For over 100 years, Guam has remained under U.S. jurisdiction. Yet, to this day, residents from the island are not eligible to vote for the American president or to select members of Congress with voting power.
“Simply put, our voices aren’t being heard,” Kel Muna, a native Guam filmmaker, said of the islanders’ inability to vote.
Politicians and activists have cooperated on exploring alternative options for Guam’s political status in recent years. In 2011, Governor Eddie Baza Calvo relaunched the Commission on Decolonization, which seeks to educate residents on the three status options available: independence, free association, and full integration with the U.S. as a new state.
“They do public service announcements, they do town hall meetings. So they’re getting it out to the community,” Guzman said about the commission’s efforts.
According to Guzman, achieving independence appears to be the most popular status option at this point. “I’d say it’s at about 35 percent, but it’s a growing sentiment,” he said.
But some support statehood because they believe that being more integrated with the U.S. would grant the island greater rights and power, according to Perez.
Through education and outreach, the commision hopes that residents will ultimately be able to make an informed choice in a plebiscite that could take place as soon as next year, said Lisa Natividad, a commission member who is also on faculty at the University of Guam.