The question of the origin of the
Chamorro race has never been settled to the satisfaction of
ethnologists, but archeological evidence indicates that the
ancient Chamorros were of Indo-Malayan descent. Linguistic and
cultural similarities tie the Chamorro race to Malaysia,
Indonesia and the Philippines.
While the Chamorros settled throughout
the Marianas archipelago, they flourished as an advanced fishing,
horticultural, and hunting society. Chamorros were expert seamen
and skilled craftsmen who built unique houses and canoes suited
to this region of the world. They were also familiar with
intricate weaving and detailed pottery making.
Guam possessed a strong matriarchal society, and it was through
the power and prestige of the women and much of the Chamorro
culture, including the language, music, dance, and traditions,
was able to survive.
The Spanish Era
Since the early 16th century, waves of
conquerors, merchants, and adventurers swept across Guam like the
constant ebb and flow of tides. The island's first known contact
with the western world was on March 6, 1521. The intrepid
Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who sailed on behalf of
the Spanish Crown in an attempt to circumnavigate the globe,
remained on Guam for three days to refurbish his three ship
convoy. In addition to receiving needed fresh fruits, vegetables,
and water, Magellan offered iron in exchange, a highIy-prized
commodity among a neolithic people.
Magellan's chronicler, Antonio Pigafetta,
depicted Chamorro thatched houses atop solid coral foundations~ions
known as latte. To this day, remains of the unique latte can be
seen at various locations throughout the island. The latte is
only found throughout the Marianas archipelago .
Although Magellan was con considered the
first European explorer to step foot on Guam's beaches, Guam and
the other Mariana Islands were formally claimed by the Spanish
Crown in 1565 by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi.
More than 100 years later in 1668,
Jesuit missionariesóled by the venerable Padre Diego Luis de San
Vltores -arrived to establish a measure of European civilization
, including Christianity and trade. The Spanish taught the
Chamorros to cultivate maize (corn), raise introduced cattle and
tan hides, as well as to adopt western-style clothing. Once
Christianity was firmly established, the Catholic Church , became
the focal point for village activities.
As the Catholic Church gained prominence,
Guam became a regular port-of-call for Spanish galleons that
crisscrossed ~crossed the Pacific Ocean from Acapulco, Mexico to
Manila Philippines. These bulky ships were heavily laden with
precious , Gold and silver mined in the New World for Chinese
silks and spices. The island's strategic location acquired a new
value to the burgeoning Spanish Empire's economic and political
systems For almost 250 years, galleons from Mexico and the
Philippines permanently changed the Chamorro culture.
The Galleon Age ended in 1815 following
the Mexican Revolution; several shipwrecks can still be found in
Guam's crystal clear coastal waters.
Other European influence
During this period of European
exploration and expansion, visitors from nations other than Spain
also played a part in Guam's history. During the first quarter of
the 18th century English pirates preyed on Spanish ships, and a
few of these privateers visited Guam to take on provisions.
Woodes Rogers was able to stay on island for one week and to
wrest food and supplies from Governor Juan Antonio Pimentel, but
John Clipperton was defeated by the Spaniards before he could
carry out his threats to destroy homes and burn a Spanish ship.
Throughout the last century of Spanish
occupation, Guam was host to a number of scientists, voyagers,
and whalers from Russia, France, and England. Between 1817 and
1828, the island was visit by three Russian and French scientific
expeditions, which provided detailed accounts of the daily life
on Guam under Spanish rule.
Dawn of the American Era
Although the Spanish maintained control
on Guam and in the Mariana islands for 333 years, the island was
ceded to the United States following the Spanish American War of
1898. A year later, in 1899, the U.S. formally purchased Guam and
other Spanish-held territories for $20 million.
U.S. President Wllliam McKinley issued
an executive order placing Guam within the administration of the
Department of Navy. Under the U.S. naval government, many changes
and improve occurred, including agriculture, public health and
sanitation, education, land management, taxes, and public works.
The U.S. Navy continued to use Guam as a coaling and
communication station until 1941, when the island fell to
invading Japanese forces shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor,
On December 10,1941, Guam surrendered to
the Japanese South Seas detachment forces after a valiant
defensive struggle by the island's Insular Force Guard. For 31
months, the people of Guam were forcibly subjected to the
Japanese lifestyle. Guam was renamed 'Omiya Jima' or Great Shrine
Island and was brought under Japan s Greater East Asia Co~Prosperity
Control of the island was eventually
transferred to the Japanese Navy in 1942. Some measure of
religious practice and business activities were permitted during
this brief time period.
Return of American Era
On July 21, 1944, known locally as
Liberation Day, American forces landed on Guam; three weeks of
bitter war lare claimed thousands of Chamorro, American, and
Japanese lives before the island was declared safe and once again
under American rule.
The island's strategic position was
quickly recognized by the American military and was used as a
command post for U.S. Western Pacific operations until the
conclusion of the Second World War in the Pacific Theater on
September 2, 1945.
May 30, 1946, the naval government was
reestablished. Three years later in 1949, U.S. President Harry S.
Truman signed the Organic Act, making Guam an unincorporated
territory with limited self-governing authority.
The Act declared that America's newly
won territory would be called Guam; a civilian government with
three branches-executive, legislative, and judicial-was
established; and, United states citizenship was granted to the
people of Guam. By 1962,the U.S. Navy lifted the World War II
security clearance requirement for travel to and from Guam,
allowing Guam's economy to flourish. Since the advent of Guam's
tourism in 1967, when Pan American Airways inaugurated service
from Japan, the islanders economy has continued to diversify and
In addition to increased military
expenditures, tourism, and related businesses construction,
retailing, banking and financial services-a revamped economy my
played a significant role in providing jobs for local residents,
while offering business options our cosmopolitan society has come
Guam's rich historical legacy serves as
the framework for which the future development of the island
Magnificent luxury hotels, a wealth of
fine restaurants, and , fabulous duty free shopping have
established Guam as the Dremier destination in the western
Pacific, international and commuter airlines make the Antonio
Borja Won Pat Guam International Air Terminal a bustling hub of
Presently, regular flights connect Guam
with numerous Asia/Pacific countries, including Japan, Korea,
Taiwan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Australia, and the Philippines, as
well as Nauru, the neighboring Micronesian islands, and the
Each year, Guam receives a record number
of visitors. Throngs of leisure-seeking visitors come to
experience the island's beautiful seas, tropical lifestyle, and
year-round warmth. International travelers make Guam a frequent
stop-over for trips to Asia or Pacific points of interest.
According to the 1995 Visitors Golf
Course Plant Inventory Report, Guam recorded 6,755 hotel rooms,
with an additional 391 under construction; 17,626 rooms are in
the planning stage.
The major components of the island's
economy are the territorial government, tourism, U.S. military.
and construction. Of course. tourism is the fastest growing
Content courtesy of Guam Visitor's Bureau