guam history

That Guam once again finds itself in the crosshairs of foreign adversaries is nothing new. The Chamorro flourished as an advanced fishing, horticultural, and hunting society. The abundant snakes have also caused numerous power outages by climbing poles and wires and crawling into transmission equipment, and they have killed small mammals. Located in the Western Pacific in the geographic region known as Micronesia, Guam is well known for its strategic military and economic position between Asia and the North American continent, but is less known for its remarkable history and resilient people. Temperatures range between approximately 70 and 90 °F (20 and 30 °C) and are fairly even throughout the year. Most Americans likely have some inkling that Guam exists and is somehow American. The easing of military restrictions for entering Guam and the establishment of a local, civilian government, have made the island an ideal place for people from all over the world to visit, go to school, find jobs or pursue a variety of economic interests. The northern islands were off limits, until typhoon-devastated Caroline Islanders arrived from the south—as was their traditional practice—looking for temporary shelter around 1815. After the Spanish-American War of 1898, Spain ceded Guam to the United States. An international airport links Guam with other Pacific islands, Asia, and Hawaii and the continental United States. Twenty-six years of Spanish-Chamorro wars ensued that, along with introduced diseases, decimated the population. The original inhabitants of Guam are believed to have been of Indo-Malaya descent originating from Southeast Asia as early as 2,000 B.C., and having linguistic and cultural similarities to Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Right after the U.S takeover, the leading families of Guam met and established a legislature in anticipation of a democratic, representative government. To America, they are forgotten. Nonetheless, indigenous culture continued in other ways—in values, in traditions surrounding weddings and funerals, in housing styles, and many other forms not obvious to the outsider. Foodstuffs were imported in increasing amounts at the expense of local cultivation, and Guam now imports most of its food. Few know how or why. They have a non-voting representative to Congress.

About three-fourths of the people are Roman Catholic, and one-eighth are Protestant. The Chamorro language is an Austronesian language that has, over time, come to incorporate many Spanish words. The island was formally claimed by Spain in 1565, and its people were forced into submission and conversion to Roman Catholicism beginning in 1668. Get the best of Smithsonian magazine by email. But the Navy convinced the federal government to reject the petition. Nearly one-third of the people are Asians, notably Filipinos and Koreans, and there is a small minority of people of European ancestry. However, as a result of the accidental introduction in the 1940s of the brown tree snake, an invasive species from New Guinea, indigenous bird life on Guam has been devastated. Guam remained a Spanish possession until 1898, when, in the course of the Spanish-American War, the U.S. warship Charleston steamed into Apra Harbor and bombarded the old fort. A clan-based society arose by 800 A.D. that included villages characterized by impressive latte houses, one-story houses set atop rows of two-piece stone columns; these were still in use as late as 1668. And then because of that, Magellan calls the islands the ‘Islands of Thieves.’". Canoe culture was then banned to keep them from escaping. Once on Guam, the Chamorros were resettled into newly created villages, each under the watchful eye of a Spanish priest. Native Guamanians, ethnically called Chamorros, are of basically Malayo-Indonesian descent with a considerable admixture of Spanish, Filipino, Mexican, and other European and Asian ancestries. “After San Vitores dies, the military took over the mission, so it became really a war of subjugation,” Hattori says. Later I did a similar project in Tanapag village on nearby Saipan, part of the Northern Mariana Islands, and published a paper about the history of colonialism (American, in particular) in the region. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. The plateau is covered with a thick growth of jungle, while the volcanic hills support mainly sword grass. And as is always the case in these struggles between external powers, the presence of the Chamorro, the indigenous peoples of the islands, is lost. History and Culture But Guam is much more than sun, sea, and sand. or At least a dozen bird species have become extinct, and several more are endangered. All rights reserved. Major imports—mostly from the United States and Japan—include food products, motor vehicles and parts, and shoes and other leather products. Andersen Air Force Base and its annexes are concentrated at the northern end of the island. Terms of Use The Spanish troops and officials stationed in Guam were at first glad to have visitors when the USS Charleston arrived. Magellan's characterization of the Chamorros as "thieves," discouraged further European  intrusion; and while some ships still visited, the Chamorros lived in relative isolation for the next century or so. Because of the number of tourists and investors from Japan, Japanese is increasingly also used. The Mariana Islands appear to have been continuously occupied by people who shared the same culture and language that eventually became known as Chamorro. They didn’t know that war had been declared between the two nations, and mistook their cannon fire for a salute. Give a Gift. He definitely viewed them as pagans, as savages…. Instead, military historians tend to envision the Pacific Islands as “a tabula rasa on which to inscribe their histories of heroism and victimization,” forming “a body of discourse in which only Japanese and Americans constitute the agents of change and continuity in the region, erasing the agency and voice of indigenous peoples.”. In a series of Supreme Court rulings known as the Insular Cases of 1901, it was decided that new territories might never be incorporated into the union and were to receive only unspecified ‘‘fundamental’’ Constitutional protections. It lies about 5,800 miles (9,300 km) west of San Francisco and 1,600 miles (2,600 km) east of Manila. This is not just a U.S. military base, but a place with a long history and deep cultural roots, whose “American” people have striven for democracy for over a century, and still don’t have it. The full community study, with maps, photos and illustrations, can be found here, but given the current circumstances, a short history is merited. A peaceful transfer of power ensued. It lies about 5,800 miles (9,300 km) west of San Francisco and 1,600 miles (2,600 km) east of Manila. California Do Not Sell My Info The evenness of the climate is punctuated by destructive typhoons (tropical cyclones) that occur at irregular intervals. Keep up-to-date on: © 2020 Smithsonian Magazine. Guam’s history is also one of multi-colonialism, with the last 400 years of Guam’s history marked by administrations of three different colonial powers: Spain, the United States and Japan. In his book Cultures of Commemoration: The Politics of War, Memory and History in the Mariana Islands, Chamorro scholar Keith Camacho remarks that in military narratives of World War II’s Pacific theater, Pacific Islanders play no central role. The ceding of Guam to the United States as an unincorporated territory after the Spanish-American War in 1898 introduced Chamorros to democratic principles of government and the modern American lifestyle, while keeping them subjects of a sometimes oppressive US Naval administration. The development of Guam into an important U.S. military base brought about profound changes in the island’s agricultural patterns after World War II.

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