A Review of the Island’s Unique History
VincentAnthony V. Borja
Professor Rosemary Harty
April 21, 2011
Over the past 10 years, random people would ask me about the history of Guam, and how it became a United States territory. Grew up most of my life on Guam, but never really cared about its history, although, every year we would celebrate its liberation day from the Japanese and celebrate festive holidays significant to the islands history, I never really understood why we celebrated it. The Spanish Era, the American Period, & the Japanese occupation played a major influence on the island and its culture today. The island of Guam, Guahan in native Chamorro, is a truly multi-ethnic community that reflects the cultures of its original Chamorro inhabitants as early as 2,000 B.C., influenced by countless European, American, Asian, Micronesian, and other people who have occupied, visited and immigrated to Guam since the 16th Century. Many question the discovery by the Spaniards, the occupation of the Americans and the Japanese that shaped the island’s history that makes its culture very fascinating. Understanding the islands struggles that have lead to the American status that it eventually became after many centuries of fighting. Guam of today is truly a mixed community with a distinctive culture, the foundation of which is ancient Chamorro heavily influenced by the Spanish occupation and the Catholic Church. Strong American influence is also evident in the celebration of many public holidays, the form of Government and the pride in being U.S. that is displayed by the natives. Guam’s culture has also been influenced and enriched by the Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Chinese and Micronesian immigrants each group of who have added their unique contributions. According to the 2000 Census of Population and Housing the present population of Guam, is approximately 154,805 whom roughly 37% are Chamorro, 26% Filipino, 11% other Pacific Islander with the remaining 26% primarily Caucasian, Chinese, Korean and Japanese, all of whom bring their cultural heritage and customs and contribute to Guam’s unique culture and appeal. (U.S. Department of Commerce, 2004) SPANISH ERA
According to the journals of Antonio Pigafetta, whom was an Italian scholar and traveler form the republic of Venice. Pigafetta travelled with Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan and recorded most of Magellan’s travels. Ferdinand Magellan on March 6, 1521, first discovered the island. (Pigafetta, 1995, p. 18) During his stop on the island, the natives canoed out to the ships and stole everything that was not secured or tied down. The weakened sailors had trouble fending off the tall and robust natives until a few shots from the Trinidad’s big guns frightened them off the ship and they retreated into the surrounding jungle. The purpose of Magellan’s visit was to restock on supplies and find food. After Magellan’s travel throughout the Marianas, it was primarily his experience on Guam that the Marianas was named Li Ladroni, the island of thieves. (Suarez, 1999, p. 133) Although Magellan was considered the first European explorer to step foot on Guam's beaches, it was known that Guam and the other Mariana islands were formally claimed by the Spanish Crown in 1565 by General Miguel Lopez de Legazpi for Spain. King Phillip II of Spain wanted trade to begin with the Phillipine islands, islands named after him. Legazpi was sent across the pacific from Mexico, which was a colony of Spain in 1564. During Legazpi’s sail across the pacific, King Phillip ordered him to take possession of all land and any island encountered. Additionally, he wanted Legazpi to find a route between Mexico and the Philllipines that would go through the pacific. Legazpi and his fleet reached Guam on January 22, 1565 and docked his ships for four days. After days of waiting, they finally went on shore on January 26, 1565 to claim Guam and posted the Spain flag....
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