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Chinese Culture >> Travel Reviews >> Guam History

History of Guam

Guam was first discovered and inhabited by sea-faring people who came from Asia (possibly Indonesia or the Philippines), around about 2000 BC. These people, the Chamorros, developed a complex society, and traded with other islands in Micronesia.

On March 6th, 1521, the first Europeans arrived: Ferdinand Magellan's ships, on their expedition to circumnavigate the globe. The Chamarros natives of the islands welcomed the Spanish with food and drink. The Chamarros expected to be paid, whereas the Europeans believed these supplies to be gifts, so the Chamarros stole iron from the decks of the Spanish ships. The Spanish retaliated by killing several islanders and burning homes. Magellan consequently named Guam and the other Mariana Islands, "Las Islas de los Ladrones" (The Islands of Thieves).

In 1667, Spain claimed the islands and established a colony there. In 1668, Padre San Vitores, the first Spanish missionary, arrived. He renamed the islands "Las Marianas" after Mariana of Austria, widow of King Philip IV of Spain, and remained on the islands until his murder in 1672.

On June 21st, 1898, Guam was captured by US forces during the Spanish-American war, and was ceded to the United States by the subsequent Treaty of Paris which ended the war. (Spain later sold the Northern Mariana Islands to Germany).

During World War II, Japanese forces invaded the islands and subjected them to a brutal 31-month occupation. The islands were eventually recaptured in the Battle of Guam which took place between July 21st and August 10th of 1944

Following World War II, a series of acts relaxed the U.S. administration of Guam, established the island as an unincorporated organized territory of the United States, granted US citizenship to all persons born on Guam since 1899, allowed a non-voting Guam delegate in the US House of Representatives, and allowed the islanders to elect their own governor and lieutenant governor. In 1982, Guam residents overwhelmingly voted for a closer relationship with the United States as a Commonwealth. However, progress towards implementing the decision has been slow.

In recent years, Guam has suffered a number of setbacks, including the 1990s Asian economic crisis, and September 11th attacks, damaging the tourism industry, the 1990s military cutbacks affecting the military-dependant part of the island's economy, and the supertyphoons Paka in 1997, and Pongsona in 2002.

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