Guam: History

Micronesia's most populous island

Guam History

Guam is speculated to have been first colonized by seafarers from Indonesia, some time around 2000BC. The indigenous Chamorros population had a hierarchical, three tiered class system under which the most fruitful areas of the island were divided up. The Chamorros were a spiritual society, engaging in shamanistic rituals. They were also capable seafarers, and the early European settlers were impressed by their ability to construct swift sailing boats, which they used to conduct trade with other communities.

Magellan came upon the island in 1521, whilst on his circumnavigation of the globe for the King of Spain. The island was not claimed as Spanish territory, however, until 1565. The Spanish later colonized the island, and served as an important stopover point in the Spanish trading empire. The United States captured Guam in 1898 during its war with Spain, and became a useful strategic location for US trading and pacific operations. In 1941, during the Second World War, Guam was invaded by the Japanese, who imposed terrible living conditions of the indigenous Guamanians, killing many of them. In 1944 the United States launched a massive offensive on the island and recaptured it during the bloody Battle of Guam. They were successful, and later made all residents of Guam eligible for US citizenship. Guam is now a fully recognized overseas US territory, and is largely influenced by American culture. The island is now primarily supported by tourism, an industry that it has embraced with gusto.