Where in the world are the Mariana Islands?

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Illustration by Terra DeHart

Something amazing happened at this year’s Democratic National Convention, and if you were one of the people who lived through the media’s coverage of the event, you might have noticed it.

For the first time in history, delegates from the Northern Mariana Islands had the opportunity to cast their votes during roll call.

People from all over the country were amazed and shocked at the way the delegates presented themselves. Other than their incredible spirit, their attire drew attention from people all over the country.

In fact, they were trending all over Twitter:

-“I don’t know what or where the Northern Mariana Islands are but I’m obsessed with them.”

-“The Northern Mariana Islands delegation is the after-party I want to go to.”

-“everybody go home this is how you show up at roll call. northern mariana islands”

Still, despite their presence, many may still wonder where in the world are the Northern Mariana Islands?

As someone who lived there my entire life prior to moving to Portland, I’ll take the liberty to shed some light on everyone’s curiosity.

First of all, the Northern Mariana Islands is a U.S. territory. Many of us are born U.S. citizens and share most of the same rights as Americans.

Our presence at the 2016 DNC is special because we usually do not have the same amount of participation and voice as the rest of the states when it comes to the presidential election.

In fact, our islands do not have representation in the U.S. Senate, and it was only in 2009 when we gained representation by a delegate in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The idea that we actually had the chance to cast our votes during roll call like all the other states is truly a blessing for most of us. Why? Well, in the first place, we do not exist to a lot of people, despite the fact that we are a U.S. territory.

I can’t count how many times I’ve had to explain to professors and classmates the specifics of where I’m from. It’s almost like we are invisible Americans, and that’s sad because many of us are truly devoted to this country.

In fact, many of our people live to protect the country. The NMI’s enlistment rates into the U.S. military are higher than any other place in America.

So, what are the people of these islands like?

The majority of the population in the Northern Mariana Islands are Chamorros. The islands are inhabited by many different people, especially from Asia, who migrated there for reasons such as job opportunities and more liberated lifestyles. However, native people who consider the Northern Mariana Islands their origin and true home (like myself) are called the Chamorros.

We have our very own unique language, lifestyle and culture, which explains the attire our delegates wore at the DNC.

Still, even with our very own ethnicity, we have to classify ourselves as Pacific Islander because, sadly, no one knows what a Chamorro is.

I make this point on providing information about the Northern Mariana Islands mostly because a lot of us probably think we know everything America has to offer, when in reality there is still so much we don’t know about what makes this country so great.

Yes, America is deeply flawed in a lot of ways. But under all of the mistakes, we are a country with so much diversity it becomes almost hard to keep up with.

I do believe, though, that our diversity is part of what makes us American.

Each of us has our very own list of ideas regarding what makes us American. The only thing I could ever come up with is diversity.

Since moving to the mainland, I learn each and every day to live in a country with people who are different from me. I learn to accept them and I learn to embrace them. That is how I know I am American.

We haven’t been doing a good job at accepting each other’s differences, but what we tend to forget is that we make up America.

All of us hold this nation together, whether we want to admit it or not.

If there’s one thing the Northern Mariana Islands is known for, it’s hospitality. No matter what island you visit, you won’t ever find a homeless individual lying around the streets.

The native people are known for always helping each other, whether you are a local or foreigner.

Despite the lack of resources, opportunities or economic prosperity, the islands are still thriving by the togetherness of the people. At the end of the day, we survive because we are there for each other.

I was shocked to see how things are quite different here in the mainland. Here, you’re on your own.

But if we can all start being nicer to each other and helping one another in any way we can, then maybe some of our problems will be solved.

No, it’s not something that can fix all of our nation’s problems, but it’s a simple idea that can go a long way.

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