Guamanian americans

by Jane E. Spear


Guam, or Guahan, (translated as "we have") as it was known in the ancient Chamorro language, is the southernmost and largest island of the Mariana Islands, in the west central Pacific. Located about 1,400 miles east of the Philippines, it is approximately 30 miles long, and varies in width from four miles to 12 miles. The island has a total landmass of 212 square miles, without calculating reef formations, and was formed when two volcanoes joined. In fact, Guam is the peak of a submerged mountain that rises 37,820 feet above the bottom of the Marianas Trench, the greatest ocean depth in the world. Guam has been a territory of the United States since 1898, and is the furthest west of all U.S. territories in the Pacific. Lying west of the International Dateline, it is one day ahead in time than the rest of the United States. (The International Dateline is the designated imaginary line drawn north and south through the Pacific Ocean, primarily along the 180th meridian, that by international agreement marks the calendar day for the world.) Guam's official slogan, "Where America's Day Begins," highlights its geographical position.

According to the 1990 census, Guam's population was 133,152, up from 105,979 in 1980. The population represents the Guamanians, who account for only half of Guam residents, Hawaiians, Filipinos, and North Americans. The majority of North Americans are either U.S. military personnel or support staff. As residents of a U.S. territory, Guamanians on the island are U.S. citizens with a U.S. passport. They elect a representative to the Congress of the United States, but citizens do not vote in the Presidential election. The representative who sits in the House votes only in committees, but does not vote on general issues.

The island's population is centered in Agana, the island's capital since ancient times. The city has a population of 1,139 and the surrounding Agana Heights' population is 3,646. The city was re-built after World War II, following two years of occupation by Japanese forces. In addition to the government buildings, the centerpiece of the city is the Dulce Nombre de Maria (Sweet Name of Mary) Cathedral Basilica. The cathedral is located on the site of the island's first Catholic church, which was constructed in 1669 by the Spanish settlers, directed by Padre San Vitores. The original church was destroyed by bombing during the Allied American forces' retaking Guam in 1944. Today the cathedral is the church of most of the islanders, the majority of whom are Roman Catholic.

The Seventh Day Adventists are the other major religious denomination on the island, active in Guam since the American reoccupation in 1944. They represent approximately one-fifth of Guamanians on the island. Spanish explorers brought Roman Catholicism to the island. Early Spanish and Portuguese missionaries to the Americas sought to convert the natives to Catholicism. These missionaries taught native Guamanians the Spanish language and customs, as well.

Other settlements are located in Sinajana, Tamnuning, and Barrigada, at the center of the island. The Anderson (U.S.) Air Force Base, a major presence on the island, temporarily housed refugees from Vietnam in 1975, after the fall of Saigon to the northern Vietnamese Communists.

The official Guam flag represents the history of the island. The flag's blue field serves as a background for the Great Seal of Guam, representing Guam's unity with the sea and the sky. A red strip surrounding the Guam seal is a reminder of the blood shed by the Guamanian people. The seal itself has very distinctive meanings in each of the visual symbols pictured: the pointed, egg-like shape of the seal represents a Chamorro sling stone quarried from the island; the coconut tree depicted represents self-sustenance and the ability to grow and survive under adverse circumstances; the flying proa, a seagoing canoe built by the Chamorro people, which required skill to build and sail; the river symbolizes the willingness to share the bounty of the land with others; the land mass is a reminder of the Chamorro's commitment to their environment—sea and land; and the name Guam, the home of the Chamorro people.


Guam was the earliest settlement of a Pacific island. Archaeological and historical evidence has indicated that the ancient Chamorros, the earliest known inhabitants of the Mariana Islands, lived there as early as 1755 B.C. These people were of Mayo-Indonesian descent and originated in southeast Asia. Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan reportedly landed at Umatac Bay on the southwestern coast of Guam on March 6, 1521, following a 98-day voyage from South America. One member of that expedition, by the last name of Pifigetta described the Chamorros at that time as being tall, big-boned, and robust with tawny brown skin and long black hair. The Chamorro population at the time of the first Spanish landing was estimated to be 65,000 to 85,000. Spain took formal control of Guam and the other Mariana Islands in 1565, but used the island only as a stopover point on the way from Mexico to the Philippines until the first missionaries arrived in 1688. By 1741, following periods of famine, Spanish conquest wars, and new diseases introduced by the explorers and settlers, the Chamorro population was reduced to 5,000.

