Aviva Directory » Local & Global » Australia » Guam

Situated in the Micronesia region of the West Pacific Ocean, Guam is a territory of the United States. Its capital is Hagåtña (Agana), but Dededo is its most populous city. Guam is the southernmost island in the Mariana Island chain and the largest in Micronesia. The island is divided into a low-level limestone plateau in the north, and a much higher area of volcanic hills to the south. The plateau includes a thick jungle, while the volcanic hills are grown mostly in sword grass.

Like other islands in the South Pacific, Guam has a tropical climate, but one that is tempered by trade winds and the ocean current that flows west across the Pacific. Temperature ranges from 70 to 90 degrees throughout the year. Typhoons occur at irregular intervals.The islands are rich in palm trees, ferns, and other tropical plants. Several varieties of marine life and insects make their home on or around the island, but indigenous bird life in Guam was devastated by the introduction of the brown tree snake from New Guinea, resulting in at least a dozen extinct species.

Native Guamanians are known as Chamorros and are large of Malayo-Indonesian descent with a mixture of Filipino, Mexican, and people of Asian and European ancestries. Chamorros and other Micronesians make up about fifty percent of the island's population, while a third of its population are Asians, mostly Koreans, and Filipinos, and Europeans make up a small minority. Approximately three-fourths of Guam's population identify as Roman Catholics, while an eighth are Protestant. Other religions include native folk religions, Buddhism, Eastern Orthodox, Hindu, Muslim, and Judaism. While most Chamorros are baptized into the Roman Catholic Church or belong to a Protestant denomination, animistic beliefs persist. This includes a respect for ancestral spirits who are believed to occupy certain trees and areas in the forest. These jungle areas and sites where latte stones are located are considered sacred. Traditionally, the dead are buried beneath latte stones. Chamorros believe that their ancestors have lived in the Mariana Islands since the beginning of time, that these islands are at the center of the universe, and that all human life began in Guam.

The Chamorro language is an Austronesian language that has incorporated several Spanish words over the years. English and Chamorro are the official languages of Guam. In recent years, Japanese has become more in use. Its population has been rising due to a low birth rate and large numbers of migrants from the Philippines and South Korea.

The development of Guam into a significant United States military base brought about changes in Guam's agricultural patterns after the Second World War. While islanders once grew most of what they ate, food began to be imported, and today Guam imports most of its food. US military bases and facilities employ a large number of local people, who are no longer farming or fishing. US military installations occupy a third of the island and account for about twenty percent of its population. Guam is an unincorporated territory of the United States, and Chamorros are US citizens although they do not have the right to vote in national elections. Since 1968, Guam has been electing a governor and lieutenant governor, as well as a legislature for internal affairs. Guam also elects a delegate to the US House of Representatives who has limited voting rights that do not include voting on the final passage of a bill. In 1982, Guam voted to pursue commonwealth status similar to that of the Northern Marianas, but negotiations with the US Congress is still in progress.

Like the other Mariana Islands, Guam was settled by Indonesian-Filipino people. By 800 AD, they had developed a complex society that built elaborate stone pillars, which were used as supports for communal houses. Ferdinand Magellan was perhaps the first European to arrive in Guam; that was in 1521. Spain claimed the island in 1565 but didn't try to occupy it until the latter part of the 1600s. After an uprising in 1670 and twenty-five years of hostilities, Spain violently subdued the population. Typhoons in 1671 and 1693 caused further loss of life and destruction. Guam continued as a Spanish possession until 1898 when US forces took it during the Spanish-American War. Spain sold the other Marianas Islands to Germany. Except for a period of occupation by the Japanese during the Second World War, Guam has been under the control of the United States.

The current situation is that the United States intends to relocate many of its military forces from Okinawa to Guam, projecting a huge population increase, largely of people who are not native to the island. Despite occupying a large percentage of the land on Guam, the US military pays no income or excise taxes. Guam's economy is largely dependent on tourism and is a popular destination for Japanese tourists.


Cities & Towns



Recommended Resources

Search for Guam on Google or Bing