Guam

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.
Save to active project

Guam

Guam (gwäm), Chamorro Guåhan, officially Territory of Guam, the largest, most populous, and southernmost of the Mariana Islands (see also Northern Mariana Islands), an unincorporated territory of the United States (2010 pop. 159,358), 209 sq mi (541 sq km), W Pacific. The southern part of the island is mountainous, rising on Mt. Lamlam to 1,332 ft (406 m). The capital, Hagåtña (Agaña), on the central W coast, is the seat of government, and Apra Harbor, a large U.S. naval base, is nearby. Dededo, in NW Guam, is the most populous municipality. Andersen Air Force Base is in Yigo, in NE Guam. The interior of the island is dense jungle; most of the villages are on the coast.

Guamanians are U.S. citizens but cannot vote in U.S. elections. Guam's permanent inhabitants are predominantly of native Chamorro stock (37%) or Filipino descent (26%); the rest of the population mainly consists of other Pacific Islanders, Caucasians, and other persons of Asian descent. The people are overwhelmingly Roman Catholic. English, Chamorro, and Philippine languages are the main languages; efforts to preserve the Chamorro language began in the 1990s. Some one fourth of the population consists of U.S. military personnel and their dependents.

Providing goods and services for the huge U.S. bases is the major industry. Tourism, especially from Japan, is also important, and the territorial government is a significant employer. There is some light industry, and Guam is an important transshipment center for Micronesia and other Pacific islands. Some inhabitants practice subsistence farming, but large-scale agriculture is no longer possible because military installations occupy so much land. Local leaders began pressing for access to military land in the 1990s, and several facilities have been turned over.

Guam is governed under the 1950 Organic Act of Guam. The president of the United States is the head of state. The government is headed by a governor, who is popularly elected for a four-year term and is eligible for a second term. Members of the unicameral 15-seat Legislature are popularly elected for two-year terms. Guam also is represented in the U.S. House of Representatives by an elected nonvoting delegate.

Human artifacts dating from c.1500 BC have been found on Guam, but the first settlement may have occurred as much as 500 or more years earlier. Visited in 1521 by Ferdinand Magellan, Guam was claimed and controlled by Spain until 1898, when it was taken by the United States in the Spanish-American War. After 1917, Guam, under the Dept. of the Navy, was governed by a naval officer who was advised by a local congress. Guam was captured by Japan in 1941, was retaken by U.S. forces in 1944, and became a major base for assaults on the Japanese mainland.

The Organic Act of 1950 transferred jurisdiction to the Dept. of the Interior. During the Vietnam War in the 1960s Guam was an important base for air assaults. The island's military installations remain strategically important to the United States and are undergoing an expansion in the early 21st cent., with units to be transferred there from Okinawa and other locations.

In 1969 voters rejected unification with the Northern Marianas. Since 1970 the governor has been popularly elected. Guamanians voted in 1987 to seek commonwealth status from the United States. Guam was devastated by typhoons in 1976 and 1992 and suffered a severe earthquake in 1993. Felix Camacho was elected governor in 2002, succeeding Carl T. C. Gutierrez; he was reelected in 2006. In 2010 Eddie Calvo was elected to the office.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Guam
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?