Thursday, September 6, 2018

MERE OCCUPATION



In Spanish times, after the end of the wars between the Chamorros and Spaniards, the population of Guam never exceeded 10,000 people. For many years, the population stood at 2000, 4000 or 6000.

You can imagine how much idle land there was, besides silence, with such a small population. Just think of it this way; imagine if Talofofo, which numbers today around 3000 people, was the only village on Guam, and that those 3000 people in Talofofo had the entire island, from Merizo to Yigo, to work and play in!

So one of the common features of island life in those days was the great availability of land for just about anyone. For sure, much land was claimed and legally owned. But much land was also unclaimed and lacked legal owners.

Many land documents indicate land "with no known owner(s)."

But it was also possible to acquire land simply by taking possession of it, without paying a dime. Just by occupying the land somehow, usually by doing some farming on it, you could become the legal owner, as long as no one else contested it.

In the land document above, someone named José finally files a legal claim in court. He describes that he came into ownership of the land "por mera ocupación," in Spanish, meaning, "by mere occupation." This type of land acquisition is seen over and over again in the land documents of Guam. In time, many of these land owners formalized their ownership of the land.



Old Guam had much unclaimed, undocumented land

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