Guam (Chamorro: Guåhån), officially the U.S. Territory of Guam, is an island in the Western Pacific Ocean and is an organized unincorporated territory of the United States. Its inhabitants are the Chamorros, who first populated the island approximately 4,000 years ago. It is the largest and southernmost of the Mariana Islands. The capital is Hagåtña, formerly Agana (pronounced Agaña). Guam's economy is mainly supported by tourism (particularly from Japan, Korea and China) and United States armed forces bases. The latter takes up one-third of the entire land mass of the island. The United Nations Committee on Decolonization includes Guam on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.
History of Guam
Guam's history of colonialism is the longest among the Pacific islands. Guam's first contact with western civilization occurred when Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan reached the island in 1521 during his around the world voyage. General Miguel López de Legazpi claimed Guam for Spain in 1565. Spanish colonization commenced in 1668. Between 1668 and 1815, Guam was an important resting stop on the Spanish trade route between the Philippines and Mexico. Actually, Guam, along with the rest of the Mariana and Caroline islands, was treated by Spain as part of the Philippines which at that time was a colony belonging to Spain. While Guam's Chamorro culture is unique (even when compared to neighboring Northern Mariana Islands), the cultures of both Guam and the Northern Marianas were heavily influenced by Spanish culture and traditions.
The United States took control of the island in 1898 after the Battle of Guam of 1898 in the Spanish-American War. Guam was the southernmost island in the Marianas Group and this political change started Guam and the Northern Marianas (including Saipan, Tinian and Rota) down separate paths. Guam came to serve as a way station for American ships traveling to and from the Philippines.
During World War II, Guam was attacked and invaded by the Japanese armed forces on December 8, 1941. The Northern Mariana Islands had become a Japanese protectorate before the war. The Northern Mariana Chamorros, as a result, were allies of the Japanese. The Guam Chamorros were treated as an occupied enemy by the Japanese military. To this day, Guam remains the only U.S. soil, with a sizeable population, that suffered under foreign military power occupation. Guam's occupation lasted for approximately thirty-one months. During this period, the indigenous people of Guam were subjected to forced labor, family separation, incarceration, execution, concentration camps and prostitution.
The United States returned and fought the Battle of Guam in July 21, 1944 to recapture the island from Japanese military occupation. While the Northern Marianas were also liberated from Japanese rule and came under the U.S. political rule and commonwealth status, some cultural rift between Guam and Northern Mariana Chamorros remains.
The Guam Organic Act of 1950, which established Guam as an unincorporated organized territory of the United States, provided for the structure of the island's government, and granted the people United States citizenship.
Politics of Guam
- More information on politics and government of Guam can be found at the Politics and government of Guam series.
The population of Guam is largely proud of its American connection, and its economy is greatly dependent on the U.S. military bases. The U.S. connection also contributes to Guam's status as a Japanese tourist destination. The Guamanian population is generally culturally sympathetic toward the United States, based especially in common tribulations during World War II, and on good relations with the U.S. military since.
However, maintenance of the status quo vis-à-vis the current political relationship between the territory and the United States is not without controversy. There is a significant movement in favor of the Territory becoming a commonwealth, which would give it a political status similar to Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands. Competing movements with less significant influence exist, which advocate political independence from the United States, statehood, or a combination with the Northern Mariana Islands as a single commonwealth. These proposals however, are not seen as favorable or realistic within the U.S. federal government, which argues Guam does not have the financial stability or self sufficiency to warrant such status. The same sources quickly provide evidence of Guam’s increasing reliance on Federal spending, and question how commonwealth status or statehood would benefit the United States as a greater whole.
In whatever form it takes, most people on Guam favor a modified version of the current Territorial status, involving greater autonomy from the federal government (similar to the autonomy of individual States). Perceived indifference by the U.S. Congress regarding a change-of-status petition submitted by Guam has led many to feel that the territory is being unjustly deprived of the benefits of a more equitable union with the United States.
See: List of Guam Governors
Transportation and Communications in Guam
- Main articles: Communications in Guam, Transportation in Guam
Guam is served by Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport.
Guam's economy depends primarily on tourism, the United States military base presence (Andersen Air Force Base), and other federal spending. Although Guam receives no foreign aid, it does receive large transfer payments from the general revenues of the U.S. Federal Treasury into which Guam pays no income or excise taxes; under the provisions of a special law of Congress, the Guam Treasury, rather than the US Treasury, receives federal income taxes paid by military and civilian Federal employees stationed in Guam.
Sometimes called "America in Asia," Guam is a popular destination for Japanese, Korean, and Chinese tourists, and with over 20 large hotels, a DFS Galleria, Pleasure Island aquarium, SandCastle Las Vegas shows and other shopping and entertainment features in its chief tourism city of Tumon, the island's economy has grown dramatically. It is a relatively short flight from Asia compared to Hawaii, and a series of hotels and golf courses were built to cater to tourists. Today, about 90 percent of tourists to Guam are Japanese. Significant sources of revenue include duty-free designer shopping outlets, and the American-style malls: Micronesia Mall, Guam Premium Outlets, and the Agana Shopping Center.
