North Korea's threats rattle local Guamanian community

San Diego resident Lola Santos says she is telling her friends and family in Guam to call or text her anytime to talk about the North Korea missile threat that has rattled Guamanians.
San Diego resident Lola Santos says she is telling her friends and family in Guam to call or text her anytime to talk about the North Korea missile threat that has rattled Guamanians. Lola Santos

California has the largest population of Guamanians outside of the U.S. territory of Guam with over 17,000 living in Southern California, among them Lola Santos who has North Korea constantly on her mind these days.

North Korea’s threat to attack the island with missiles has rattled the local Guamanian community and riveted Santos to the news.

"I've been glued to the TV and the e-mails and telephone calls and Facebook messages back and forth with family and friends on Guam as well here in the U.S.," she said. 

Santos is Chamorro, the name of the indigenous people from Guam. She lives in San Diego and serves as the executive director of the Guam Communications Network, a community nonprofit. 

For Santos, the North Korean threat has renewed her anger over America’s lack of knowledge about Guam.

“I guess that's the biggest part that irritates me is that there is such ignorance about Guam and how important it is to the U.S., especially with the military," said Santos. 

Ceded to the U.S. after the Spanish-American War, Guam has a population of about 170,000 people and serves as the strategic base for the Naval Base Guam and Andersen Air Force Base.

It also upsets Santos that while Guam has a representative in Congress, the member isn't able to vote and that Guamanians didn’t choose President Trump because their votes don’t count in general elections.

“I think some of the statements he's made like, you know … 'locked and loaded and ready to go' ... really scares me," she said. "I don't think he understands that he's dealing with people's lives.”

Jess Cruz, who was born and raised in Guam and is the president of the Sons and Daughters of Guam in San Diego, also believes that Trump is escalating tensions. He’s frustrated that Guam is only on the public's radar because of the conflict.

“It's ironic because one nobody knows where Guam is and what Guam is and now with this conflict, you know, Guam is on the news almost every hour on the hour,” he said.

Cruz said although he is concerned, he will not be preparing for the worst. "Every time North Korea does some rattling, Guam is involved in the picture," he said. "So they have seen it before.”

Trump has said North Korea can’t get away with threats against Guam and the regime will regret it if it attacks the island.

Guam is predominately Catholic and Cruz said he will set up a Mass locally so that people can "pray for the good resolution out of this conflict."

Santos is also praying for her people, and telling her family and friends from Guam that they can call or text her.

“That's part of our culture is comforting people,” she said. “You want to do something that they will take seriously, that you know will comfort them. " 

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