Islanders in Illinois

Mikey, The Bear and I have spent all day today recovering from our full-fledged Saturday of sun and fun. Our family’s annual Guam and Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands Liberation Day party was held yesterday at Carlyle Lake in Illinois. Some of you may remember my blog post about it last year, but in case you missed it, here’s the what and why behind our Liberation Day celebration.

My family is originally from Guam, a small island in the Pacific — although it’s the largest in a chain of islands called the Marianas Islands. It’s a good 21 hours by plane, out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Hot, humid and tropical 24/7/365. You might assume it’s a foreign country, considering how far away it is from the states. But it’s actually a U.S. territory, so technically, you can fly there passport-free. (Although we have run into some rather unintelligent airline representatives at the ticket counter who have tried to argue otherwise. Let it be known, people. Guam is a U.S. territory. If you don’t know that, then maybe you shouldn’t be working an international ticket counter — or even work in the airline industry at all. Sorry, I’m kind of bitter about it.)

Anyway, while my immediate family has long lived stateside, we still consider Guam our true home. And every year, Liberation Day is a perfect way to celebrate our lovely island — even though we’re thousands of miles away from the real thing, let alone a real beach. My mom is the head organizer, and she coordinates the annual gathering via email, contacting all of our Chamorro (Guam natives) friends to join us at the Eldon Hazlet State Park at Carlyle Lake in Illinois for a day of food, music, lounging and mingling.

You’d be surprised how many people in the St. Louis/Metro East area are from Guam. If I had to guess, I’d say much of it has to do with Scott Air Force Base’s proximity to St. Louis. The base brings in folks from all around the world. Aside from the air base, we somehow find each other through various connections. Sometimes it’s a Guam bumper sticker on a car that signals, “Hey, they’re Chamorro!” Or it may be a Chamorro last name that’s a dead giveaway. All in all, we had 90 RSVP’s to the Liberation Day party this year. After four or five years of doing this, the guest count keeps getting bigger and bigger.

Now you may be wondering what Liberation Day is all about. It’s a day to celebrate freedom. During World War II, Japanese forces attacked and invaded Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands of Saipan, Tinian and Rota (now known as the Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Islands or CNMI) on December 10, 1941 — three days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. After three years under Japanese rule, U.S. Marines stormed the beaches of Asan and Agat and fought fiercely for three weeks. After numerous battles and scores of casualties, they defeated the Japanese. In 1950, Chamorros were granted American citizenship. And it’s for this reason that three flags fly at our annual Liberation Day celebration — the Guam flag, the CNMI flag and the American flag.

Biba Liberation Day, Guam, Saipan, Tinian and Rota!




Filed under Family

3 responses to “Islanders in Illinois

  1. Pingback: Carlyle Lake Gets Schooled by The Bear | Everything Glitters

  2. mayo

    i live in chicago but i never see any chamorros! is the liberation celebration open to all chamorros? i miss the food and culture.

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