Guam is an American territory in the western Pacific Ocean. The small island was ceded to the U.S. in 1898, at the close of the Spanish-American War. Since that time, it has become a home to nearly 170,000 people of various ethnic and national back-grounds.
In recent years, left-wing historians have tried to build a narrative that would tarnish America’s reputation in Guam. The story goes that in the seventeenth century, the Spanish Empire conquered Guam and cruelly dominated the island’s indigenous Chamorro people for two hundred years. In 1898, America seized control of Guam for its own exploitative purposes. Gradually, the Chamorro people have grasped some political freedom, but their efforts have been resisted every step of the way by American colonial power.
This story does not hold up to scrutiny.
By the time of the Spanish-American War, Spain was more indifferent than oppressive. When U.S. ships approached Guam, Spanish officials were not even aware that a war had been waging between the two nations—evidently, preserving dominion over the island was not a priority for Spain. In short order, Spain peacefully relinquished control of the territory.
During the first decades of American governance, Guam was led by the U.S. Navy. The Navy’s leadership was responsive to the inhabitants’ needs, and it earned their loyalty.
In 1941, Japanese forces conquered Guam. Japan subjected the island’s inhabitants to rape, torture, and imprisonment, but through it all, Guamanians remained loyal to the U.S., and the U.S. to them. The U.S. Army liberated the island in 1944—suffering nearly 8,000 casualties in the process.
The demonstrated mutual loyalty of the war initiated a new era of Guam-U.S. relations. Since World War II, the U.S. has invested heavily in Guam, economically, militarily, and politically.
In 1950, Congress passed the Guam Organic Act, which established a local civil government and granted citizenship to the people of Guam, ensuring that their constitutional rights would be secured by the U.S. legal system. In the ensuing decades, further political reforms were implemented to give the people of Guam greater control over their government.
Guam has come a long way since the days of Spanish rule. The small island now boasts a ~5 billion dollar GDP. It has a public education system, an accredited university, and modern public and private hospitals. Indeed, Guamanians enjoy the best of modern life.
Activist groups have not been satisfied with these reforms. They have used the language of “Chamorro self-determination” to build a political movement around the racial identity of the indigenous Chamorro people. They have distinguished the Chamorro people—to the exclusion of all other citizens of Guam—as the “self” in their “self-determination” efforts, in an attempt to place the future of Guam solely in the hands of the Chamorro.
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