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The Territory of Guam
Flag of Guam Guam Coat of Arms
(In Detail) (In Detail)
Territorial motto: Where America's Day Begins
Official languages English, Chamorro
Unofficial languages Japanese (used in business transactions), Tagalog (used in conversation), Chuukese, Korean (used in conversation), Hindi (used in conversation)
Capital Hagåtña
Chief of state George W. Bush
Governor Felix Perez Camacho
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 202nd
549 km² (212 square miles)
 - Total (2003)
 - Density
Ranked N/A
163,941 (July 2003 est.)
Independence none (territory of the USA)
Currency US dollar (USD)
Time zone UTC+10 (no DST)
Territorial anthem Fanoghe Chamorro
Internet TLD .gu
Calling Code 1-671
Apra Harbor from the air
Apra Harbor from the air
Map of Guam
Map of Guam

The Territory of Guam (Guåhån in Chamorro) is an island in the Western Pacific Ocean and is an organized unincorporated territory of the United States. Its indigenous people are the Chamorros, who first inhabited the island approximately 3,500 years ago. The capital is Hagåtña, formerly Agana (pronounced Agaña). Guam's economy is mainly supported by tourism (particularly from Japan) and United States armed forces bases. The latter takes up one-third of the entire land mass of the island. The United Nations Committee on Decolonization includes Guam on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.


History of Guam

Main article: History of Guam

Guam's history of colonialism is the longest among the Pacific islands. Guam's first contact with western civilization occurred when Ferdinand Magellan reached the island in 1521 during his around the world voyage. General Miguel López de Legazpi claimed Guam for Spain in 1565. Spanish colonization commenced in 1668. Between 1668 and 1815, Guam was an important resting stop on the Spanish trade route between the Philippines and Mexico. While Guam's Chamorro culture is unique (even when compared to neighboring Northern Mariana Islands), the cultures of both Guam and the Northern Marianas were heavily influenced by Spanish culture and traditions.

The United States took control of the island in 1898 after the Battle of Guam of 1898 in the Spanish-American War. Guam was the southernmost island in the Marianas Group and this poltical change started Guam and the Northern Marianas (including Saipan and Tinian) down separate paths. Guam came to serve as a way station for American ships traveling to and from the Philippines.

During World War II, Guam was attacked and invaded by the Japanese armed forces in 1941. The Northern Mariana islands had become a Japanese protectorate before the war. The Northern Mariana Chamorros, as a result, were allies of the Japanese. The Guam Chamorros were treated as an occupied enemy by the Japanese military. The United States returned and fought the Battle of Guam in 1944 to recapture the island from Japanese military occupation. While the Northern Marianas were also liberated from Japanese rule and came under the U.S. political rule and commonwealth status, some cultural rift between Guam and Northern Mariana Chamorros remains.

The Organic Act of 1950 established Guam as an unincorporated organized territory of the United States and provided for the structure of the island's government. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, section 307, granted U.S. citizenship to Guam's population.

Politics of Guam

Stop! The neutrality of this section is disputed.

Main article: Politics of Guam

The population of Guam is largely proud of its U.S. connection, and its economy is greatly dependent on the US military base. The U.S. connection also contributes to Guam's status as a Japanese tourist destination. The Guamanian population is generally culturally sympathetic toward the U.S., based especially in common tribulations during WWII, and on good relations with the U.S. military since.

Maintenance of the status quo vis-à-vis the current political relationship between the territory and the U.S. is, however, not without controversy. There is a significant movement in favor of Guam becoming a commonwealth in political union with the U.S. (i.e., the political status of Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands). Competing movements with less significant influence exist, one of which advocates political independence from the United States, while another movement advocates statehood. These proposals however, are not seen as favorable or realistic within the U.S. federal government, who argue Guam does not have the financial stability or self sufficiency to warrant such status. The same sources quickly provide evidence of Guam’s increasing reliance on Federal spending, and question how commonwealth status or statehood would benefit the United States as a greater whole.