The main tourist beach in Tumon Bay has beautiful white sand and is a marine preserve teeming with fish. Recently completed infrastructure projects have brought underground fiber-optics and new roads to the busy Tumon area.
The economy had been stable since 2000 due to increased tourism, mainly from Japan, but took a more recent downturn along with the rest of Asia. Guam has a 14% unemployment rate, and the government suffered a $314 million shortfall in 2003.
The following is the amount in billion of dollars, that the Government of Guam has spent in Federal grants for various government and economic expenditures minus those of the United States Armed Forces:
- 1993 - $1.004
- 1994 - $1.061
- 1995 - $0.809
- 1996 - $0.829
- 1997 - $0.846
- 1998 - $0.998
- 1999 - $0.844
- 2000 - $0.841
- 2001 - $0.907
- 2002 - $1.113
- 2003 - $1.538
"The Compact of Free Association between the United States of America, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands was signed in 1982, and ratified in 1986. It accorded the former entities of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands a political status of 'free association.'" The Compact was an agreement to which the Guam was not a party. However, Guam along with Hawaii and California have borne the economic brunt of this treaty.
Main article: Villages of Guam
Guam is divided into 19 villages. They include: Agana Heights, Agat, Asan, Barrigada, Chalan Pago-Ordot, Dededo, Hagatna, Inarajan, Mangilao, Merizo, Mongmong-Toto-Maite, Piti, Santa Rita, Sinajana, Talafofo, Tamuning, Umatac, Yigo, and Yona.
- Main articles: Geography of Guam
Guam is located at Guam has an area of 209.85 square miles (543.52 km²). Its population as of the 2000 census was 154,805. The northern part of the island is a coralline limestone plateau while the south contains volcanic peaks. A coral reef surrounds most of the island. Guam is the southernmost island in the Mariana Island chain and is the largest island in Micronesia. Guam lies along the Marianas Trench, a deep subduction zone at the edge of the Pacific plate. The Challenger Deep, the deepest point on earth, is southwest of Guam at 35,797 feet (10,911 m) deep. The island experiences occasional earthquakes. In recent years, quakes with epicenters near Guam have had magnitudes ranging from 7.0 to 8.2..
The climate is characterized as tropical marine. The weather is generally warm and humid with little seasonal temperature variation. The average mean temperature is 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 °C) with an average annual rainfall of 86 inches (2,180 mm).
The dry season runs from December through June. The remaining months constitute the rainy season. The highest risk of typhoons is during October and November.
An average of three tropical storms and one typhoon pass within 180 nautical miles (330 km) of Guam each year. The most intense typhoon to pass over Guam recently was Super Typhoon Pongsona, with sustained winds of 180 miles per hour, which slammed Guam leaving massive destruction on December 8, 2002.
The island is also known as a prominent example for the disastrous effects of bioinvasion: Thought to be a stowaway on a U.S. military transport near the end of World War II, the slightly venomous, but rather harmless, brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis) came north to Guam and killed almost the entire native bird population on the previously snake-free island. This snake has no natural predators on the island; nowadays, Guam is one of the areas with the highest snake density in the world (an estimated 2,000 snakes/km²). Even so, residents rarely see these snakes. They curl up and hide during the day, and move about on trees and fences at night. As prodigious climbers, the snakes caused frequent blackouts by shorting across lines and transformers. Many power poles now have a slick metal sheath to prevent the snakes from climbing.
The disappearance of Guam’s birds and fruit bats (hunted and eaten in the Pacific Islands like in Palau as a delicacy) could affect plants which require them to spread seeds. The loss of insectivorous birds and lizards has also led to an increased presence of insect pests, which in turn has caused decreased crop yields and defoliation of forests.
Other introduced species include toads imported in 1937, the giant African Snail -- an agricultural pest introduced during WWII -- and more recently frog species which could threaten crops in addition to providing additional food for the brown tree snake population.
Guam in Entertainment
- In the 1996 film version of Roald Dahl's Matilda, Matilda's family decide to move to Guam to avoid the arrest of Harry Wormwood, Matilda's father. Matilda protests and is quickly adopted by her teacher Miss Honey.
- Another noteworthy mention of Guam is made by author Gordon Korman in his Island trilogy series. Guam is the setting in the first book, Shipwreck, where six "naughty" kids are put on a ship and become shipwrecked, but learn skills of survival, trust, and friendship along the way.
- In the episode of Disney Channel's The Suite Life of Zack & Cody where Zack helps Maddie to achieve the prom of her dreams, Zack is led to believe that he is Maddie's dream date, despite the fact that Maddie is three years older. Zack reasons with his mom that when he's 17 and Maddie is 20, they could "get married in 48 states" and Guam.
- In the episode of NBC's Friends where Rachel turns 30 she is bummed out about turning thirty years old and she says "You know, I'm still 29 in Guam." This, however, would be an incorrect statement as Guam lies west of the International Date Line.
- In Hedwig and the Angry Inch, one character wants to leave to perform in the musical Rent as it tours Guam.
