Geography & Population of Guam – an organized and unincorporated territory of the United States

Guam (GU) is an organized and unincorporated territory of the United States, which means that the country is overseen by the United States federal government.  GU is situated in Micronesia, an area of thousands of islands located in the western Pacific Ocean.

Guam’s total area is only 210 square miles (30 miles long, 4 to 12 miles wide), making it the 32nd most significant island of the U.S. However, the country possesses a total population of 165,124 as of most recent data this year. Guam’s capital is Hagåtña, with only 1,051 citizens, whereas the country’s largest city is Dededo, which contains just under 50,000 people.

The island was created by the collision of the Pacific and Philippine tectonic plates over time.  Due to the structure of the island, GU is very susceptible to earthquakes.  GU is not volcanically active; however, the active volcano of nearby Anatahan occasionally impacts the country with volcanic smog.  Guam’s geography is diverse despite its size, with mountainous terrain in the south, coastal cliffs in the north, and coral reef surrounding most of the island.  The limestone plateau of Guam is also a unique part of the country’s landscape as it helps to provide the freshest water on the island.

History of Guam

It is originally thought that the earliest inhabitants of GU were the Chamorro people of Southeastern Asia, who settled in approximately 2000 BC.  The Chamorro people built stone pillars made out of limestone as the foundation for huts.  Most recently, it is believed that some of the remains can still be found at the Rota Latte Stone Quarry in Rota.

The first European to discover Guam was Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in 1521.  However, Guam was not claimed until 1565 and was done so by Spaniard Miguel López de Lagazpi.  For nearly three centuries, Guam remained a prominent spot for Spanish trading ships called Manila galleons.  Manila galleons had a route that spanned from Manila to Acapulco, making Guam a convenient place to rest. As a result, Spain built many structures to protect the land, and one of the most renowned structures still stands today, Fort Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, located in the southwest.

In the 19th century, Guam’s economic independence switched from Mexico to the Philippines.  However, this did not last long as the United States occupied the island following the Spanish-American War in 1898.  25th President of the U.S., William McKinley, granted Executive Order 108-A on December 23rd, 1898, which transferred GU to U.S. Navy control.  GU served as a station for American merchants and naval ships traveling between the island and the Philippines, which was also under American control at the time.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Japan took control of GU.  Under Japanese control, the Guamanian people were treated poorly and forced to live in grave conditions.  Although Guam was only under Japanese occupations for just over two years, it is estimated that roughly one thousand people died during that time.  The U.S. regained control of GU after the Battle of Guam in 1944.  Guam became an official territory of the U.S. in 1950 under the Guam Organic Act, which also granted the country U.S. citizenship for the people and provided structure for the island’s government.

Facts About Guam

Guam is a unique country with a diverse culture, combining American, Spanish, Filipino, Mexican, and Micronesian.

Guam’s economy relies heavily on tourism, where many people come to enjoy duty-free designer outlets and American-like malls, including the world’s largest Kmart.  Guam also has beautiful hotels, golf courses, Vegas-inspired shows, and an indoor aquarium.  Roughly 75% of Guam’s tourists are Japanese; however, the country also sees tourists from the U.S. and other parts of Asia, including South Korea, Taiwan, and the Philippines.