In whatever form it takes, most people on Guam favor a modified version of the current territorial status, involving greater autonomy from the federal government (similar to the autonomy of individual states). Perceived indifference by the U.S. Congress regarding a change-of-status petition submitted by Guam has led many to feel that the territory is being unjustly deprived of the benefits of a more equitable union with the U.S.

See: List of Guam Governors

Transportation and Communications in Guam

Main articles: Communications in Guam, Transportation in Guam

Guam is served by Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport.


Guam's economy depends primarily on Federal expenditures and tourism. Although Guam receives no foreign aid, it does receive large transfer payments from the general revenues of the US Federal Treasury into which Guam pays no income or excise taxes; under the provisions of a special law of Congress, the Guam Treasury, rather than the US Treasury, receives federal income taxes paid by military and civilian Federal employees stationed in Guam.

Guam is a favorite destination for Japanese tourists. Guam is a relatively short flight from Japan compared to Hawaii, and a series of tourist hotels and golf courses were built to cater to the tourists. Today, about 90 percent of tourists to Guam are Japanese.

The main tourist beach, Tumon Bay has beautiful white sand, and Tumon Bay is now a marine preserve, teeming with fish. Recently completed infrastucture projects have brought underground fiber-optics and new roads to the busy Tumon area.

The economy had been booming since 2000 due to Japanese tourists, but took a downturn with the rest of Asia. Guam has a 14% unemployment rate, and the government suffered a $314 million shortfall in 2003 alone.[1]

The following is the amount in billion of dollars, that the Government of Guam has spent in Federal grants for various government and economic expenditures minus those of the United States Armed Forces:[2]

1993 - $1.004
1994 - $1.061
1995 - $0.809
1996 - $0.829
1997 - $0.846
1998 - $0.998
1999 - $0.844
2000 - $0.841
2001 - $0.907
2002 - $1.113
2003 - $1.538


Main articles: Geography of Guam

Guam is located at 13° 26′ 31″ N, 144° 46′ 35″ E. Guam has an area of 212 mi² (549 km²). The northern part of the island is a coralline limestone plateau while the south contains volcanic peaks. A coral reef surrounds most of the island. Guam is the southernmost island in the Mariana Island chain and is the largest island in Micronesia.

Guam lies along the Marianas Trench, a deep subduction zone at the edge of the Pacific plate. The Challenger Deep, the deepest point on earth, is southwest of Guam at 35,838 ft (10,923 meters) deep.

The island experiences occasional earthquakes. In recent years, quakes with epicenters near Guam have had magnitudes ranging from 7.0 to 8.2.

The island is divided into 19 municipalities (often called villages).

Villages of Guam
Agana Heights | Agat | Asan-Maina | Barrigada | Chalan-Pago-Ordot | Dededo | Hagåtña | Inarajan | Mangilao | Merizo | Mongmong-Toto-Maite | Piti | Santa Rita | Sinajana | Talofofo | Tamuning | Umatac | Yigo | Yona


The climate is characterized as tropical marine. The weather is generally warm and humid with little seasonal temperature variation. The average mean temperature in 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius) with an average annual rainfall of 86 inches (2,180 millimeters).

The dry season runs from December through June. The remaining months consitute the rainy season. The highest risk of typhoons is during October and November.

An average of three tropical storms and one typhoon pass within 180 nautical miles (330 km) of Guam each year. The most intense typhoon to pass over Guam recently was Typhoon Pongsona which struck Guam in December 2002.


Brown Tree Snake
Brown Tree Snake

The island is also known as a prominent example for the disastrous effects of bioinvasion: A stowaway on U.S. military transport at the end of World War II, the slightly venomous, but rather harmless, brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis) came north to Guam and killed almost the entire native bird population on the previously snake-free island. This snake has no natural predators on the island; nowadays, Guam is one of the areas with the highest snake density in the world (an estimated 2,000 snakes/km²). Even so, residents rarely see these snakes. They curl up and hide during the day, and move about on trees and fences at night. As prodigious tree climbers, the snakes allegedly caused frequent blackouts in neigborhoods across the Island. Now all power poles have a slick metal sheath that prevent the snakes from climbing up.

See also

From the CIA World Factbook 2000:

Political Issues

External links

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