Long before the Spanish arrived, the Chamorros maintained a simple and primitive civilization. They sustained themselves primarily through agriculture, hunting and fishing. In prehistoric times, the Chamorros dug up warriors' and leaders' (known as maga lahis ) bones one year after their burial and used them to make spear points for hunting. They believed that ancestral spirits, or taotaomonas, assisted them in hunting, fishing and warfare against the Spaniards. The average age of adult death at that time was 43.5 years.

According to Gary Heathcote, of the University of Guam, Douglas Hanson, of the Forsyth Institute for Advance Research in Boston, and Bruce Anderson of the Army Central Identification Lab of Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii, 14 to 21 percent of these ancient warriors "were unique with respect to all human populations, past and present by the presence of cranial outgrowths on the backs of Chamoru [Chamorro] skulls where the tendons of trapezius shoulder muscles attach." The information provided by Guam's official cultural page adds that the study indicated these characteristics were found only in indigenous (native) Mariana Islanders, and later on Tonga. The causes for such a body structure points to the following facts about the natives: 1) carrying heavy loads at the sides; 2) power lifting heavy loads with neck forwardly flexed; 3) mining/limestone quarrying; 4) transporting heavy loads by use of a tumpline (a broad band passed across the forehead and over the shoulders to support a pack on the back); 5) long-distance canoeing and navigation; and, 6) underwater swimming/spear fishing.

The Latte Stone of Guam gave further insight into Guam's ancient past. They are stone pillars of ancient houses, constructed in two pieces. One was the supporting column, or halagi, topped with a capstone, or tasa. These have been only on the Mariana Islands. Latte Park is located in the capital city of Agana, the stones having been moved from their original location at Me'pu, on Guam's southern interior. The ancient natives buried the bones of their ancestors under these, as well as jewelry or canoes they might have owned. The social structure of the Chamorros was divided into three groups. These were the Matua, the nobility, who lived along the coast; the Mana'chang, the lower caste, who lived in the interior; and, the third, a caste of medicine, or spirit Manmakahnas. The warring struggles existed between the Matua and Mana'chang before the Spanish landed. The two castes, according to missionary accounts, settled the island in two separate immigration waves, explaining their conflicting co-existence. These were the ancestors of present-day Guamanians, who eventually mixed blood with various settlers, including Asians, Europeans, and peoples from the Americas.

The Spanish administered Guam as a part of the Philippines. Trade developed with the Philippines and with Mexico, but for native Guamanians, whose numbers were brutalized by the conquering country, survival occurred at subsistence levels throughout the Spanish rule. They were considered a colony of Spain, yet did not enjoy the economic progress that Spain cultivated in other colonies. The Jesuit missionaries, however, taught the Chamorros to cultivate maize (corn), raise cattle, and tan hides.


The Treaty of Paris, which designated the end of the Spanish-American War in 1898, ceded Guam to the United States. After ruling Guam for more than 375 years, Spain relinquished their control. U.S. President William McKinley placed Guam under the administration of the Department of the Navy. The naval government brought improvements to the islanders through agriculture, public health and sanitation, education, management of land, taxes, and public works.

Immediately following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Japan occupied Guam. The island was renamed "Omiya Jima," or "Great Shrine Island." Throughout the occupation, Guamanians remained loyal to the United States. In a plea to include Guam's inclusion in the World War II Memorial planned as an addition to the other memorials in the nation's capital, Delegate Robert A. Underwood (D-Guam) noted that, "The years 1941 to 1944 were a time of great hardship and privation for the Chamorros of Guam. Despite the brutality of the Japanese occupying forces, the Chamorros, who were American nationals, remained steadfastly loyal to the United States. Consequently, their resistance and civil disobedience to conquest further contributed to the brutality of the occupation." Underwood went on to point out that hundreds of young Guamanian men have served in the U.S. armed forces. "Six of Guam's young men are entombed in the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor," Underwood said. "During the defense of Wake Island, dozens of young men from Guam, who were working for Pan American and the U.S. Navy, gallantly participated alongside Marines in combat against the Japanese invaders." Liberation Day came on July 21, 1944; but the war continued for three more weeks and claimed thousands of lives before Guam was again quiet and restored to American rule. Until the end of the war on September 2, 1945, Guam was used as a command post for U.S. Western Pacific operations.

