{{Infobox Country or territory |native_name = Territory of Guam
Guåhan |common_name = Guam |image_flag = Flag of Guam.svg |image_coat = Coat of arms of Guam.svg |image_map = LocationGuam.png |national_motto = "Where America's Day Begins" |national_anthem = Fanohge Chamoru |official_languages = English and Chamorro |capital = Hagåtña |latd= |latm= |latNS= |longd= |longm= |longEW= |largest_settlement_type = village |largest_settlement = Dededo |leader_title1 = President |leader_name1 = George W. Bush (R) |leader_title2 = Governor |leader_name2 = Felix Perez Camacho (R) |area_rank = 192nd |area_magnitude = 1 E8 |area_km2 = 541.30 |area_sq_mi = 209.85 (330 km) of Guam each year. The most intense typhoon to pass over Guam recently was Super Typhoon Pongsona, with sustained winds of 125 miles per hour, which slammed Guam on December 8, 2002, leaving massive destruction. Since Super Typhoon Pamela in 1976 wooden structures have been largely replaced by concrete structures.[1][2] During the 1980s wooden utility poles began to be replaced by typhoon-resistant concrete and steel poles. In the 1990s many home and business owners installed typhoon shutters.


According to the U.S. census conducted in 2000, the population of Guam was 154,805.[3] The 2007 population estimate for Guam is 173,456.[4] As of 2005, the annual population growth is 1.76%.[5] The largest ethnic group are the native Chamorros, accounting for 57% of the total population. Other ethnic groups include Filipino 25.5%, Caucasian 10%, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and others. Today, Roman Catholicism is the largest religion with 85% attesting to it. The official languages of the island are English and Chamorro.


Traditional Chamorro culture is visually manifested in dance, sea navigation, unique cuisine, fishing, games (such as batu, chonka, estuleks, and bayogu), songs and fashion influenced by the immigration of peoples from other lands. Spanish policy during colonial rule (1668-1898) was one of conquest and conversion to Roman Catholicism. This led to the gradual elimination of Guam's male warriors and displacement of the Chamorro people from their lands. In spite of the social upheavals, Guam's matriarchs—known as "I Maga'håga"—continued the indigenous culture, language, and traditions.

Historian Lawrence Cunningham in 1992 wrote, "In a Chamorro sense, the land and its produce belong to everyone. Inafa'maolek, or interdependence, is the key, or central value, in Chamorro culture ... Inafa'maolek depends on a spirit of cooperation. This is the armature, or core, that everything in Chamorro culture revolves around. It is a powerful concern for mutuality rather than individualism and private property rights."

The core culture or Pengngan Chamorro is comprised of complex social protocol centered upon respect: From the kissing of the hands of the elders (inspired by the kissing of a Roman Catholic bishop's ring by those whom he oversees), passing of legends, chants, and courtship rituals, to a person requesting forgiveness from spiritual ancestors when entering a jungle. Other practices predating Spanish conquest include galaide' canoe-making, making of the belembaotuyan (a string musical instrument), fashioning of åcho' atupat slings and slingstones, tool manufacture, Måtan Guma' burial rituals and preparation of herbal medicines by Suruhanu.

Master craftsmen and women specialize in weavings, including plaited work (niyok- and åkgak-leaf baskets, mats, bags, hats, and food containments), loom-woven material (kalachucha-hibiscus and banana fiber skirts, belts and burial shrouds), and body ornamentation (bead and shell necklaces, bracelets, earrings, belts and combs made from tortoise shells).

Today only few masters exist to continue traditional art forms. The cosmopolitan nature of Guam poses challenges for Chamorros struggling to preserve their culture and identity amidst forces of acculturation. The increasing numbers of Chamorros, especially Chamorro youth, relocating to the U.S. Mainland has further complicated both definition and preservation of Chamorro identity.

Government and politics[]

War in the Pacific National Historical Park, Asan, Guam.

