Guam History: A Review of the Island’s Unique History VincentAnthony V. Borja English 135 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. (Cunningham ; Beaty, 2001) Legazpi and his men stayed on Guam for eleven days.
During this visit, Legazpi was so afraid of upsetting the Chamorro’s that he ordered all crew members not to go on shore without his permission. The Chamorro’s were much friendlier, canoeing out to greet the voyagers with food and supplies, a much different experience the Spanish explorers had remembered during their last Guam visit. Clever and sly, the Chamorro’s were always trying to trade rice for nails. Frequently the natives would fool the voyagers by placing rice in the top of the bag and filling the bottom with rocks and straw.
When the men went ashore to fill the kegs with water, an altercation took place, and one of Legazpi’s men was killed. Legazpi was upset and ordered a hundred men to go to the island and punish the Chamorro’s. The result was three Chamorro’s hung and killed; and many houses and canoes burned. Following the incident Legazpi declared anchors to be lifted and the Spaniards journeyed for the Philllipines. (Rogers, 1995, p. 14) Catholocism was the first religion introduced on the island during the 1600’s.
The major influence and main support came from one of the main leaders on the island during that time. Chief Quipuha was the maga’lahi or highest-ranking male, in the area of Hagatna when the Spanish landed off its shores in 1668. On June 15, 1668 missionaries led by Spanish Jesuit Padre Diego Luis de San Vitores of Burgos, of Spain, whom landed off the shores of Hagatna. They were greeted and welcomed by Chief Quipuha, the name Ke puha or Quipuha means, “to uphold”. Chief Quipuha was so welcoming to these missionaries; he even offered a plot of land in Hagatna for the mission. Political Status Education Coordinating Commission, 1995) It was on this offered land where the first Catholic Church in Guam was built and Catholicism was introduced. Chief Quipuha died in 1669, but his legacy left a tremendous impact that allowed the Spanish to continue its legacy for the Manila Galleon trade, which was the exchange of goods between Asia and Mexico. (Naval Station Guam) About a century later, In April of 1672, Padre Diego Luis de San Vitores and his Filipino assistant were killed by Chief Mata’ pang of Tumon for baptizing the Chief’s baby girl without the Chief’s consent. (Rogers, 1995, p. 5) It is theorized, that Mata’ pang may have acted out of frustration from being compelled to the harsh rule of a foreign Spanish king. Whereas San Vitores tried to carry out his mission in a peaceful manner, the Spanish military ruthlessly governed the local populace to protect their Galleon routes. Regardless of Mata’ pangs motives, the death of San Vitores lead to an all-out war that nearly resulted in extinction of the Chamorro race. Sources have estimated Chamorro casualties to the fighting and disease reduced the population from 200,000 to roughly 5,000 by 1741, mostly women and children.
The Spaniards imported Spanish soldiers and Filipino’s to restock the population, marking the end of the pure Chamorro bloodline. (Rogers, 1995, pp. 41-57) After 1695, Chamorro’s were forced to settle in five villages: Hagatna, Agat, Umatac, Pago, and Fena, were monitored by the priests and military garrison, forced to attend Church daily and to learn Spanish language and customs. In 1740, Chamorro’s of the Northern Marianas Islands, except Rota, were removed from their home islands and exiled to Guam.
Mata’ pang himself was killed in a final battle on the island of Rota in 1680. Having been vilified for the incident that sparked the decimation of the pure Chamorro race, the name Mata’ pang has evolved to mean silly. (Donald L. Platt, 2009) During the 18th century, the English pirates who visited Guam to take on supplies and provisions preyed upon the Spanish galleons. Guam was a host to a number of scientists, voyagers, and whalers from Russia, France, and England some of whom provided detailed accounts of the daily life on Guam under Spanish rule.
Evidence of Spanish buildings, bridges, churches and forts can still be seen across the island, especially in the southern areas of the island. Spanish cannon still overlooks Hagatna and Umatac bays from Forts Agueda and Soledad, the Plaza de Epa, once the Spanish Governor’s Palace, still stands in central Hagatna, and sunken Spanish galleons still lie under Guam’s crystal clear waters. The architecture and design of structures build long after the Spanish era, such as the bridge in Umatac, which still has distinct Spanish quality. (Donald L.
