The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) is a string of 14 islands in the west Pacific Ocean that is home to several active volcanoes. Even though the islands form a self-governing nation, they are politically connected with the United States. The people here are exempt from US minimum wage and immigration laws, and because of this, thousands of migrant workers from China and the Philippines have come here to work in the garment trade industry. The indigenous settlers are Chamarro people from Southeast Asia and Carolinian people, from the Caroline Islands; the population of migrant workers outnumbers them.
In the mid 1500’s Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan claimed the islands for Spain and during the Spanish rule almost all of the native population died out, but other Micronesians repopulated soon after. In the 20th century, the Germans followed by the Japanese took control. During this time the islands suffered some of the worst fighting of World War Two. After the battle of Saipan the US invaded in 1944, and eventually won control. In 1945, the island of Tinian was used as a post for the US atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In the 1970’s instead of seeking independence, the people of the CNMI wanted closer links with the United States and established a commonwealth in political union with them by 1975; by 1978 they were self-governing. Now, not only do CNMI residents get US citizenship, but their country also receives millions in US financial aid every year.
The biggest community event here is the Liberation Day Festival, a celebration of the day the US Armed Forces liberated the Northern Mariana Islands. There are many books published about the islands, for example Beyond Distances by Carlos Madrid, We Drank Our Tears: Memories of the Battles for Saipan and Tinian as Told by our Elders, Saipan by Bruce Petty, Battling for Saipan by Fancis O’Brien, The Design of Agreement – Evidence from Chamorro by Sandra Chung, The Island of the Colourblind by Oliver Sacks and History of the Northern Marianas by Don Farrell. Chamorros folk music usually dominates the festivities and is an important part of the culture on the islands, however other musical styles such as chanting and Carolinian stick dancing are also prevalent.