On May 30, 1946, the naval government was re-established and the United States began rebuilding Guam. The capital city of Agana was bombed heavily during the recapture of the island from the Japanese, and had to be completely rebuilt. U.S. military build-up also began. Mainland Americans, many of them connected to the military, surged into Guam. In 1949 President Harry S. Truman signed the Organic Act, which established Guam as an unincorporated territory, with limited self-rule. In 1950, Guamanians were given U.S. citizenship. In 1962 President John F. Kennedy lifted the Naval Clearing Act. Consequently, western and Asian cultural groups moved to Guam, and made it their permanent home. Filipinos, Americans, Europeans, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Indian, and other Pacific Islanders were included in that group. When Pan American Airways began air service from Japan in 1967, the tourism industry for the island also began.


Since 1898 Guamanians have arrived on the United States mainland in small numbers, primarily settling

This Guamanian boy has enjoyed a day of playing outside.
This Guamanian boy has enjoyed a day of playing outside.
in California. Guamanians who began migrating to the mainland United States following World War II, some of whom worked for the U.S. government or military, represented more significant numbers. By 1952 Guamanians living in the Washington, D.C. area established The Guam Territorial Society, later known as The Guam Society of America. The Chamorros had moved to Washington to work for the Department of Defense and military operations, and for the educational opportunities afforded them through citizenship. In 1999, family memberships in The Guam Society of America numbered 148. Guamanians in the United States have settled throughout Hawaii, California, and Washington State, in addition to Washington, D.C. Due to their citizenship status, once a Guamanian moves to one of the 50 states, and is considered a resident, full benefits of citizenship can be enjoyed, including the right to vote.


Guamanians do not represent a large number of people. Even with the 1997 estimate of 153,000 Guam residents, with 43 percent of them native Guamanians, immigration by any standards would be different from the vast numbers of immigrants from other cultural groups, past and present. Not until the 2000 census would Pacific Islanders as a whole be separated from Asians in the count. Until then, statistics of the number of Guamanians, especially those living in the United States itself, are difficult to determine.

Acculturation and Assimilation

Under Spanish rule, the native Chamorros were expected to adopt Spanish customs, and religion. For some of them, that proved deadly, as they succumbed to the European diseases the Spanish brought with them. They managed to maintain their identity, even as the population diminished throughout the years of struggle with their Spanish conquerors. The ancient customs, legends, and language remained alive among their descendants throughout Guam and the United States. Because the Chamorro culture was matrilineal, with descent traced through the mother's line, a fact unrecognized by the Spanish when they removed young male warriors through battle, or displaced from their island homes, the traditions did not die. The matriarchs, or I Maga Hagas, represented the strength of the Chamorros throughout the years of Spanish conquest and through modern times, when assimilation threatened the culture. Furthermore, the village churches have remained the center of village life since the seventeenth century.


Ancient Chamorro legends reveal the heart and soul of native Guamanian identity. The Guamanians believe they were born of the islands themselves. The name of the city of Agana, known as Hagatna in the Chamarro language, is from the tale of the formation of the islands. Agana was the capital and the seat of government of the island since recorded history there began. The ancient Chamorro legends tell the story of the island's beginnings. Fu'una used the parts of the body of her dying brother, Puntan, to create the world. His eyes were the sun and moon, his eyebrows were rainbows, his chest the sky and his back the earth. Then Fu'una turned herself into a rock, from which all humans originated. Agana, or Hagatna, means blood. It is the lifeblood of the larger body called Guahan, or Guam. Hagatna is the lifeblood of the government. In fact, most of the parts of the island refer to the human body; for example, Urunao, the head; Tuyan, the belly; and Barrigada, the flank.

