Derrick Muna Quinata and Chelsa Muna Brecht are a minority around here.
The cousins are two of just eight delegates from Guam, that island way out in the South Pacific that makes flying to Hawaii from the mainland feel like a quick drive up to Fort Collins.
It cost them $2,000 and about 18 hours apiece to get to Denver for the Democratic National Convention this week.
You’ll hardly hear a complaint. They are so excited to be apart of this process, something that the typical Guam resident rarely can claim.
Guam is a territory of the United States, located northeast of the Philippines. It is categorized as non-self governing by the United Nations.
Guam is at a crossroads in its history as it tries to work toward statehood, independence or free association with the United States.
For now, Quinata and Brecht are basically U.S. citizens, except for one frustrating limitation: They cannot vote. Wearing matching floral patterned blue shirts on the first day of the convention, the two show an amazing enthusiasm for politics. Think they want to vote?
“Hell yeah, a lot a bit,” Brecht, 32, responds to that simple question.
It’s obvious there support lies with Sen. Barack Obama. Since they cannot vote, pledging their support for Obama during the weeklong Democratic National Convention will have to do.
Apparently, Obama is the Guam candidate, if such a thing exists.
The tiny island of about 175,000 people has a unique set of problems, most linked to its non-self governing status.
Brecht and Quinata say they are in the majority in wanting to Guam to be a state. They share our president yet have little political power or say.
They’d like to see the next president help change that.
This year marks the start of a major move that will see some 8,000 marines relocated to Guam and as many as 30,000 new residents to the island. It will be a drastic change that will have an immense impact on daily life. The U.S. basically made the decision without asking.
“This is really going to affect our island,” 27-year-old Quinata says.
That type of problem is why Brecht and Quinata made the long trek to Denver. They believe Obama is the best chance they have to see their status improve in the eyes of U.S. politicians and residents.
“Being from an island, he understands the marginalization we’re going through,” Quinata says of Obama’s Hawaiian roots.
Because this year’s Democratic primary was so contested, Guam actually played a role in the primaries. Obama set up an office on the island during the race. Both he and Sen. Hilary Clinton ran television ads and called into local news shows. It set off a frenzy of political activity on the island.
“It was the first time we where able to affect the outcome,” Quinata says.
It’s an exciting time for the people of Guam. And the two cousins are in the middle of it all along with six others from the island who made the trip, which is why they are perhaps some of the most grateful delegates on the Pepsi Center floor today.
Now they just need to figure out their next goal: How to meet Barack. That’s not a simple task.
I’m crossing my fingers for them. It seems fitting for this cheerful duo to get that chance after traveling so far just for the chance to be apart of the process for once.
“I want to see Barack, I want to meet Barack Obama,” Brecht says, before admitting it’d be worth getting arrested just to shake his hand.
“I just want to experience Barack and hear him say something majestic,” Quinata says.
— Jacob Harkins, Yellow Scene Magazine editor
More DNC coverage here.