Platt, 2009) AMERICAN PERIOD During the Spanish-American war Guam was ceded to the United States by the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Spanish American war in 1898 and Guam was formally purchased from Spain for $20 million in 1899. At the time of the turnover, the local population of Guam had grown to about 10,000 inhabitants. U. S. President William McKinley issued an executive order placing Guam within the administration of the Department of the Navy. Captain R. P. Leary was appointed the island’s first U. S. Governor. (Rogers, 1995, p. 14) Under Navy administration, Guam experienced many improvements in the areas of agriculture, public health, sanitation, education, land management, taxes, and public works. Orders issued by Captain Leary on August 16, 1899, regulated the importation and sale of intoxicating liquors; regulated the celebration of church and other holidays; prohibited the transfer of land without the consent of the government; prohibited concubine and required that marriage be performed between persons that were cohabiting; prohibited exportation of certain articles in common use among he people; required persons without a trade or regular employment to pant specified commodities and keep certain live stock; regulated the keeping of dogs and other animals running at large; abrogated the Spanish system of taxation and provided a new one; established a public system of nonsectarian education; and required each adult to learn to write his or her own name within a specified time. (Rogers, 1995, p. 119) In 1927, the people of Guam, including schoolchildren who donated a penny each, collected $703. 92 to have a ship’s bell and a commemorative plaque manufactured in Shanghai, China.
The bell was presented to the Navy and has served distinctively on each of the three USS Guam Naval vessels. (Palomo, 1999)The U. S. Navy continued to use Guam as a refueling and communication station until 1941, when it fell to invading Japanese forces shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. “The bell, along with a commemorative bronze plaque, has been returned to Guam after the decommissioning of the USS Guam, an amphibious assault ship (LPH-9), on August 25, 1998 at the Norfolk, Virginia, Naval Base. The USS Guam is the third Navy vessel named after Guam. ” (Palomo, 1999)
JAPANESE OCCUPATION On December 10, 1941, Guam surrendered to the Japanese South Seas detachment after a valiant defensive struggle by the island’s Insular Force Guard and a limited number of U. S. Marines. Guam became the only populated U. S. soil to be occupied by another country in World War II. Guam was renamed “Omiya Jima” and for 31 months, the people of Guam were forcibly subjected to intolerable hardships administered by the Japanese military. Although some measure of religious practice and business activities were permitted, atrocities, grenade slaughters and rapes were common.
The 29th Division of Japan’s Kwantung Army established concentration camps and approximately 600 Chamorro’s were executed. (Rogers, 1995, pp. 163-181) Some Chamorro’s were beheaded when the Japanese learned of the 3-year humanitarian effort by Chamorro’s to successfully feed and hide U. S. Navy radioman George Tweed, who escaped in the initial invasion. Tweed’s cave is a popular “boonie stomping” destination on Guam today. (Babuata, 2009) Many landmarks of the Japanese occupation, including gun emplacements and tunnels can still be seen around the island of Guam. LIBERATION AND U. S. TERRITORIAL STATUS
Record tonnage of naval bombardment in which thousands of Japanese and Chamorro’s marked the campaign for the liberation of Guam lost their lives and the city of Hagatna was nearly destroyed. American forces landed on July 21, 1944 at Asan and Agat beaches. In honor of the bravery and sacrifices of all those who participated in the Pacific Theater of World War II, including soldiers, sailors and marines of the United States, Japan, Australia, Canada, China, France, Great Britain, New Zealand, the Netherlands, and the Soviet Union, the landing area has been designated as the “War in the Pacific National Historic Park. During the following bitter three week campaign, 7,000 U. S. and 11,000 Japanese lives were lost before Guam was reclaimed and once again under American administration. (Aguon, 2009) Today, July 21st, Guam Liberation Day, is a major Guam holiday. All government offices and most businesses are closed as the island celebrates with daylong fiestas and a parade down Marine Corps drive in Hagatna. Because of its strategic position, Guam was used as a command post for U. S. Western Pacific operations until the War came to an end in 1945. On May 30, 1946, the U. S. Naval Government was re-established.
Although concluded over 50 years ago, World War II still exerts a major influence on Guam. Relics and evidence of the War are still evident all across the island and divers can survey wrecks of Japanese, American, German and other ships and airplanes under Guam’s warm clear waters. On January 24, 1972, the last Japanese World War II holdout, Sergeant Shoichi Yokoi, was discovered in the cave in which he had been hiding since his unit was scattered by the advancing Americans in July 1944. Sergeant Yokoi’s cave at Talofofo falls has been preserved as a popular attraction for visitors. (Aguon, 2009) As the Westernmost U.
