Guam – A US Territory
A modern island with cultural roots dating back 4,000 years ago, Guam is one of America’s 14 territories. It’s the largest island in Micronesia, a region in the western Pacific Ocean, and forms the southernmost part of the beautiful Mariana Islands.
The capital of Guam, Hagåtña has the seat of the island’s three branches of government. They are Judicial, Legislative, and Executive branches as well as the religious center for the Catholic Church.
Hagåtña, is the second smallest of the the island’s 19 villages in area and population. Dededo is the most populated village with almost 45 thousand residents. In 2020, the total population of Guam was almost 170,000.
This lush green island is an organized, unincorporated territory that is overseen by the US government. For a place with an area of just 210 sq miles, Guam has a lot of history. The island has exchanged hands several times starting with the colonization by Spain in 1565. After almost four centuries the US occupied the island. Briefly, during World War II, Guam was invaded and occupied by Japan before coming back under the governance of the United States.
The native inhabitants of Guam are the Chamorro people whose culture is very different from European culture and still remains. They organized their society as matrilineal (tracing descent through the maternal line) clans divided into four different classes. Their language, also called Chamorro, is one of the two official languages of Guam. The second is English.
The History of Guam
While it may feel natural to start talking about the history of Guam from the time it was colonized, one should not forget that people already inhabited this island. More than 4,000 years ago, people from islands off Southeast Asia reached and settled in Guam. They established their own way of living; their own culture, religion, and pretty impressive houses.
Only around 500 years ago did a Spanish traveler reach the island which set off a chain of events. Guam would then see around 300 years of Spanish conquest, followed by American control after it fought with the Spanish, and then this island faced a lot of destruction and loss of lives due to hostility between Japan and America during World War II. Since then Guam has been treated as a US military base and has even been threatened by North Korea recently for that reason.
Government of Guam
Even though Guam is under American governance, the residents of Guam don’t have the privilege of full American citizenship. They cannot vote in the presidential elections and the representative to Congress from Guam does not have voting powers either.
There have been several attempts at establishing a legislature by neither the government nor the inhabitants of Guam have reached a point of agreement. So currently Guam is without its own constitution.
For a while, the island had been under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Navy and had been ruled by a series of military governors. They ran it as an important American forward base.
Now Guam is divided into 19 villages which are governed by an elected mayor. You can think of each village as a single county equivalent. Guam has no senators and one at-large representative.
Guam (DMS Lat: 13° 26′ 39.4944” N, DMS Long: 144° 47′ 37.4352” E) stands at a total area of 540 (210 sq mi) and a general elevation of 500 ft. The island has volcanic hills in the South which reach heights of more than 1000 ft.
It has several beautiful mountains two of which are Mount Lamlam and Mount Bolanos. The elevation of Mount Lamlam is 1332 ft while that of Mount Bolanos is 1240 ft. Mount Lamlam ends up as the highest point of the island while the lowest point of course is the Pacific Ocean
The island has an interesting topography. It has a northern limestone plateau with a general elevation of about 500 feet and a higher area of volcanic hills to the south. The plateau is covered with a thick jungle, while the volcanic hills support mainly sword grass. The total forest area on the island is 2471 acres which makes the forest cover a high 47%.
The island mostly has very temperate weather but it does have to cope with typhoons occasionally. at irregular intervals. Apart from that, it has a tropical climate with northeast trade winds and temperature ranges from 70 to 90 °F. The wet season starts in May or June through November with an average annual precipitation of 95 inches.
There are several schools and universities in Guam. According to a survey from the year 2000, 32,000 students attended Guam’s public schools but the education system struggles with a high dropout rate and low test scores.
The most notable colleges and universities in Guam:
•University of Guam
•Guam Community College
•Pacific Island University
Attractions in Guam
The island has many features that boast its natural beauty. For instance, the Pago Bay, Sigua Falls, and Tarzan Falls are all stunning views. There are also gorgeous beach parks: Nimitz Beach Park and Tepungan Beach Park. But it isn’t just natural beauty that Guam offers. For people interested in libraries there is the Nieves M. Flores Memorial Library which has five other branch libraries.
Guam has centuries of history but particularly they have made sure to mark the losses suffered during the World War in their Pacific War Museum and also in the War in the Pacific National Historical Park.
While the National Museum of the Dulce Nombre de Maria has exhibits like the journey of Chamoru people.
The major benefit to the economy comes from Guam’s tourism industry. About 1.1 million tourists visit Guam each year. Apart from tourism, Guam is engaged in exports: mostly transshipments of refined petroleum products, construction materials, fish, food, and beverage products. The majority of the island’s imports are petroleum and petroleum products, food, and manufactured goods.
Guam makes a great destination if you are looking for a modern paradise with a rich history. The hardest part is the long plane ride.