The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) is an island chain comprised of 14 volcanic islands. The total land area of the CNMI is 176.5 square miles or an area equal to the size of Barbados. The major inhabited islands are Saipan, Tinian, and Rota. The island of Saipan is about 12.5 miles long and 5/5 miles wide and has a total land area of 46.5 square miles which is about the size of the city of San Francisco. In terms of total land area Saipan is slightly larger than Hong Kong but smaller than the District of Columbia. Saipan has approximately 14 miles of beach. Of the eight communities on Saipan, Garapan and Chalan Kanoa may be considered the principal urbanized areas.
The climate is tropical marine, hot and humid. The annual mean temperature is 83 degrees Fahrenheit (F). Humidity is very high with monthly averages between 79% and 86% but fresh breezes provide a measure of comfortable relief. The months of greatest humidity are July to November. The dry season is December to June and sometimes the islands experience droughts. However, some rain does occur during the dry season. The rainy season is from July through October. The mean annual rain fall is approximately 83.8 inches, but rainfall varies from year to year. The CNMI is situated east of an area in the western Pacific which is the breeding area of cyclonic disturbances. These cyclonic disturbances can quickly and sometimes unexpectedly develop into typhoons. The Typhoon season typically runs from August to November.
History and Government
The Spanish exploration of the 1400's and 1500's greatly influenced the islands of the Pacific. On annual voyages from Mexico to the Philippines, the Spanish galleons often made the Northern Mariana Islands their resting place, making trade easy and profitable for both sides. Eventually the Spanish took possession of the islands for approximately two hundred years, imbedding deeply rooted Catholic traditions into the island culture. When the Spanish rule came to an end in 1889, the island fell into the possession, the Germans (1889-1916), then the Japanese (1916-1945), and now the United States. The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands is currently a commonwealth in political union with the United States of America. Prior to commonwealth status the islands were administered by the United States as part of the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific. As a commonwealth the CNMI is self-governing with a locally elected governor, lieutenant governor, and legislature.
According to the 2010 census, the population of the CNMI as of April 1, 2010 was 53,883, down from 69,221 in 2000, a decrease of 22.2%. The decrease was reportedly due to a combination of factors including the demise of the garment industry (the vast majority of whose employees were females from China), economic crises, and a decline in tourism, one of the CNMI's primary sources of revenue.
The Northern Mariana Islands are the least populous area in the United States (with fewer people than any of the other 55 states and territories). (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Mariana_Islands)
The official languages of the CNMI are: English, Chamorro, and Carolinian, but Japanese and Korean are also spoken at most tourist oriented businesses. Currently, 86% of the population speaks a language other than English at home.
The U.S. Dollar is the official currency. All major Credit Cards, Japanese Yen, and Korean Won are also accepted in most tourist oriented business.
Roman Catholicism predominates, although most other major Christian denominations are represented. Roman Catholicism was first brought to the islands by the Spanish who ruled the islands for almost four centuries (1521-1899).