Guam is governed by a popularly elected governor and a unicameral 15 member legislature. Guam elects one non-voting delegate, currently Madeleine Bordallo, to the United States House of Representatives. Citizens in Guam vote in a straw poll for their choice in the U.S. Presidential general election, but since Guam has no votes in the Electoral College, the poll has no real effect. However, in sending delegates to the Republican and Democratic national conventions, Guam does have influence in the national presidential race, although these convention delegates are elected by local party conventions rather than voters in primaries.[6]

In the 1980s and early 1990s, there was a significant movement in favor of the territory becoming a commonwealth, which would give it a political status similar to Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands. However, the federal government gave no response to Guam's request for commonwealth status for a decade before Guam leaders gave up the quest in the late 1990s. Competing movements with less significant influence exist, which advocate political independence from the United States, statehood, or a combination with the Northern Mariana Islands as a single commonwealth. These proposals however, are not seen as favorable or realistic within the U.S. federal government, which argues 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 whole.[7]

Villages and Military Bases[]

Aerial photo of Apra Harbor.

Guam is divided into 19 municipalities commonly called villages. The U.S. military maintains jurisdiction over bases comprising approximately one quarter of the island's area:


Guam's economy depends primarily on tourism, the United States military base presence, and other federal spending. Although Guam receives no foreign aid, it does receive large transfer payments from the general revenues of the U.S. 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 U.S. treasury, receives federal income taxes paid by military and civilian federal employees stationed in Guam.

Sometimes called "America in Asia," Guam is a popular destination for Japanese and Korean tourists, and with over 20 large hotels, a DFS Galleria, Pleasure Island aquarium, SandCastle Las Vegas-styled shows and other shopping and entertainment features in its chief tourism city of Tumon. It is a relatively short flight from Asia compared to Hawaii, with hotels and golf courses catering to tourists. About 90 percent of tourists to Guam are Japanese. Significant sources of revenue include duty-free designer shopping outlets, and the American-style malls: Micronesia Mall, Guam Premium Outlets, and the Agana Shopping Center.

The economy had been stable since 2000 due to increased tourism, mainly from Japan, but took a recent downturn along with the rest of Asia. It is expected to stabilize when U.S. Marine personnel and operations currently in Okinawa (appr. 8000, along with their 10,000 dependents) will transfer to Guam sometime in 2007-2008. Guam has a 14% unemployment rate, and the government suffered a $314 million shortfall in 2003.[8]

The Compacts of Free Association between the United States, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Republic of Palau accorded the former entities of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands a political status of "free association" with the United States. The Compacts give citizens of these new nations generally no restrictions to reside in the United States, and many were attracted to Guam due to its proximity. Over the years, it was claimed by some in Guam that the territory has had to bear the brunt of this agreement in the form of public assistance programs and public education for those from the regions involved, and the federal government should compensate the states and territories affected by this type of migration. Over the years, Congress had appropriated "Compact Impact" aids to Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and Hawaii, and eventually this appropriation was written into each renewed Compact. Some, however, continue to claim the compensation is not enough.

Transportation and communications[]

Most of the island has mobile phone service and high speed internet is now widely available through cable or DSL. Guam was added to the North American Numbering Plan in 1997, removing the barrier of high cost international long-distance calls to the U.S. Mainland.

As Guam is also part of the U.S. Postal System (the postal code is GU), mail to Guam from the mainland is considered domestic and no additional charges are required. Private shipping companies, such as UPS, DHL or FedEx, however, have no obligation to and do not regard Guam as domestic. The speed of mail traveling between Guam and the states varies depending on size. Light, first-class items generally take less than a week to or from the mainland, but larger first-class or Priority items can take a week or two. Fourth-class mail, such as magazines, are transported by surface after reaching Hawaii. Most residents use post office boxes or private mail boxes, although residential delivery is becoming increasingly available.

Guam is served by the Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport, which is a hub for Continental Micronesia. The island is outside the United States customs zone and maintains its own customs agency and jurisdiction. Therefore, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection only carries immigration (but not customs) functions for incoming flights. Since Guam is under federal immigration jurisdiction, passengers arriving directly from the States skip immigration and directly proceed to customs. Since Guam has a visa waiver program for certain Asian tourists, an eligibility pre-clearance check is carried for flights to the States. For travel to and from the Northern Mariana Islands (which are outside of U.S. immigration jurisdiction), a full inspection is performed though American citizens do not need a passport. Traveling between Guam and the States through a foreign point (for example, a Japanese airport), however, requires a passport.

