What to know about Guam?

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Guam is a US territory in the western Pacific with limited self-governing authority. It is a major tourist destination with a tropical climate, rich history, and cultural heritage. Guam was occupied by Japan during WWII but was retaken by the US. Today, it is a sophisticated island with modern amenities and a mix of cultural influences, with the Chamorro culture being the most prevalent.

The United States (US) territory of Guam is an unincorporated United States territory; it has limited self-governing authority. Located in the western Pacific Ocean, Guam is the largest of all the Mariana Islands. It is located approximately 3,300 (5,311 km) miles west of the Hawaiian Islands. The island’s climate is tropical marine with hot and humid conditions. Guam experiences tropical storms, usually about three a year; typhoons are also possible, with less frequency.

Guam is a major tourist destination in the Western Pacific. The tropical island is approximately 46 miles (74 km) long and its width extends from four to eight miles (6.5-13 km). It boasts rolling hills, rivers and waterfalls. It is also home to bays and cliffs reaching hundreds of meters above sea level. As a popular tourist destination, Guam offers 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 early 1800s, Guam was considered a staging post 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 has assumed administrative jurisdiction of the island. During this period, many forms of modernization occurred on the island, including those related to agriculture, education and public works. The United States Navy used Guam as a base for refueling and some communications matters until 1941.

World War II brought attacks on Guam by Japan; In early December 1941, Japanese forces overran the island. In response, the US airlifted its military personnel off the island. For nearly three years Guam was occupied by the Japanese, suffering the loss of approximately 1,000 people during this time. On July 21, 1944, the US returned to begin the Battle of Guam. The United States was successful in retaking the island, establishing it as an unincorporated and unorganized territory in 1950.

Today, Guam is sophisticated, with the amenities of modern life, including high-speed Internet and cell phone technology. Guamania culture displays a combination of influences, including Spanish, American, Japanese, and Filipino contributions. Despite these influences, however, Guam’s most prevalent culture is that of the Chamorro, the island’s native people. Their influence is particularly evident in dances, cooking and games.

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