Sometimes called "America in Asia," Guam – a small island in the Western Pacific – had its first contact with Western civilization through Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan’s Spanish expedition of 1521. The Spanish controlled Guam for much of its history, but ceded it to the United States in 1898. Captured by the Japanese in 1941, it was retaken by the US three years later. Guam is now an organized, unincorporated territory of the United States. The military installation on the island is one of the most strategically important US bases in the Pacific.
Over the years, Guam has held tenaciously to its culture. Through years of wars, invading conquerors and changing governments, traditions of its older generations are still alive.
Spanish styles of clothing, architecture and food exist alongside indigenous island traditions and folklore, in a “melting pot” atmosphere.
The indigenous people of Guam are the Chamorros, who first populated the island around 4,000 years ago. The Chamorro language, spoken by the majority of Guam's people, continues to breathe life into the montage of cultures to be found on the island – a blend of Spanish, Micronesian, Asian and western influences. The only other language spoken is English. Ninety-six percent of the people adhere to the Christian faith.
Today, the people of Guam – more than 160,000 – have American citizenship but not the right to vote in US national elections. Guam elected its first governor in 1970 and two years later its first delegate to the United States House of Representatives.
With its tropical climate, warm sandy beaches and a coral reef surrounding most of the island, Guam is a popular destination for Japanese, Korean, and Chinese tourists.