Most residents travel within Guam using personally owned vehicles. The local government operates an inefficient public bus system (Guam Mass Transit Authority), and some commercial companies operated buses between tourist-frequented locations.

Ecological issues[]

Guam exemplifies the effects of bioinvasion.

The brown tree snake[]

Brown Tree Snake

Thought to be a stowaway on a U.S. military transport near the end of World War II, the slightly venomous—but rather harmless—brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis) came to Guam and killed virtually all of the native bird population on an island that has no native species of snake; this snake has no natural predators on the island. Although some studies have suggested a high density of the brown tree snake, residents rarely see these nocturnal snakes. Prodigious climbers, the snakes cause frequent blackouts by shorting across lines and transformers.[9]

Other invasive animal species[]

A Cane toad.

From the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries, the Spanish introduced pigs, dogs, chickens, the Philippine deer (Cervus mariannus), black francolins, and water buffalo. Water buffalo, known as carabao locally, have cultural significance. Herds of these animals obstruct military base operations and harm native ecosystems. After birth control and adoption efforts were ineffective, the U.S. military began euthanizing the herds leading to organized protests from island residents.[10]

Other introduced species include cane toads imported in 1937, the giant African Snail (an agricultural pest introduced during WWII by Japanese occupation troops) and more recently frog species which could threaten crops in addition to providing additional food for the brown tree snake population. Reports of loud chirping frogs, known as coquí, that may have arrived from Hawaii have led to fears that the noise could even threaten Guam's tourism.[11]

Introduced feral pigs and deer, over-hunting, and habitat loss from human development are also major factors in the decline and loss of Guam's native plants and animals.

Threats to indigenous plants[]

Invading animal species are not the only threat to Guam's native flora. Tinangaja, a virus affecting coconut palms, was first observed on the island in 1917 when copra production was still a major part of Guam's economy. Though coconut plantations no longer exist on the island, the dead and infected trees that have resulted from the epidemic are seen throughout the forests of Guam.[12] Also during the past century, the dense forests of northern Guam have been largely replaced by thick tangan tangan brush (Leucaena-native to the Americas). Much of Guam's foliage was lost during World War II. In 1947, the U.S. military introduced tangan tangan by seeding the island from the air to prevent erosion. In southern Guam, non-native grass species also dominate much of the landscape.


Guam's grassland.

Wildfires plague the forested ("boonie" or "jungle") areas of Guam every dry season despite the island's humid climate. Most fires are man-caused with 80 percent resulting from arson.[13] Poachers often start fires to attract deer to the new growth. Invasive grass species that rely on fire as part of their natural life cycle grow in many regularly burned areas. Grasslands and "barrens" have replaced previously forested areas leading to greater soil erosion. During the rainy season sediment is carried by the heavy rains into the Fena Lake Reservoir and Ugum River leading to water quality problems for southern Guam. Eroded silt also destroys the marine life in reefs around the island. Soil stabilization efforts by volunteers and forestry workers to plant trees have had little success in preserving natural habitats.[14]

Aquatic preserves[]

As a vacation spot for scuba divers, efforts have been made to protect Guam's coral reef habitats from pollution, eroded silt, and overfishing that have led to decreased fish populations. In recent years the Department of Agriculture, Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources has established several new marine preserves where fish populations are monitored by biologists.[15] Prior to adopting USEPA standards, portions of Tumon bay were dredged by the hotel chains in order to provide a better experience for hotel guests.[16][17] Tumon Bay has since been made into a preserve. A federal Guam National Wildlife Refuge in northern Guam protects the decimated sea turtle population in addition to a small colony of Mariana fruit bats.[18]

Reef fish of Guam


Primary and secondary schools[]

