Like a studded crescent moon upon a bed of glistening sapphires, The Marianas attracts visitors to its embrace.A tropical paradise offering the relaxing shores of magnificent beaches and crystal clear blue waters, as well as the lively bustle of night life, shopping, a wide range of ethnic restaurants, and a multitude of outdoor activities.
History in The Marianas
The Marianas was first settled around 2000 B.C. by ancient seafaring people who journeyed in outrigger canoes. They sailed across the vast expanse of the open Pacific and settled The Marianas. Historical records suggest that the indigenous Chamorros were originally from Southeast Asia.
The Marianas was first encountered by Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 during his world exploration in search of gold and spices. In 1668, 147 years after Magellan’s encounter, Fr. Diego Luis de San Vitores, a Jesuit priest, arrived in The Marianas with the mission to convert and implement Christianity among the Chamorros, thus beginning the colonization of The Marianas by Spain. The islands were named after Queen Maria Ana of Spain.
Led by Chief Aghurubw and Chief Nguschul of the Caroline Islands, the settlement of the Carolinians in The Marianas began in 1815.
War and Possession
Germany purchased The Marianas from Spain in 1899, and the islands remained under German rule until the start of WWI in 1914. That year, Japan took possession of the islands under a secret agreement with the British to keep peace in Asia during the war. After WWI, Japan received the islands by the terms of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, and then later, as a mandate under the League of Nations in 1920. The islands became deadly battlegrounds during the WWII campaign as Japanese and U.S. forces collided to gain control of the Pacific.
U.S. forces gained control of The Marianas in July 1944. In 1947, The Marianas was placed in a United Nations strategic trusteeship known as the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands with the U.S. as the administering authority. The people of The Marianas decided to enter into a political union with the United States and became a self-governing commonwealth in January 1978. In November 1986, U.S. citizenship was conferred upon the people of The Marianas.
Culture in The Marianas
Festivals across the Islands
Throughout the year, a variety of festivals celebrate Chamorro, Carolinian and international cultural traditions in song, dance, crafts and food. There’s no better place to start than the weekly Garapan Street Market in the heart of the main tourist district of Saipan.
The annual Flame Tree Arts Festival showcases traditional Carolinian Stick Dancing, an old warrior dance, and artists from all over Micronesia share their masterpieces.
The Liberation Day Festival in Saipan is a week-long celebration of the island’s 1944 liberation from Japanese occupation. The Liberation Day Parade happens on July 4th, following carnival festivities featuring the crowning of the Miss Liberation Day Queen which is a highlight during this celebration.
Every Saturday in May, Saipan hosts the Taste of The Marianas International Food Festival & Beer Garden. This event kicks off CNMI Tourism month. Visitors have the opportunity to sample local and international foods prepared by the local top chefs. The Chefs and Cocktail Competition is a highlight for everyone.
The annual Tinian Fiesta has its own Queen coronation, along with rides and, of course, favorite local foods. Tinian’s Pika Festival celebrates the island’s famous hot pepper, reputed to be amongst the hottest in the world. The San Francisco De Borja Fiesta is Rota’s largest event of the year, complete with BBQ, rides, dancing, and the crowning of the Rota Queen.