Gov. Mike Cruz called Taitano a pioneer who led Guam toward self-government.

"His leadership and passion for our island and its people will truly be missed," they said in a joint statement.

Taitano fed the media news of the walkout -- which made headlines in The New York Times, The Washington Post and other reputable newspapers -- creating widespread sympathy for Guam’s cause.

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