According to the Guam Culture webpage, "The core culture, or Kostumbren Chamoru, was comprised of complex social protocol centered upon respect." These ancient customs included kissing the hands of elders; the passing of legends, chants, courtship rituals; canoe making; the making of the Belembautuyan, a stringed musical instrument; making slings and sling stones; burial rituals, preparation of herbal medicines by suruhanas, and a person requesting forgiveness from spiritual ancestors upon entering a jungle.

The chewing of betelnut, also known in Chamorro as Pugua, or Mama'on, is a tradition passed from grandparent to grandchild. The tree that produces the hard nuts is the areca catechu, and resembles a thin coconut palm tree. Guamanians and other Pacific Islanders chew betelnuts as Americans chew gum. Sometimes, betel leaves are also chewed along with the nuts. The leaves of the tree has a green pepper taste. Each island has its own species, and each species tastes different from each other. Guamanian islanders chew the hard redcolored nut variety called ugam, due to its fine, granular texture. When that is out of season, the coarse white changnga is chewed instead. This is an old tradition that Chamorros do not question, but include naturally as a part of any social event. Friends and strangers alike are invited to partake. Archaeological investigations of prehistoric skeletons show that ancient Chamorros also had betel-stained teeth. And as with their modern counterparts, the changes that occur in the enamel of the teeth, are what also prevents cavities. Chamorros usually chew Betelnut after a meal, often mixed with powdered lime and wrapped in the peppery leaves.

Another important tradition to Guamanians and other Pacific Islanders was canoe building, or carving. For the ancient Chamorros, navigation of rough waters was a spiritual undertaking as much as it initially served other purposes in hunting, fishing and travel. Modern day Pacific Islanders again embrace the tradition as another part of restoring their cultural history.

Inafa'maolek, or interdependence, was at the root of Chamorro culture, and was passed on even to modern generations who left the island. Guamanians working to help defend America from the Japanese during World War II demonstrated this spirit in their concern for not only their own welfare, but that of the United States. The following proverb sums up these various customs: "I erensia, lina'la', espiriitu-ta,"— "Our heritage gives life to our spirit."


Native island delicacies constituted the original simple diet of the Chamorros. The island provided fresh fish, escabeche, shrimp patties, red rice, coconut, ahu, bananas, bonelos, and other tropical fruits. A hot sauce native to Guam, finadene, remained a favorite spice alongside fish. The sauce is made with soy sauce, lemon juice or vinegar, hot peppers, and onions. As Asians settled on the island, Chinese and Japanese food combined with other ethnic cuisine provided a variety of foods. Guamanian celebrations throughout the island and the United States usually include fish, or the dish kelaguen, made from chopped broiled chicken, lemon juice, grated coconut, and hot peppers. The Filipino noodle dish, pancit, along with barbecued ribs and chicken, have become popular among Guamanians during celebrations.


Native costumes were typical of many other Pacific islands. Natural fibers from the island were woven into short cloths for the men, and grass skirts and blouses for the women. In celebrations, Chamorro women also adorned their hair with flowers. The Spanish influence appears in the mestiza, a style of clothing village women still wear.


The music of the Guamanian culture is simple, rhythmic, and tells the stories and legends of the island's history. The Belembautuyan, made from a hollow gourd and strung with taut wire, is a stringed musical instrument native to Guam. The nose flute, an instrument from ancient times, made a return at the end of the twentieth century. The Chamorros style of singing was born from their workday. The Kantan started with one person giving a four-line chant, often a teasing verse to another person in the group of workers. That person would pick up the song, and continue in the same fashion. The songs could continue this way for hours.

Other contemporary songs and dances also represented the many cultures that settled in Guam. The folk dances of the Chamorros portrayed the legends about the ancient spirits, doomed lovers leaping to their death off Two Lovers' Point ( Puntan Dos Amantes ) or about Sirena, the beautiful young girl who became a mermaid. The official Song of Guam, written by Dr. Ramon Sablan in English and translated into Chamoru, speaks of Guamanians' faith and perseverance:

        Stand ye Guamanians, for your country
And sing her praise from shore to shore
For her honor, for her glory
Exalt our Island forever more
May everlasting peace reign o'er us
May heaven's blessing to us come
Against all perils, do not forsake us
God protect our Isle of Guam
Against all perils, do not forsake us
God protect our Isle of Guam.