S. soil in the Pacific, Guam today remains a strategic outpost for the U. S. military. In 1949, U. S. President Harry S. Truman signed the Organic Act making Guam an unincorporated territory of the United States with limited self-governing authority and granting American citizenship to the people of Guam. In 1962, security clearance requirement for travel to Guam, which had been in place since World War II, were lifted permitting Guam’s economy to flourish and opening an influx of new residents of diverse nationalities and races such as Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Indian, Pacific Islanders nd Caucasian. (Rogers, 1995) CULTURE The core of Guam culture, the Chamorro, is characterized by a complex social protocol centered upon respect, caring, accepting and helping one another. Inafa’maolek, or interdependence, is a central value in Chamorro culture that depends on a spirit of cooperation. Historian Lawrence Cunningham in 1992 wrote, “In a Chamorro sense, the land and its produce belong to everyone. 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 culture is visibly manifested in the kissing of the hands of elders, passing of legends, music, dance, chants, courtship rituals, handicrafts, burial rituals, preparation of herbal medicines, and requesting forgiveness from spiritual ancestors when entering a jungle. Glimpses of Guam culture are evident in local legends and folklore such as the taotaomona (ancient spirits), doomed lovers leaping to their death off Two Lover’s Point (Puntan Dos Amentes), and Sirena, a beautiful young girl who became a mermaid. Guam Society and Culture Complete Report, 2010) The Spanish occupation was based on conquest and conversion to “save the heathen souls”, implemented by force, which nearly resulted in the total extermination of the pure Chamorro race. However, the Spanish failed to recognize that the Chamorro culture was matrilineal and largely ignored the influence of the Chamorro women, which likely accounts for the fact that the Chamorro culture has endured to this day. The greatest influence of the Spanish over Guam’s culture was through the Catholic Church, which has, since the 17th century, been the center of village activity.
Today, every village has its patron saint whose feast day is celebrated with an elaborate fiesta, to which the entire island is invited. These fiestas, whereupon by duty, extended families contribute food and work to cook for the village guests remain a key attribute of the culture of Guam till’ this day. Chamorro society emphasizes respect for the elderly. The practice of manngingi (“to smell”) entails sniffing the right hand of an elderly person to express one’s deep regard. Before colonial rule, Chamorro’s recognized the power and authority of clan elders.
Informal positions of authority were granted to elders who commanded the respect of their clan members. Elders could pool the labor and material resources of their clans in times of need. (Guam Society and Culture Complete Report, 2010) Today thousands of tourist visit the island to experience a blend of Spanish, Micronesian, Asian and western influences that have inhabited Guam for the past 300 years. The experience of the island’s history and living traditions when you visit historic sites or by sampling some of the island’s delicious food.
In conclusion, because Guam is the because island in the pacific, and a strategic point in the pacific, it is a valuable territory that will always be secured by America and very much appreciated. Although, the natives appreciate the Americas presence and Guam’s current political status on the island, they are still fighting for a lot of the original land to be returned to original landowners. The natives endured many struggles from Spain and Japan in order for the island to be what it is today.
The diverse influence that started from the Spanish era, the Japanese occupation, and then the liberation from the Americans is what makes the Chamorro culture very unique. The new generation is fighting to preserve what is left of the island’s history, and many organizations are working to promote the culture through song and music. References Aguon, Katherine, PhD and Palomo, Tony. WWII: From Occupation to Liberation, referenced April 12, 2011, 2009 Guampedia, URL: http://guampedia. com/wwii-from-occupation-to-liberation/ Babauta, Leo. George Tweed, referenced April 11, 2011, 2009 Guampedia, URL: http://guampedia. om/george-tweed/ Ballendorf, Dirk & Foster, Sophie. Guam. (2011). In Encyclop? dia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www. britannica. com/EBchecked/topic/247691/Guam Coomans, Fr. Peter. (1997). History of the Mission in the Mariana Islands: 1667 – 1673. Occasional Historical Papers Series No. 4. Translated and edited by Rodrigue Levesque. Saipan, CM: Division of Historic Preservation Cunningham, Lawrence J. ; Beaty, Janice J. 2001 A History of Guam. Hagatna, GU; Bess Press Guam Society and Culture Complete Report. World Trade Press Date Published: 2010 LC Call Number: DU647 ISBN: 9781607804727 Naval Station Guam.
Chief Quipuha (Ke puha) Statue. Retrieved April 09,2011 from http://ns. gov. gu/quipua. html Palomo, Antonio. The Guam Bell. Referenced April 14, 2011. 1999 Guam. org, URL: http://guam. org. gu/guambell/ Rogers, Robert F. (1995). Destiny’s Landfall: A History of Guam. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai’i Press. Under the Organic Act 1950-1970 224-232 Smith, J. (2004). Martin Luther. In L. McDonald (ed. ), Encyclopedia of science and religion. Babson Press. Retrieved November 20, 2003, from http://www. scireligion. com/ml Suarez, Thomas (1999). Early Mapping of Southeast Asia. Singapore; Periplus Editions (HK) Ltd.
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