The government of Guam will be hosting a Spanish delegation that is navigating the world in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Magellan-Elcano circumnavigation.
The ship is scheduled to arrive at 5 a.m. Friday and will stay on Guam until March 2.
Some question Guam’s role in commemorating an event that marks the Spanish incursion and celebrates an explorer who referred to the island as “isla de ladrones” (island of thieves). But Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said this is an opportunity to ensure Guam’s place in history and its people as agents of their own political destiny.
“It is important that we recognize all that has come as a result of Magellan’s voyage to the Pacific. Our participation in this commemorative event marks a point in our history but is also a step in our continued path toward our decolonization,” the governor said at Thursday’s press conference.
“This is our opportunity to express and articulate the Chamoru narrative and put our ancestors at the forefront of this event. If we don’t tell our story, who will?”
The governor also said hosting the Spanish delegation will open the potential for diplomatic partnerships and increased opportunity for cultural, educational, economic exchanges and potential markets for tourism.
While the commemoration has been years in the planning, events have been scaled back due to the global pandemic.
“However, this remains a significant event and we hope this will mark a turning point in how the circumnavigation will be framed to future generations,” the governor said. “We want the world to know that the people of Guam are resilient, strong, and have overcome every struggle and adversity that we have been faced with. It is time for our voices to be heard.”
The Spanish training ship, Juan Sebastian de Elcano will arrive within local waters at 5 a.m. Friday, after which it will continue to make a path down the west side of the island for the residents to observe its approach, in a friendly effort “to see and be seen.”
The voyage will take naval training sailing ships across the Atlantic to Argentina, through the Straits of Magellan, and across the Pacific Ocean, passing Guam and the Philippines on their way back to the Spanish port of Cádiz.
The anniversary event has been in planning for more than two years, although many of the events and proceedings have either been cancelled or made virtual due to the pandemic situation.
Some events are still scheduled such as the arrival of the Juan Sebastian de Elcano and the upcoming Marianas History conference.
"We hope our people encourage this effort as a Chamorro effort,” said Joe Quinata, spokesperson for the Kumision I Estoria-ta.
Registration for the conference will continue until Sunday and those interested in Chamorro culture and its current documentation are encouraged to attend. The event includes an exclusive interview with four scholars who put together a comprehensive record of Guam's history and cultures with what resources we have to date.
In response to a question on the importance of the 500th year anniversary, the governor said, "This commemoration will happen with or without Guam."
She said developing relations with members of the Spanish emissary will allow Guam to continue the process of healing that could result in the furtherance of Guam's quest for self-determination.
"Clearly we have a painful history but by forming positive relations with Spain we are able to have a stronger voice in the U.N.” she said.
Melvin Won Pat-Borja, executive director of the Decolonization Commission, said, "We really do desire peace, friendship and goodwill. That’s the purpose of this engagement with Spain.”