The Fifth Map
The first map my dad hangs in the hallway
is an aerial view of Guam.
The island nearly fills the entire space. “Where
is our village?” I ask him. “In the center,”
he says. “Here: Mongmong.” I whisper
the names of other villages:
“Hagatna, Barrigada, Tumon, Dededo, Agat...”
I once imagined these places as completely separate,
but now I see how they’re only different parts
of the same tropical body.
The second map my dad hangs in the hallway
is an aerial view of the Marianas archipelago.
I count 15 islands extending in a vertical
crescent. I recognize the shape of Guam,
the largest and southernmost in the linked
chain. My dad pronounces the names
of the northern islands: “Rota, Aguijan,
Tinian, Saipan, Farallon de Medinilla,
Anatahan, Sarigan, Guguan, Alamagan,
Pagan, Agrihan, Asuncion, Maug,
and Farallon de Pajaros.” I tell him:
“They look like the beads of a rosary.”
The third map my dad hangs in the hallway
is an aerial view of Micronesia.
“‘Micro- means ʻtiny,’” he says. “And ‘nesia’
means ‘islands.’” Two thousand dots scattered
across the Western Pacific.
My dad points: “Here’s the Marianas,
and here’s Palau, Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, Kosrae,
the Marshalls, Nauru, and Kiribati.”
The archipelagoes resemble constellations.
“Are the people there Chamorro too?”
I ask him. “No,” he answers.
“But they’re our cousins.”
The fourth map my dad hangs in the hallway
is an aerial view of the Pacific Ocean,
rimmed by the Americas and Asia.
Countless archipelagoes divided into three regions:
Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia.
My dad traces a triangle between Hawaiʻi,
Easter Island (Rapa Nui), and New Zealand.
“This is Polynesia,” he says. “Poly- means many.”
Then he draws an imaginary circle around
Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands,
Fiji, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia.
“This is Melanesia,” he says. “Mela- means black.”
The ocean, connecting these vast distances
looks like a blue continent. “Remember,”
he says. “We are all relatives.”
My dad never hung a fifth map in the hallway.
I first see it when I travel, as an adult, to Taiwan.
The tour guide shows me an aerial view
of Austronesia. “ʻAustro- means ‘south,’” she says.
A highlighted area, the shape of a full sail, stretches
from Madagascar to the Malay peninsula
and Indonesia, north to the Philippines and Taiwan,
then traversing Micronesia and Polynesia.
“Austronesians migrated to escape war,
famine, disease, and rising seas,” she says.
It’s difficult to imagine that 400 million people
alive today, who speak over 1000 different languages,
all descend from the same mother tongue,
the same genetic family. I examine the map closely,
navigating beyond the violent divisions
of national and maritime borders, beyond
the scarred latitudes and longitudes
of empire, to navigate the cartography
of our most expansive legends
and deepest routes.
Craig Santos Perez is a native Chamorro from the Pacific Island of Guam. He is the author of three books, most recently from unincorporated territory [guma’], which received an American Book Award in 2015. He is an associate professor in the English department at the University of Hawaiʻi, Mānoa.