It is so strange that Guam is part of the USA and prides itself on “where America’s day begins.” Guam is so far away from the continental USA. The closest American state is Hawaii, which is a 7-hour flight away. From Osaka, Japan, where we live it was only about a 3 hour flight and that is one of the major reasons why the US has Guam as a colony, er, “unincorporated territory”. It was a strategic location to fight the Japanese in World War II. Today there are close to 6,000 soldiers and a naval base and air force base on the island. They have 10 times that amount stationed in Japan. I don’t see the USA leaving anytime soon as the Americans will want to keep a presence in the Pacific due to the rise of militarism in China and the unpredictable North Koreans. The locals are ambivalent towards the military, a high percentage serve in the military and the money the bases bring is needed. In speaking with an experienced military person, he mentioned that that there is some resentment for the amount of land that is reserved for the military. He feels they can get by with much less and put more in private ownership.
As I wrote earlier, it is a convenient location for resupplying ships and planes. It was the same for the Spanish, who arrived with Magellan in 1521 and ran the island for almost 400 years. They liked stopping to resupply ships going between the New World and Manila. The Spanish treated the local Chamorros horribly for a long time, so when America won possession of Guam after the Spanish-American war at the end of the 19th century, the people were generally happy. The Japanese took over for a 4-year period during World War II and were quite cruel to the chamorros. Today we visited the massacre site of 30 villagers from Malessa. The Japanese army, anticipating US forces retaking the island, took the 30 biggest men and executed them days before the invasion in fear that they would help the Americans. It shows you how much time has passed since WW II in that one of the biggest sources of income today for Guam is Japanese tourism. It is a short flight to a tropical country with US shopping.
I’ve been thinking about should Guam be independent. The UN, among others view Guam as a colony and declared that there should be no more colonies. Former US president Gerald Ford gave his blessing for Guam to become a commonwealth in 1974, but it was never acted upon and some in Washington actively stopped this movement. I think the locals would vote to stay in the USA because of the development that has come to the island. I have visited several Caribbean islands that are independent countries and the scene is pretty bleak for most of the locals outside of the tourist resorts. They do have much autonomy with a democratically elected governor, a 32-representative legislative body and a supreme court. Guam also gets one representative in the US House, without voting rights, but he/she serves on committee and can participate in discussions. This is much more than they ever had with the Spanish and Japanese. However, I do feel that they should have more autonomy. I would suggest merging with the rest of the Marianas Islands and become a commonwealth, similar to that of Puerto Rico.
It somewhat feels like the USA with Kmart (no competition from Target or Walmart so it is THE place to be in Guam), Home Depot and several American fast food franchises. Most (75%) of the people are chamorro, Filipino, Asian, Pacific Islander, bicultural and only 7% white. That compares to Hawaii with a 25% white population, so it does feel like a foreign place.
When I travel to places I always ask myself could I live here. I am not sure what it would be like to live on an islands 4-8 miles wide and 32 miles long. The weather and scenery is so nice, however. I don’t think I would ever get sick of those beautiful sunsets, Pacific waves, palm trees and the green hills. Sadly the introduced brown tree snake from Australia has decimated the island’s bird population and there is certainly a lack of birds here. Not many mosquitos however as well. The chamorros remind me a bit of the Venezuelans (where I lived for six years) with the cement block, flat roofed homes, cars on blocks in the yard and dark skin. Everyone here has been super friendly and I am sure we could find friends and a community here. I think I could live here with a fulfilling job and good school for my children. We will most likely be back here as it is an inexpensive flight from Japan and there are plenty of outdoors (hiking, snorkeling) for me.
It was great to decompress in a tropical paradise and enjoy a bit of the US culture.