- Mariah Carey heard that the island had no birds due to the brown snake and she offered to release birds there. A Guamanian politician met with her to let her know it is not exactly true.
- In the 2004 comedy "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story" starring Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller, the lead female character Kate mentions Guam when her friend unexpectedly shows up to watch the championship dodgeball match.
- In "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)" A small clip of Guam is shown in the beginning of the movie.
- In Christopher Moore's books "Island of the Sequined Love Nun" and "The Stupidest Angel" the sunglass wearing fruit bat character, Roberto, is mentioned as being from Guam.
- In Adam Sandler's Mr. Deeds when lawyers are trying to find where the heir lives, they joke that there is a pool going for how likely the heir lives on Guam.
- The movie "Max Havoc: Curse of the Dragon" (2004) (starring Carmen Electra) was shot on location on Guam.
- Square-Enix designer Tetsuya Nomura was born on Guam in 1970.
- In the 2001 Jerry Zucker comedy film, Rat Race (film), Duane Cody--played by Seth Green--is asked (after he and brother Blaine Cody--played by Vince Vieluf--had destroyed the airport RADAR tower) where his license was issued and his response was, "In Guam."
- In an episode of Disney's "Kim Possible", Wade tells Kim that her next mission is to go to Guam because a pack of giant spiders has attacked a village
- In the movie Wedding Crashers, Todd Cleary, the homosexual son of William Cleary, claims that his father threatened to send him to live in a shack on Guam.
- In the animated series The Critic, Duke Phillips becomes confused over the proper designation for the citizens of Guam and conjectures "Guameranians" and "Guami Bears" during his presidential bid.
Scouting on Guam
Scouting in Guam is presently in a state of development and growth. Scouting has existed on the island since at least the 1950s, and may have been developed as early as the 1920s.
Guam has had Boy Scouting for decades, as part of the Aloha Council Chamorro District. Prior to the early 1970s, a separate Chamorro Council serviced the island.
For Girl Scouts, there are Girl Scouts of the USA Overseas on Guam, serviced by Guam Girl Scout Council in Hagåtña.
Public Radio Stations
91.9 FM - KSDA (religious)
88.1 FM - KHMG (religious)
105.1 FM - KGUM (rock)
567 AM - KGUM (news-talk)
612 AM - KUAM (ethnic)
801 AM - KTWG (religious)
89.3 FM - KPRG (National Public Radio)
90.9 FM - KOLG (religious)
93.9 FM - KUAM (urban)
95.5 FM - KSTO (adult contemporary)
97.5 FM - KZGZ (CHR)
100.3 FM - KOKU (CHR)
101.9 FM - KTKB (ethnic)
102.9 FM - KISH (ethnic)
104 FM - KIJI (ethnic)
Education and Science
Public Elementary Schools
- Agana Heights Elementary
- Astumbo Elementary
- Carbullido Elementary
- Chief Brodie Elementary
- C.L. Taitano Elementary
- Daniel L. Perez Elementary
- F.Q. Sanchez Elementary
- Finegayan Elementary
- Harry S. Truman Elementary
- Inarajan Elementary
- J.Q. San Miguel Elementary
- Juan M. Guerrero Elementary
- Lyndon B. Johnson Elementary
- Maria A. Ulloa Elementary
- Machananao Elementary
- Marcial Sablan Elementary
- Merizo Elementary
- M.U. Lujan Elementary
- Ordot/Chalan Pago Elementary
- P.C. Lujan Elementary
- Price Elementary
- Talofofo Elementary
- Tamuning Elementary
- Upi Elementary
- Wettengel Elementary
Public Middle Schools
- Agueda Johnston Middle School
- F.B. Leon Guerrero Middle School
- Inarajan Middle School
- Jose Rios Middle School
- Luis P. Untalan Middle School
- Oceanview Middle School
- Vicente S.A. Benavente Middle School
Public High Schools
- George Washington High School
- John F. Kennedy High School
- Simon Sanchez High School
- Southern High School
- Bishop Baumgartner Memorial Catholic School
- Academy of Our Lady of Guam
- Domincan Catholic School
- Mercy Heights
- Mount Carmel
- Notre Dame High School
- Father Duenas Memorial School
- Saint Anthony School
- Saint Francis School
- San Vincente Catholic School
- Santa Barbara School
- Trinity Christian School
- Blessed Seed Christian Academy
- Guam Adventist Academy
- Harvest Christian Academy
- Pacific Christian Academy
- Southern Christian Academy
- Temple Christian School
- Guam International Christian Academy
- Montessori School Guam
- Evangelical Christian Academy
- St.John's School (College Prep)
- Chief Gadao Academy of Arts, Science and Chamorro Culture
- Sagan Fina' na' guen Fino' Chamorro
- United Chinese School
- Japanese Language School
- The Japanese School of Guam
College's and Universities
- Nezpac College
- Pacific Islands Bible College
- University of Maryland (Pacific Branch)
- University of Phoenix (Pacific Branch)
- Westpac Institute of Management
- University of Guam