The ancient Chamorro people who were the first to inhabit Guam and the Mariana Islands came from Indonesia and the Philippines, possibly as early as 2000 B.C. Their Western Austronesian languages are closely related to those of the Yapese and Palauan Islanders.
Their society was stratified and organized in matrilineal clans constantly engaged in intertribal warfare.
Spain claimed the Mariana islands in the mid 16th century but did not begin to occupy them until the latter part of the 17th century. This led to uprisings and 25 years of intermittent warfare during which the Spanish subdued the population with considerable bloodshed. That conflict and the diseases introduced by Spanish reduced the local population from perhaps as many as 100,000 to 4,000. Most of the Chamorro people were moved to Guam where the Jesuits undertook to convert them. Much of Chamorro culture was destroyed, but the language survived.
After Spain's defeat in the Spanish-American War, the United States took control of Guam in 1898 and administered it as a US Navy possession until it fell to the Japanese shortly after the Pearl Harbour attack in 1941. After 31 months of brutal Japanese occupation Guam was reclaimed by the US at the cost of 7000 American and 11000 Japanese lives. In 1949 the status of Guam was defined as an "Unincorporated Territory of the United States" and in 1962 the restriction limiting access to US military personnel was lifted allowing the influx of Filipinos, Japanese, Korean, Chinese and Pacific Islanders.
Guam is still an important strategic military base but the development of a strong tourist industry has transformed the island into a major destination for Japanese visitors and shoppers.
The present population of Guam is approximately 154,000 of whom roughly 47% are Chamorro, 25% Filipino and the remaining 28%, Caucasian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Micronesian. Guam has internal self-government and its citizens are also citizens of the USA, but they are not eligible to vote in US elections
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This photo shows Guam's large airport and its capital Hagåtña with the big tourist hotels along the coast.
Guam is normally expensive but there were few tourists and I was able to find a room at the Hamilton Hotel for 30 $ a night.
There was a beach just across the street from the Hamilton but it was far from the center of town which can be seen in the distance on this photo.
These are the famous "latte" stones on top of which the ancient Chamorros used to erect their houses.
Guam's economy rests on a considerable military presence and on tourism. As you can see, tourism was slow and these sport fishing boats were mostly idle when I was there.
Here is another basin with idle sport fishing boats.
The Japanese recession and fear of flying since September 11th have drastically reduced the sales figures of Guam's numerous shopping malls as well as the level of occupancy of its big hotels.
The beach was practically empty looking west from the Ypao Beach Park...
... and the situation was not much better looking east.
I was rather disappointed with Guam until I met this group of Chamorros who are having a picnic in Ypao Park. I was reading a book by myself and feeling a little depressed when Arlene, in black, invited me to join them. They were all very friendly, Melba, in yellow, Francisca, in white, and Vicky in brown saved the day for me. Especially Vicky who drove me back to my new hotel.
From Guam I flew to Saipan and back, then to Yap and Palau and back, and finally I left for Bali.
I found that the Vacation Inn, near the airport, was much more convenient than the Hamilton. It was closer to town and I was picked up and brought back to the airport without charge.