The first recorded contact between the West and a Pacific Island people when Ferdinand Magellan landed on March 6, 1521.
The first known contact between Guam and the West occurred when Ferdinand Magellan anchored his small 3-ship fleet in Umatac Bay on March 6, 1521. Hungry and weakened from their long voyage, the crew hastily prepared to go ashore and restore provisions. However, the excited native Chamorro’s, who did not share the Spaniards concept of ownership, canoed out first and began helping themselves to everything that was not nailed down, leading the Spaniards to label Guam “The Island of Theives”. The weakened sailors had trouble fending off the tall and robust natives until a few shots from the Trinidad’s big guns frightened them off the ship and they retreated into the surrounding jungle. Magellan was eventually able to obtain rations and offered iron, a commodity highly prized by Neolithic peoples, in exchange for fresh fruits, vegetables and water. Details of Magellan’s visit. The details of Magellans visit, and the first known Western documentation of Guam and the Chamorro people, come from the journal of Antonio Pigafetta, Magellan’s chronicler and one of only 18 original crew members to survive Ferdinand Magellan’s ill-fated circumnavigation of the globe.
|Plaza de Espana
Remains of 17th Century Spanish Capital in Hatagana, Guam.
Guam and the other Mariana Islands were formally claimed by the Spanish Crown in 1565 by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. In 1668, Jesuit missionaries led by Padre Diego Luis de San Vitores, arrived on Guam to establish their brand of European civilization, Christianity and trade. The Spanish taught the Chamorro’s to cultivate maize (corn), raise introduced cattle and tan hides, as well as to adopt western-style clothing. Once Christianity was firmly established, the Catholic Church became the focal point for village activities and Guam became a regular port-of-call for the Spanish treasure galleons that crisscrossed the Pacific Ocean from Mexico to the Philippines.
maga’lahi, of Hagatna.
Chief Quipuha was the maga’lahi, or high ranking male, in the area of Hagatna when the Spanish landed off its shores in 1668. Quipuha welcomed the missionaries and allowed himself to be baptized by San Vitores as Juan Quipuha. Quipuha granted the lands on which the first Catholic Church in Guam, the Dulce Nombre de Maria (Sweet Name of Mary) Cathedral Basilica, was constructed in 1669. The original cathedral was destroyed during World War II and the present Cathedral, depicted here, was constructed on the original site in 1955. Chief Quipuha was depicted as having stood tall and robust.
|Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica|
As the maga’lahi, in the Chamorro matriarchal society, Quipuha had the authority to hand down important decisions made with the advise and consent of the highest ranking woman in his clan, the maga’haga. During the period of the original cathedral construction, land was owned by clans and only women could ‘inherit’ land, suggesting that the maga’haga of his clan must have agreed or at least acquiesced to the decision on the granting of land. Chief Quipuha died in 1669 but his legacy had a tremendous impact by allowing the Spanish to successfully establish a strong foothold and base on Guam for the Manila Galleon trade. His statue today stands in Chief Quipuha Park in present day Hagatna.
|Padre Diego Louis de San Vitores|
The Spanish were received with a mixture of curiosity and suspicion. Padre Diego Louis de San Vitores was a Jesuit Pries who tried to carry out his mission in a peaceful manner while the Spanish military ruthlessly governed the local populace to protect their Galleon Routes. Mata’pang, the maga’låhi, Chief, of the village of Tomhom (modern day Tumon), initially accepted the Spanish, allowing himself to be baptized. In April of 1672, however, while Mata’pang was away, Padre San Vitores and his Filipino assistant baptized the chief’s daughter without his consent and were killed by Chief Mata’pang in response. It is likely that Mata’pang acted out of frustration from being subjugated to the harsh rule of a foreign Spanish King. Regardless of Mata’pang’s motive, the death of Padre San Vitores lead to all-out war that nearly resulted in extinction of the Chamorro race.
|Padre Diego Louis de San Vitores Baptises Mata’Pang’s Daughter|
During the course of the Spanish occupation of Guam, sources have estimated Chamorro casualties to the fighting and disease reduced the population from 200,000 to roughly 5,000 by 1741, mostly women and children. After 1695 Chamorro’s were forced to settle in five villages: Hagatna, Agat, Umatac, Pago, and Fena, were monitored by the priests and military garrison, forced to attend Church daily and to learn Spanish language and customs. The Spaniards imported Spanish soldiers and Filipino’s to restock the population, marking the end of the pure Chamorro bloodline. In 1740, Chamorro’s of the Northern Mariana Islands, except Rota, were removed from their home islands and exiled to Guam. Mata’pang himself was killed in a final battle on the Island of Rota in 1680. Having been vilified for the incident that sparked the decimation of the pure Chamorro race, the name Mata’pang has evolved to mean, possibly unfairly, someone who foolishly resists progress.
Guards Mouth of Umatic Bay
During the 18th century, the Spanish Galleons were preyed upon by English pirates who visited Guam to take on supplies and provisions.The Galleon Era ended in 1815 following the Mexican Revolution. Guam was host to a number of scientists, voyagers, and whalers from Russia, France and England some of whom provided detailed accounts of the daily life on Guam under Spanish rule.
17th Century Spanish Bridge Still Stands in Agat, Guam.
Evidence of Spanish influence can still be seen across the island today. Early 16th and 17th Century Spanish buildings, bridges (such as the Tailafak bridge pictured at left), churches and forts can still be seen across the island, especially in the Southern areas. Spanish cannon still overlook Hagatna and Umatac Bays from Forts Agueda and Soledad. The Plaza de Espana, once the Spanish Governor’s Palace, still stands in central Haganta. Sunken Spanish galleons still lie under Guam’s crystal clear waters. The architecture and design of structures built long after the Spanish era still have a distinctively Spanish quality.