Guamanians are U.S. citizens, and therefore celebrate all of the major U.S. holidays, especially July 4th. Liberation Day, July 21, celebrates the day that American forces landed on Guam during World War II and marked an end to Japanese occupation. The first Monday in March is celebrated as Guam Discovery Day. On the island itself, due to the dominance of Roman Catholicism, the feast of saints and other Church holy days are observed. Each of the 19 villages has its own patron saint, and each holds a fiesta, or festival, in that saint's honor on the feast day. The entire village celebrates with Mass, a procession, dancing, and food.


An issue of major concern to most native Guamanians and Guamanian Americans is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS, a disease also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, named after the famous New York Yankee ballplayer who lost his life to it. The incidence of ALS among Guamanians is disproportionately high when compared to other cultural groups— enough so to have one strain of the disease called "Guamanian." Records from the Guam from 1947 to 1952 indicate that all of the patients admitted for ALS were Chamorro. According to Oliver Sacks in The Island of the Colorblind, even the Chamorros who had migrated to California showed the incidence of lytico-bodig, the native term for the disease that affects muscle control and is ultimately fatal. Sacks noted that the researcher John Steele, a neurologist who had devoted his career to practicing throughout Micronesia during the 1950s also noted that these Chamorros often did not contract the disease until 10 or 20 years after their migration. The non-Chamorros immigrants seemed to develop the disease 10 or 20 years after they moved to Guam. Neither the discovery of the disease's origins or a cure for it had been occurred by the end of the twentieth century. Although many causes have been hypothesized regarding why the incidence is high among Chamorros, a conclusion has yet to be made.

An American Association of Retired Persons study indicated that U.S. Pacific Islanders over age 65 show a higher incidence of cancer, hypertension, and tuberculosis; the study did separate the various cultures represented to indicate the validity of those figures specific to Guamanians. An explanation for the higher incidence of these diseases is that older Pacific Islanders—due to financial reasons and ancient customs and superstitions—are less likely to consult a physician at a time when these diseases might be controlled.


Chamoru, the ancient language of the Chamorros on Guam, and English are both official languages in Guam. Chamoru remains intact as younger generations continue to learn and speak it. The Guam Society of America is responsible for heightening awareness of the language in the United States. Chamorus' origins can be traced back 5,000 years and belongs to the western group of the Austronesian language family. The languages of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Palau, are all included in this group. Since Spanish and American influences merged on the island, the Chamoru language has evolved to include many Spanish and English words. Besides Spanish and English, other immigrants to Guam brought their own languages, including Filipino, Japanese, and many other Asian and Pacific Islander tongues. An important Chamoru expression is Hafa Adai, which is translated as "Welcome." For the hospitable Guamanians, nothing is as important as welcoming friends and strangers to their country, and to their homes.

Family and Community Dynamics

Guamanians in the United States and on the island view family as the center of cultural life, and extend that to the community surrounding them. As expressed, the notion of interdependence among everyone in a community is vital to the cooperation that runs a society. Chamorro culture is a matriarchy, meaning that the women are central to the culture's survival. In ancient times, men were traditionally warriors, leaving women to run the operation of daily life. In modern culture, especially in America, where education has offered the Guamanians greater opportunity to improve their economic status, women and men work together to support the family.

Due to the Catholicism practiced by most Guamanians, weddings, baptisms, and funerals are celebrated with solemn significance. The Chamorro customs have blended with the customs of other cultures settled there, and those of the mainland United States. The respect of elders remains a time-honored practice observed among Guamanians. Some ancient customs linger into modern day culture, including those related to courtship, burial, and honoring dead ancestors. Modern-day Guamanians are a blend of several different ethnic groups and cultures.