The University of Guam campus

The Guam Public School System [1] serves the entire island of Guam. In 2000, 32,000 students attended Guam's public schools. As in many school United States school districts, Guam Public Schools, has struggled with problems such as high drop out rates and poor test scores.[19][20] Guam's educational system has always faced unique challenges as a small community located 6,000 miles form the U.S. mainland with a very diverse student body including many students who come from backgrounds without a traditional American education.[21] An economic downturn in Guam since the mid 1990s has compounded the problems in schools.[22] In 1998, the U.S. Department of Defense opened schools for children of American military personnel. DoDEA schools, which also serve children of some federal civilian employees, had an attendance of 2,500 in 2000. The four schools operated by DoDEA are Andersen Elementary School, Andersen Middle School, McCool Elementary/Middle School, and Guam High School.[23]

Colleges and universities[]

The University of Guam, Guam Community College, and Pacific Islands Bible College offer courses in higher education.[24]

See also[]


  1. ^ "Guam Catastrophe Model". Risk Management Solutions. Retrieved 2007-06-16. 
  2. ^ "Winds". Retrieved 2007-06-16. 
  3. ^ . "Guam Summary File," American FactFinder, Census 2000 Guam, Retrieved April 19, 2007.
  4. ^ "Guam," CIA World Factbook, April 17, 2007, Retrieved April 19, 2007.
  5. ^ "MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base: Guam". 2007-05-17. Retrieved 2007-07-19. 
  6. ^ Rogers, Robert F. (1995). Destiny’s Landfall: A History of Guam. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. ISBN-13: 978-0824816780. 
  7. ^ Willens, Howard P; Dirk A Ballendorf (2004). "The Secret Guam Study: How President Ford's 1975 Approval of Commonwealth Was Blocked by Federal Officials". Micronesian Area Research Center 18 (1). ISBN 1-878-453-77-7. 
  8. ^ "2004 Guam Yearbook" (PDF). Retrieved 2007-07-19. 
  9. ^ Fritts, T.H.; D. Leasman-Tanner (2001). "USGS: The Brown Tree Snake on Guam". Retrieved 2007-07-28. 
  10. ^ "More Than 100 Protest Guam Carabao Cull". 2003-10-15. Retrieved 2007-06-15. 
  11. ^ Worth, Katie (2004-02-28). "Two Male Coqui Frogs Found in Guam". Retrieved 2007-07-19. 
  12. ^ Hodgson, R. A. J.; Wall, G. C.; Randles, J. W. (1998), "Specific Identification of Coconut Tinangaja Viroid for Differential Field Diagnosis of Viroids in Coconut Palm", Phytopathology 88 (8): 774-781,, retrieved 2007-06-16 
  13. ^ Territory of Guam Fire Assessment January 2004, Pgs. 6-7
  14. ^ {{Cite web | url= | work= United States Department of the Interior
  15. ^ Brown, Valerie. "Guam’s Marine Preserves". Pacific Daily News. Retrieved 2007-06-16. 
  16. ^ "Management of Contaminated Harbor Sediments in Guam". EPA Guam Report. 
  17. ^ Packbier, Paul E.R.. "Tumon Bay - Engineering a Better Environment". Directions Magazine; June/July 1996. 
  18. ^ Holmes III, Rolston (2001). "Environmental Ethics in Micronesia, Past and Present, Part II — Guam Today: Still "on the Edge." Colonial Legacy and American Presence". International Society for Environmental Ethics Newsletter 12 (3). Retrieved on 2007-06-16. 
  19. ^ "Merrow Report: First to Worst". Retrieved 2007-11-08. 
  20. ^ "State Comparisons". 1996. Retrieved 2007-11-08. 
  21. ^ Grace, Ted; Teresita Salos (Jul. 1966). "Guam's Education Marches On". Peabody Journal of Education 44 (1): 37-39. 
  23. ^ "DODEA". Retrieved 2006-05-10. 
  24. ^ "Politics Trumps Performance in Guam School System". Pacific Islands Report. 2006-06-15. Retrieved 2007-06-16. 

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13°27′N 144°47′E / 13.45, 144.783

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