Guam Discovery Day falls on the first Monday of March every year and takes place on March 4 this year. The holiday commemorates the day Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan first landed in Guam and is the event that kicks off ‘Mes Chamorro’ (or Chamorro Heritage Month). Its celebration is hosted in the village of Umatac, showcasing the rich heritage of the Chamorro people through heritage walking tours along with a theatrical re-enactment of the explorer’s landing on the island. This day invites the inhabitants of Guam to honor and celebrate the rich history and heritage of the island.
History of Guam Discovery Day
Guam, an organized unincorporated territory of the United States, is located in the Micronesian region of the Pacific Ocean. The island and its people have survived centuries of colonization. The community native to Guam, the Chamorro, first settled on the island between 1500 to 1400 B.C. They remain the largest ethnic group in Guam.
The Spanish officially took over the island on January 26, 1565. Guam, being one of the two Spanish outposts in the Pacific beyond Indonesia, was used as a staging point for the colonial power’s fleet.
First observed in 1970, Discovery Day falls on the first Monday of March every year to commemorate the landing of Portuguese conquistador Magellan in Guam on March 6, 1521. As the years passed, the focus of the holiday shifted from the “discovery” of the already inhabited island to celebrating the rich cultural heritage of the native people of Guam and the country’s history. This precise reason led to the renaming of the holiday to Guam History and Chamorro Heritage Day.
Whilst the holiday marks the beginning of the colonization of the Guamanians, it is now meant to honor the Chamorro people in the context of Mes Chamorro. Its celebration is hosted in the village of Umatac, showcasing the rich heritage of the Chamorro people through heritage walking tours along with a theatrical reenactment of Magellan’s landing on the island.
Guam Discovery Day timeline
The first human inhabitants of Guam migrate from the Philippines.
The Portuguese conquistador reaches Guam during his voyage to circumnavigate the globe
The colonial power officially takes over the island of Guam.
Control over Guam is handed over to the United States following Spain’s defeat in the Spanish-American War of 1898.
Guamanians observe Guam Discovery Day for the first time.
Guam Discovery Day FAQs
What religions are practiced in Guam?
While 94% of the Guamanian population practices Christianity, other religions practiced include folk religions and Buddhism.
How big is Guam in comparison to Hawaii?
Guam is about 0.02 times the size of Hawaii.
What language is spoken in Guam?
The languages spoken in Guam are Chamorro and English.
How to Observe Guam Discovery Day
Read up on Guamanian history
The best way to understand the rich history that underlies the current culture of Guam is to learn about its history. You could grab a book on the topic and get reading!
Try understanding the impact of colonialism
The Chamorro people of Guam are one of the countless indigenous communities ravaged by colonization and imperialism. We suggest trying to understand the impact it's had on other people across the globe.
Donate to Guamanian charities
Several charitable organizations are working tirelessly to uplift Guamanians. Look up a few and donate if you can!
5 Important Facts About Guam
One-third of Guamanians are Asian
Guam is inhabited by many Asian people, notably of Filipino and Korean descent.
There is no sand on the island
Instead of sand, the beaches of Guam are covered in coral.
Guamanians don’t have the right to vote
While people born in Guam are considered American citizens, they do not get to vote for presidents and the Guam delegate in congress does not get a vote in congress proceedings.
Guam is the closest U.S. territory to Asia
Guam is about a 3.5-hour flight from East Asian countries like Japan and South Korea, making it the closest U.S. territory to Asia.
Guam is the largest consumer of SPAM
According to “TIME” magazine, Guam has been found to have the highest per capita consumption of SPAM in the world.
Why Guam Discovery Day is Important
It highlights the rich Chamorro culture
The Chamorro people are the oldest civilization in the North Pacific region, and the observation of Guam History and Chamorro Heritage Day highlights the rich culture of the community.
It’s a reminder of past hardships
Guam's colonization by the Spanish resulted in years of exploitation and persecution. The commemoration of this date may assist some in acknowledging the agony endured by the island and its inhabitants at the time.
It underlines the importance of self-determination
Commemorating the beginning of colonization with a celebration of indigenous culture and history is, perhaps, a wonderful way to exercise self-determination by the people of the island. Let’s join them in solidarity on Guam Discovery Day.
Guam Discovery Day dates