A tour of the territories of the United States, “those scattered shards of earth and populace that make up our outposts far from the North American continent.”
A peripatetic traveler, Mack (Europe on 5 Wrong Turns a Day: One Man, Eight Countries, One Vintage Travel Guide, 2012, etc.) decided to explore the five populated island augments to the U.S., providing an antic guide to their histories, geography, and economies, not to mention bits of ethnography. The first port of call is Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, which were once Danish and once home to Alexander Hamilton. Today, Mack finds them simultaneously a little dangerous and quite friendly. Thence we go to the sociable city of Pago Pago in American Samoa, which appears to be Middle America in the South Pacific, devout and devoted to football. Guam, which was so strategic during World War II, also evinces echt Americana. The commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands contains forlorn Saipan, which was crucial to victory in the Pacific; there, the author met “many outsiders with big dreams.” It also boasts Banzai Cliff, where Japanese combatants and civilians hurled themselves to their deaths to avoid being captured by American forces. Finally, our guide takes us to bigger and more complex Puerto Rico, with a population of 3.5 million, the site of a wellspring of immigration to the mainland. There, the persistent question remains: statehood, independence, or just forget it? Throughout the deft narrative, Mack presents numerous revealing vignettes of far-flung Yankee civilization, many the results of our experiments with Manifest Destiny over a century ago, when Uncle Sam traveled to Polynesia, Micronesia, and the Caribbean searching for military outposts and a place in world affairs.
An entertaining, informative guidebook to some cool places populated by people to whom attention should be paid.