Guam was one of four territories under United States jurisdiction before World War II. Just after the attack on Pearl Harbor, it was captured by Japan. The island was occupied for about 30 months before it was liberated in July 1944 by American forces.
Today, it is a territorial presidential constitution republic. It is an incorporated-organized territory of the United States located in the Pacific Ocean. Guamanians are American citizens by birth. Guam is 210 square miles (one-third the size of Singapore) with a population of a little over 162,000. It has a governor and one non-voting delegate to the House of Representative in Washington, D.C.
The indigenous people of Guam are the Chamorros, dating back 4,000 years. The ancient society was divided into four classes: the chamorri (chiefs), matua (lower class), achaot (middle class) and mana chang (lower class). There were “Makahha” similar to shamans, who are skilled in healing and medicine.
Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, sailing for the King of Spain, first sighted the island in 1521. He greeted by hundreds of poor islanders on small outriggers who proceeded to loot and strip his ship upon his arrival.
Guam was officially claimed by Spain in 1565. This area was used as a stop for fleets and individual sailing vessels. It wasn’t until 1668 that it was colonized and the first Catholic Church was established. Less than 100 years later, the Jesuit fathers who resided there were banished by Spain. This led to the abandoning of their churches and properties.
In the mid-1800s, disaster struck with a devastating typhoon, earthquake and a smallpox epidemic that killed 3,644 people.
During the occupation in World War II, the people were subjected to forced labor, incarceration, separation from family, execution, concentration camps and forced prostitution. It was during the Battle of Guam (July 21 to Aug. 10, 1944) that the island was recaptured. Over 18,000 Japanese soldiers were killed with only 483 surrendering after the battle. In 1972, the last confirmed Japanese holdout surrendered. Today, there are seven military bases, which is one of the largest industries on the island.
There has been a significant movement for this United States territory in its effort to become a commonwealth. It is believed the ramification of such a change is not understood by the Guamanian people. Thorough there has been a shift pertaining to government changes, it remains as is.
The primary and secondary schools in Guam have had problems with high dropout rates and poor test scores. This has added to the shaky economy in Guam. The island does offers two accredited higher levels of education: University of Guam (UOG) and the Community College of Guam. There are also several private Christian colleges.
Guam is a tourist hub, especially for the Japanese. The economy depends a good deal on funds generated by foreign travelers. The district of Tumon features large hotels, duty-free shopping, Las Vegas-style entertainment, golf courses, outlets and malls. It is home to the largest K-Mart store in the world. Annually, there are over a million visitors. Flights from Asia and Australia are relatively short and very accessible.
The culture and heritage of Guam is made up of a combination of American, Spanish, Filipino, Mexican and other islander cultures. They influence local language, music, dance, navigation and the cuisine. As the majority of the people have converted to Roman Catholicism, Christmas and Easter are largely celebrated.
Here are several recipes you should try. Their cuisine is based on Chamorro foods and recipes.
3 cups medium or long grain rice
1 Tbsp. Dashida seasoning*
1 Tbsp. bacon fat or oil
¼ tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. minced garlic
4 green onions, chopped
1 packet achote powder*
1 ½ cups hot water
It is best to use a rice cooker**. Rinse rice and drain off all excess water. Place into a pot with Dashida seasoning, fat, black pepper, garlic, chopped green onions and achote powder. Pour the hot water over all the ingredients in the cooker. Combine everything until the achote powder is dissolved. If using solid fat, it will eventually melt. Turn rice cooker to “cook” setting. Stir mixture a few times during cycle. After final stirring, leave to steam until done.
*Both Dashida seasoning and achote powder can be purchased at specialties shop or online.
**This recipe can be prepared on stove top.
1 lb. ground meat
1 Tbsp. onion powder
2 Tbsp. garlic powder
3 Tbsp. achote
½ tsp. paprika
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. vinegar (cider or white distilled)
1/3 cup water
1 tsp. crush red pepper flakes
1 tsp. fennel seeds
In skillet, brown the ground meat. Drain excess fat. Combine cooked ground meat and add the remaining ingredients. Stir well. Simmer for a few additional minutes so everything is heated through. Serve with a rice on the side. This is known to be eaten anytime of the day — even breakfast.
GUAMANIAN CROWN CHOCOLATE COOKIE
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, soft
3 large eggs — room temperature
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 ½ cups bleached all-purposed flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup for rolling dough
Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Cream butter, eggs and sugar together. Add vanilla extract. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder.
Combine dry ingredients into creamed mixture. The mixture will be sticky. Scrape sides of bowl. Chill for about 30 to 45 minutes. Line cookie sheet(s) with parchment paper. Use a scooper that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Drop each scoop in bowl of sugar. Repeat until mixture is used up. You only need to spray the scooper when you start. Coat scooper dough around in sugar.
Using your hands, form balls. Roll in sugar once again. Place on parchment paper cookie sheet 1 inch apart. Gently press down on dough with the bottom of a glass or your hand until about a ¼ inch thick. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. The longer you bake, the harder the finished cookie will be.
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