Guam, an unincorporated territory of the U.S. in the western Pacific Ocean, is home to about 160,000 residents and has a rich culture created by its native inhabitants and modern society that includes people of many different ethnicities and backgrounds. Learn 7 interesting facts about this jewel in the Pacific below.
1. On the same day in 1941 that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, they also managed to invade and capture Guam. Though the Japanese reign over the small Micronesian island was relatively short (1941-1944), the Japanese forces subjected the local people to extremely poor treatment and forced them to adopt various Japanese customs.
2. The indigenous peoples of the Mariana islands, the Chamorro, were the first to inhabit Guam nearly 4,000 years ago, arriving on the island from Southeast Asia around 2000 B.C. Despite a deep history of European colonialism, Chamorro remains the largest ethnic group in Guam today.
3. Sailing under the Spanish flag, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan reached Guam in 1521. Upon his arrival, Magellan named the island ‘Isla de los Ladrones,’ or “Island of the Sails.” This marked the beginning of Spanish colonial rule of Guam that spanned until the Treaty of Paris shifted control of the island to the United States in 1898.
4. Measuring 30 miles long, between 4 and 9 miles wide, and totaling roughly 214 square miles, getting around Guam takes many forms. Walking, biking, taxis, buses, and public transportation are available (albeit quite expensive compared to some places in the U.S.). Additionally, a large amount of used vehicles for sale are available given the high cost of car shipping to Guam or sending a vehicle back to a given country that was purchased on the island.
5. Tourism is Guam’s major industry, with over 1 million tourists visiting the tropical island each year. Due to its position in the western Pacific Ocean, Guam sees a large majority of visitors coming from nearby Asian countries, most notably China, South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan. Japan alone normally accounts for nearly 90% of all visitors to the island each year.
6. In order to protect Guam’s rich and abundant sea life and coral reef habitats, The Guam Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources (DAWR) was established. Among the top priorities of DAWR is the protection of the area’s sea turtles, with the Sea Turtle Recovery Program serving to tag and gather data on local sea turtle populations in order to develop better preservation ordinances.
7. Just under 30% of Guam’s entire land area falls under the jurisdiction of United States military bases. Recently, a plan to expand the presence of U.S. military personnel and their dependents on the island of Guam by almost 18,000 people was scaled back to around 4,500 U.S. Marines, who will be moved from military stations in Okinawa, Japan.