Located in the capital city of Hagatña, Umatac Village is a very important village in the legend and history of Guam. Before the Spaniards came to colonize this beautiful island-nation, this village was considered Guam’s “cradle of creation”. According to Guam legends, life began in Fouha Bay in northern Umatac. “Fouha” means “to spew”, and ancient people believe that life first spawned here.
The natives of Guam are the Chamorro people and they spoke the Chamoru language. The name of the village is from the Chamoru word “umatalaf”, meaning “to catch a gautifi”, which is a popular fish in the area.
At the entrance of Fouha Bay in Umatac is a large circular rock protruding from the reef to as high as about 30 feet. According to a book titled “Legends of Guam” and published by the Department of Education’s Chamorro Studies in 1988, life began in “hell” where a god named Chafi created souls to become his slaves. Apparently, one of the souls escaped and somehow got to the southern part of Guam. The escaped soul turned into a rock, which after years and years of rainfall, melted into a human being. But the rock didn’t melt away completely and what remains is that circular rock protruding off Fouha Bay.
In 1521, the place took on a completely new role in the modern history of Guam. Ferdinand Magellan, the popular Spanish explorer landed in Guam, specifically in Umatac. In 1565, another Spanish explorer, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, also landed in Umatac and claimed the island for the Spanish Crown. As Spain took over the island-country as its colony, several locations were given Spanish names, and Fouha Bay was called “Fuuna”, which means “a large and important village”. The legendary circular rock was then called Funa Rock.
Later in the 17th Century, Spanish authorities transformed the location into a parish for the purpose of converting the Chamorros to Christianity. It was also a very strategic location that served as a stopover for ancient ships sailing along the Spanish trade routes.
Today, Umatac is one of the leading tourist spots in Hagatña. Located at the southwestern coast of Guam, the most popular landmarks are two ancient forts and their cannons that served as lookout points to protect passing and docked Spanish ships. Looking at old Spanish architecture and rusted cannons, tourists are transported to ancient times when Spain ruled the seas and that the beauty of Guam was enjoyed only by the Spanish people.
Besides the famous forts are other reminders of Spanish influence such as the old houses along the bay, including an old house that was owned by a Spanish governor and the old San Dionisio Church that was built in 1939.
According to the 2000 Census, Umatac Village has a population of only 887 people who are all basically related to one another. The Chamorros are very friendly and hospitable Pacific islanders. They love to have fun and mingle with tourists, which is yet another reason why the island has so many visitors. A celebration of the Chamorro culture, the Discovery Day Festival, takes place in the village every year.