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Before the Second World War, Guam's villages were the chief social and economic units, preserving traditions similar to those of 19th-century Spain. The family was the main social unit for the people Guam, and religion brought the families together. This is true to some extent today, but decisions affecting the island are now made at the state level, and the United States government has the final word.

As a census-designated territory of the United States, Guam does not have incorporated cities. The island can be divided into regions, also known as municipalities, which may contain multiple villages. Most of these regions are named for the most significant village within the region. For example, the island's most populous village, Dededo, has a population of just over six thousand. The municipality of Dededo, which includes the village of that name as well as Astumbo, Liguan, Machanao, Ukudu, and several smaller villages, has a combined population of nearly forty-five thousand.

There are nineteen recognized municipalities in Guam. In order of population, these are Dededo, Yigo, Tamuning, Mangilao, Barrigada, Mongmong-Toto-Maite, Chalan Pago-Ordot, Yona, Santa Rita, Agat, Agana Heights, Talofofo, Sinajana, Inarajan, Asan, Merizo, Piti, Hagåtña (Agana), and Umatac. Several unincorporated villages may be contained within each of these municipalities. Many of these villages have histories going back thousands of years.

The current division of the island into recognized municipalities was adopted in the 1920s when the island was governed by the US Navy. Each of Guam's municipalities is administered by an elected mayor. The Mayors' Council of Guam is made up of the mayors and vice mayors from each of the island's municipalities. The Council makes recommendations about fiscal and administrative policies and acts as a liaison between the cities and the three branches of government, the United States government, and the military installations on Guam.

Although it is the second smallest municipality in Guam, Hagåtña is the island's capital and the seat of government for Guam. Dededo, the island's largest municipality, became a major population center after the Second World War when the United States government built housing there for residents who were displaced military appropriation of land, and for laborers recruited to assist in the development of its installations. Later housing developments increased the municipality's population.








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