Welcome To St. Maarten St. Martin

A Brief History of St. Maarten / St. Martin




About St. Maarten St. Martin



Christopher Columbus discovered the island in 1493, never setting foot ashore but spotting it from his ship. Since this happened on the feast day of St. Martin of Tours. The island was quickly named.

During the ensuing 140 years, possession and the right to exploit the resources of the island was disputed by the Spanish, French and Dutch. It was not until the 1620s that the Dutch first began to ply the island's ponds for salt, so important to the herring industry back home. These ponds still exist although salt farming is long gone.

Ownership of the island is shared between the Dutch and French, yet no rift exists between the peoples of these two cultures. In fact, the island's inhabitants are proud of a near 350-year history of peaceful co-existence.
St. Maarten / St. Martin is the smallest country in the world to be occupied by two sovereign nations.

In spite of the Dutch presence on the island, the Spanish recaptured the island in 1633 and one year later built a fort at Pointe Blanche to assert their claim. In 1644 Peter Stuyvesant, director of the Dutch West India Company, led an attack on the Spanish position on St. Maarten/St. Martin. After a month of fighting, the Dutch retreated. You may remember that the one-legged Stuyvesant became Governor of New York City. His leg was lost in St. Maarten.

As a reward for successfully defending the island, the Spanish commander requested that he and his men be allowed to leave. This makes little sense to this writer as what were they fighting for if they were going to be leaving anyway? Legend then has it that five French and five Dutch prisoners escaped and stayed behind. These Frenchmen and Dutchmen were the first of their respective countrymen to share the island.

Sugar cane plantations came during the late 1700s and inevitably brought slavery to the island. The slavery system remained intact and prospered until the exploitive system was eventually abolished in 1848 on the French Side and in 1868 on the Dutch Side. Once slavery was abolished, the island's economy suffered greatly and St. Maarten/St. Martin became mired in a depression that lasted until 1939, when all import and export taxes were rescinded and the island became a free port.

Thereafter, the island developed as a Caribbean trade hub. The most dramatic advances came in the 1950s, made possible by Princess Juliana International Airport's opening in the 1940’s. It was then that tourism became the island’s main source of revenue. The next few decades saw the development of many large-scale properties and casinos on the Dutch side of the island. The French side began developing rapidly in the 1980s with the passage of a tax law known as de-fiscalization.


St. Maarten Princess Juliana International Airport


Tourism is now the island’s only industry and flourishes with the island's airport, totally rebuilt in 2001, becoming one of the busiest in the region. It now serves as a hub for flights to several neighboring islands. In addition, more cruise ships began to visit and the island has kept pace with this lucrative and rapidly growing business. The St. Maarten Cruise Port Facilities are among the best.

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  • 5 comments:

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