Education is required among islanders between the ages of six and 16. Guamanians living in the 50 states, have fostered a strong appreciation for education among the younger generations as a means to improve their economic status. An increasing number of Guamanians have entered the professions of law and medicine. The University of Guam offers a four-year degree program. Many Guamanian Americans also enter colleges and universities from parochial Catholic schools with the intention of entering a profession, or the business sector.


Guamanians have become a vital part of the Asian-American community. The younger generation has become involved in organizations such as the Atlantic Coast Asian American Student Union (ACAASU). In January of 1999, the group met at the University of Florida for their ninth annual conference. They include all Asians and Pacific Islanders. The ability of such a diverse group of cultures to find common bonds proved challenging, but rewarding, according to students who participated in the conference. The ACAASU provides a forum where all Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders of college age can share their stories and their concerns.

The Pork Filled Players of Seattle, an Asian comedy troupe, formed to reflect Asian issues and topics. The ethnicities represented in that group include Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese, Taiwanese, Guamanian, Hawaiian, and Caucasian Americans. The purpose of the group is to present images different from the often negative stereotypes of Asian Americans, in addition to making people laugh at those aspects of the culture that are not stereotypical.


The majority of Guamanians are Roman Catholic, a religion that represents approximately four-fifths of the population on the island, as well as that of Guamanians living in the 50 states. Since the first Spanish missionaries settled the island in the seventeenth century, when the Chamorros converted at the encouragement and sometimes mandate of the Spanish, Catholicism continued to dominate. As with other primitive cultures converted to Catholicism, the rituals of the Roman Catholics were often found suitable in the environment of their own ancient native superstitions and rituals. Some ancient customs were not abandoned, only enhanced by the new faith. Pope John Paul II visited Guam in February of 1981. It marked the first papal visit in the history of the island. The Pope concluded remarks upon his arrival with, " "Hu guiya todos hamyu," in Chamoru ("I love all of you," in English) and was warmly received by natives and other residents. From his outdoor Mass to his visit to the infirm at the Naval Regional Medical Center, Pope John Paul II affirmed the continued devotion thousands of Guamanians maintain for the Catholic Church.

Congregationalists arrived on Guam in 1902, and established their own mission, but were forced to abandon it in 1910, due to the lack of financial support. The following year, Americans who were with the General Baptist Foreign Missionary Society moved into the abandoned Congregationalist mission. In 1921, the Baptists built Guam's first modern Protestant church on a grander scale than the previous missions. A Baptist church built in 1925 in Inarajan was still in use in the mid-1960s. After World War II, the Seventh Day Adventists established missions in Guam, first by a Navy chief, Harry Metzker. The first congregation consisted entirely of military families, except for the family of a local woman of Dededo. The Seventh Day Adventists, who were well known for much of the twentieth century for their attention to health and well-being, also set up a clinic in Agana Heights. The Adventists operate hospitals throughout United States. They are considered at the front of treating various eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa and bulimia.

Employment and Economic Traditions

Half of the economy on the island of Guam emerged from American military establishment and related government services. A majority of Guamanians have been employed by the U.S. government and military, serving as cooks, office personnel, and other administrative positions, advancing to the upper-levels of the government salary tracks following years of service. The tourism industry is the second largest employer on the island. Other industries include agriculture (mostly for local consumption), commercial poultry farming, and small assembly plants for watches and machinery, brewery, and textiles.

According to Arthur Hu in Order of Ethnic Diversity, Guamanian income falls below the U.S. average. His figures indicated that the average household income of Guamanians was $30,786 in 1990. The American Association for Retired Persons offered that the income of Asian and Pacific Islander men over age 65 was $7,906—in contrast to $14,775 among white Americans men. Thirteen percent of Asian and Pacific Islander women over 65 live in poverty, in contrast to 10 percent of white American women over 65.

Politics and Government

At the end of the twentieth century, the issues of politics and government were complicated, both for those Guamanians living on the island, and for those living in the mainland, who felt loyalty to their native land. The Guam Commonwealth Act was first introduced in to Congress in 1988, following two plebiscites by the people of Guam. (A plebiscite refers to an expression of the people's will by a direct ballot, usually, as in this case, a vote that calls for independent statehood, or affiliation with another nation). In an article for the Associated Press, Michael Tighe quoted Rep. Underwood: "The core, American democratic creed is that the only legitimate form of government is by consent of the governed. How do you deal with the fact the people on Guam are not participants in the legislative process?" As U.S. citizens, they can enter the military, but are not able to vote for the President. The representative they elect to Congress can vote only in committees.

