The United States (US) Territory of Guam is an unincorporated US territory; it has limited self-governing authority. Located in the Western Pacific Ocean, Guam is the largest of all the Mariana Islands. It is positioned about 3,300 (5311 km) miles to the west of the Hawaiian Islands. The island’s climate is tropical marine with warm and humid conditions. Guam experiences tropical storms, usually about three per year; typhoons are also possible, on a less frequent basis.
Guam is a leading Western Pacific tourist destination. The tropical island is approximately 46 miles (74 km) long and its width spans about four to eight miles (6.5 to 13 km). It boasts rolling hills, rivers, and waterfalls. It is also home to bays and cliffs that reach hundreds of feet above sea level. As it is a popular tourist destination, Guam features a variety of hotels and attracts visitors with its duty-free status.
Guam has a rich historical and cultural heritage. Ferdinand Magellan first reached Guam in 1521 while circumnavigating the globe for Spain. The island was claimed for Spain in 1565 by General Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. Spain began colonizing the island in 1668. From the late 1600s to the early 1800s, Guam was considered a stopover point along the trade route that existed between Mexico and the Philippines
In 1898, control of Spain fell to the United States during the Spanish American War. The US Navy took over administrative jurisdiction of the island. During this time, many forms of modernization occurred on the island, including those related to agriculture, education, and public works. The US Navy used Guam as a base for refueling and certain communication matters until 1941.
World War II brought attacks on Guam by Japan; early in December of 1941, Japanese armed forces invaded the island. In response, the United States transported its military dependents off the island. For nearly three years, Guam was occupied by the Japanese, suffering the loss of an estimated 1,000 people during this time. On 21 July 1944, the United States returned to begin Battle of Guam. The U.S. was successful and managed to recapture the island, establishing it as an unincorporated, unorganized territory in 1950.
Today, Guam is sophisticated, featuring the typical amenities of modern life, including such things as high-speed Internet and cell-phone technology. Guamanian culture shows a combination of influences, including Spanish, American, Japanese, and Filipino contributions. Despites these influences, however, Guam’s most prevalent culture is that of the Chamorros, the island’s native people. Their influence is particularly evident in dances, cuisine, and games.