The history of Umatac is among the most rich of all the villages of Guam, especially during the Spanish era. Among other distinctions, Umatac is the home to Fouha Bay in which a rock called “Fouha” Rock sits. The ancient Chamorros believed this rock to be the resting place of a goddess called Fu’una who, with her brother Puntan, is credited with creating the world and people. The rock is also called Creation Point.
The pre-contact Chamorros made a pilgrimage to the rock every year to pay homage to Fu’una and to have their rice blessed to be used to cure people according to Spanish accounts. Umatac is perhaps most famous for being the site, by long oral tradition among the Chamorros, Ferdinand Magellan first landed on Guam. Although other theories about Magellan’s landing site have arisen, the residents of Umatac still proudly celebrate Discovery Day every March 21st with a re-enactment of the 1521 landing.
The next landing by Europeans on Guam, that of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, forty-four years later in 1565, was indisputably at Umatac. Legazpi anchored at Umatac Bay for thirteen days and formally claimed Guam for Spain, and during his stay, a Catholic mass was celebrated in a large cruciform canoe house by the bay.
By the time of Legazpi’s visit, Umatac was already a Chamorro coastal settlement that included a large communal house raised on latte stones, so spacious it could accommodate 200 people along with large canoes, as described by the Europeans. There were also other low houses in which the Chamorros cooked and roasted food.
Umatac was the chief port for the Spanish during the early galleon days, when it was visited annually by a galleon from Aculpulco, usually in May or June. In late 1680, a Spanish settlement was established at Umatac for the first time to serve the galleons, along with a supply ship that stopped on Guam from Cavite in the Philippines, usually in August or September. The supply ship brought necessities such as soap, flour, tools, metal, animals and seeds. The galleon also brought supplies, but mainly Spanish money of Mexican silver to pay soldiers and mission personnel.
These visits were so important that the Spanish governor transferred his residence from Hagåtña to Umatac when the ships were expected. Governor Damian de Esplana built the governor’s palacio, or palace, surrounded by a presidio compound in Umatac in 1690. After the supplies were unloaded from the ships, they were transported by boat from Umatac around Orote Point to Hagåtña since no road existed between the two towns.
Between 1680 and 1810 the first fortification built in the presidio was the Bateria de Nuestra Senora Del Carmen located in the bay. Followed by Fort Santo Angel (1756) built at the entrance of the bay on top a large rock. The third structure, Fort San Jose was built around 1805 on a hill located north of the village. Lastly, one of the most popular tourist’s sites on island, is Fort Nuestra Senora de la Soledad or Fort Soledad. It was built around 1810 above the southern part of the bay.