Underwood published the document, along with an explanation, on his official website. As the terms are officially listed, the Guam Commonwealth Act held five major portions: 1) Creation of Commonwealth and the Right of Self-Determinism, under which a three-branch republican form of government would be established, and would allow the indigenous people of Guam (the Chamoros) to choose their preference for their final political status; 2) Immigration Control, which would allow the people of Guam to limit immigration to prevent further reduction of the indigenous population, and allow the people of Guam to enforce an immigration policy more appropriate for a developing economy in Asia; 3) Commercial, Economic, and Trade Matters, under which various specific negotiated authorities which allow consideration of Guam as an identifiably unique economy in Asia, and requiring certain approaches to managing such matters with full benefit both to Guam and to the United States, as well as maintaining status outside customs zone, with representation in regional economic organizations, recognition of local control of resources; 4) the Application of Federal Laws, which would provide a mechanism to allow for input from the people of Guam through its elected leadership as regards the appropriateness of a U.S. law or regulation and as applied to Guam—Guam would prefer a "joint commission" appointed by the President with final authority in Congress; and, 5) Mutual Consent, meaning that neither party could make arbitrary decision that would alter the provisions of the Guam Commonwealth Act. By early 1999, commonwealth status had not yet been determined. Opposition from President Clinton, and other non-Chamoro Guam residents to the particular point of Chamoro self-determination of the island remained an obstacle.


Guamanians are well represented in the military as enlisted men, officers, and support personnel. They served the United States in World War II without any legal military status. The military is the primary employer of residents on Guam. Among those Guamanian Americans living in the Washington, D.C. area are employees of the Defense Department.

Individual and Group Contributions

Cecilia, an indigenous poet from Guam, captures the Chamoru history, culture, and spirit in her compilation Signs of Being—A Chamoru Spiritual Journey. Her other works include, "Sky Cathedral," "Kafe Mulinu, "Steadfast Woman," "Strange Surroundings" and "Bare-Breasted Woman."


Guamanians can learn about their history and culture, and keep in touch with current topics through websites that focus on Guam and Chamoros. Some of the many sites include:

Guam's official website.

Online: .

The University of Guam.

Online: . A website devoted to Guam culture, history and tourism.

Online: .

Website featuring stories and news of Guamanians off and on the island, providing the source of news for the Guam Society of America, along with photos, armed forces news, poems, and short stories.

Online: .

The official Guam government site.

Online: .

Representative Robert A. Underwood's website featuring news from the U.S. Congress, current news stories, and other links to various Guam sites.

Online: .

Organizations and Associations

Guam Society of America.

Chartered in 1976 as a non-profit, 501-C3 tax exempt, corporation in the District of Columbia. Founded in 1952 as the Guam Territorial Society. Changed name to Guam Society in 1985. Stated purposes are: 1) to foster and encourage educational, cultural, civic and social programs and activities among the members of the Society in the District of Columbia and its surrounding communities, and throughout the United States and its territories. 2) to foster and perpetuate the Chamorro language, culture and traditions. Any Chamorro (a native of Guam, Saipan, or any Marian Islands) or any person who has a bona fide interest in the purposes of the Society is eligible for membership. The society sponsors events and activities throughout the year that include, Chamorro language classes in the D.C. metropolitan area, a Golf Classic, the Cherry Blossom Princess Ball and Chamorro Night.

Contact: Juan Salas or Juanit Naude.

E-mail: or

Sources for Additional Study

Gailey, Harry. The Liberation of Guam. Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1998.

Kerley, Barbara. Songs of Papa's Island. Houghton Mifflin, 1995.

Rogers, Robert F. Destiny's Landfall: A History of Guam. Honolulu: The University of Hawaii Press, 1995.

Torres, Laura Marie. Daughters of the Island: Contemporary Chamorro Women Organizers on Guam. University Press of America, 1992.

