When you think about colonization, I’m guessing that the historical context is what comes to mind. White Europeans invading exotic foreign lands, forcing the local inhabitants to give up their way of life and become more civilized. Drawings of Christopher Columbus and Hernán Cortés in textbooks, navigating their ships onto deserted beaches. Definitely something of years long past.
Let’s shift gears for a moment and think about vacation spots. I don’t know about you, but when I think of vacation, I picture a tropical paradise. The Mariana Islands, in the west Pacific Ocean, are beautiful and very tropical. White sandy beaches, coconut trees, and coral reefs that make for great snorkeling/scuba diving. One of my favorite places for a relaxing vacation.
So where am I going with this? What does colonization have to do with my favorite vacation spot? My hashtag above may have given it away. The Mariana Islands are a colony of our very own, U.S. of A.
“Saipan, where America’s Day Begins”
The slogan above is used for marketing to tourists of the islands. As the capital, Saipan is the 2nd most recognized island in the chain, next to Guam. It’s a part of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (or the CNMI for short). They are a remnant of America’s strategic colonization, well positioned in close proximity to Asia.
Residents of the CNMI have U.S. citizenship and a representative in Congress. That sounds great, right? But even as US citizens, residents on these islands cannot vote in federal elections, like the president. And those reps in congress? They can speak during debate but again, they have no vote.
So, why does the US want to keep hold of these tiny island, on the other side of the world?
Strategic position. During WWII, the US invaded these islands with the hopes of gaining a stronghold in a location that would allow them to attack Japan with more ease. Planes could make a round-trip flight from the islands to Japan and back, on one tank of fuel. For this very reason, the atomic bombs, that would later be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were launched from the island of Tinian, in the CNMI.
Even though advancements have been made to allow for planes to fly much further distances, the US still maintains a military presence in the CNMI. This presence puts residents of these islands at risk of attacks, like the recent threats from North Korea.
I love these islands. Not just for vacation (but I would recommend that), but for my family and friends that still live there. These are islands of beauty, although tainted by the blood shed by American and Japanese forces. I maintain hope that one day, these islands will find peace.