User Contributions:

Chamorro culture and the beautiful island of guam. Such a wonderful place.
Gabby Jesus
I should end this with a simple thank you, yet words cannot express the feeling this article gave to me for just a thank you letter, will not suffice. I am half Guamanian, that's my father being Guamanian and my mother is Portuguese/German/also bunch of other various nationalities. I have learned and tried to develop more knowledge about my ancestors. This information that you have provided is current and respectable. Thank you.
C. Castro

As a stop-over port between Mexico and Manila during the Spanish colonial period, Guam (and the Chamorros) was exposed to much Mexican influence. Although we are taught of our "Spanish" heritage, how much of it is actually Mexican? Remember that anything Spanish arrived in Guam via Mexico.

Mexican sailors and laborers arriving in Guam introduced many popular local foods including titiyas (tortillas), tamales, empanadas, escabeche, and others. These Mexican men also fathered "mestizo" Chamorro children.

Spanish-era Chamorro dances resemble Mexican folk dance more than those from Spain.

The veneration of the Virgin Mary by Chamorros mirrors that of the Mexicans. The wooden statue of Santa Marian Kamalen in the Hagatna Cathedral bears striking similarities to the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico. It is said that she accompanied many Mexican sailors to Guam. Perhaps her image was modeled after the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Many Chamorro families that relocated to the US mainland after WWII found themselves settling in predominantly Mexican/Hispanic neighborhoods of San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. And not the Asian neighborhoods. My father's family settled in the Mission District of San Francisco because they could blend in easily.

I have travelled to both Spain and Mexico and found that I related much better with Mexicans than Spaniards. I even visted the homes of my Mexican friends and found so much in common with them. It felt like I was in a Chamorro home.

The experience I had in Mexico helped me learn more of my hispanic heritage. I wish that all Chamorros can experience what I have.

I feel that the hispanic heritage of Guam seems to have been forgotten by most Chamorros. I can still remember my great-grandfather saying his prayers, in Spanish!

I am proud to be a Chamorro-hispanic.
Eddy Lizama
My name is Eddy Lizama my dad was born in Guam his name is Antonio Namuleg Lizama and we lived there for about 5-6 years and I am 29years old and he just passed away and I am very proud of being guamanian.
Donna Concepcion Gonzalez
Thank you so much for this article. I am half Guamanian and white and it helps alot to go on line to read the information that is Important for me to learn. I moved away from Guam in 1981 and I was just 12 years old, I feel like I missed out on learning about my Heritage. I wish that I could have stayed and learned more but it was my parents choice to move to the states.
Thank you again!
Sophie Pierpoint
I am so grateful for this site. I was able to find reliable information for my degree program. I am a proud chamorro and reading our history made an impact on how I see home from this part of the world.

Thank you! Guam and all that contributed to this site...
My son has been dating a beautiful Chamorro. I am told through tradition the parents will not meet the daughter's boy friend until they are betrothed... We have welcomed this young lady into our lives for about 5 months and yet our son does not know her family. Is this truly Chamorro tradition? In our culture I want o know th guy the day they go on the first date... in fact outside the culture I want to know my daughter is making the right choices and will be safe.

I know I don't understand the tradition and at the risk of appearing ignorant, the treatment of my son feels rude and not at all welcoming.

Can someone shed some light?
Thank you!
I love this website I also love guam!! LOL! Omg! I LOVE THIS WEBSITE!!! HAHAHA!
Aw. I moved from Guam when I was one, to the states. I now live in Kentucky & have only been back to Guam once. I'm now 14 and have wanted to move back since I was like 6. Haha, but I mean I want to be there to experience what my family (some still live there) are. I may not have certain opportunities like I do here in the states but to me it doesn't matter. This is my culture and I want to be able to have the full experience of it. Thank you so much ! This makes me feel happy.
Rev. Jeffery E. Thomas,Sr
This site has given me great insight into the great history of the Chamorro/ Guamanian culture. I am grateful for the historical and cultural dynamics.

Thank you,
I am so happy to see this website because I've been wanting to know more about Guamanian's. I am half African American and Guamanian.

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