Saint Martin (French: Saint-Martin; Dutch: Sint Maarten) is an island in the northeast Caribbean, approximately 300 km (190 mi) east of Puerto Rico. The 87-square-kilometre (34 sq mi) island is divided roughly 60:40 between the French Republic (53 km2 or 20 sq mi)[1] and the Kingdom of the Netherlands (34 km2 or 13 sq mi),[2] but the Dutch part is more populated than the French part. The division dates to 1648. The northern French part comprises the Collectivity of Saint Martin and is an overseas collectivity of the French Republic. The southern Dutch part comprises Sint Maarten and is one of four constituent countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Even though the island is an overseas possession of two European Union member states, only the French part of the island is part of the EU.[6][7]

Saint Martin
Native name:
Sint Maarten (Dutch)
Saint-Martin (French)
Nickname: The Friendly Island
Coordinates18°05′N 63°03′W / 18.083°N 63.050°W / 18.083; -63.050
ArchipelagoLeeward Islands,
Lesser Antilles,
Antilles, West Indies
Area88 km2 (34 sq mi)
Highest elevation424 m (1391 ft)
Highest pointPic Paradis
Overseas collectivitySaint Martin
Capital and largest settlementMarigot (pop. 5788)
Area covered53[1] km2 (20 sq mi; 0%)
Constituent countrySint Maarten
CapitalPhilipsburg (pop. 1,900)
Largest settlementLower Prince's Quarter (pop. 8,123)
Area covered34[2] km2 (13 sq mi; 0%)
DemonymSaint Martiner;[3]
Saint-Martinois (French);
Sint Maartener (Dutch)
Population73,777[4][5] (Jan. 2019)
Pop. density847/km2 (2194/sq mi)
Ethnic groupsAfro-Caribbean, European, Indian, Latino, Chinese, and mixed

On 1 January 2019, the population of the whole island was 73,777 inhabitants, with 41,177 living on the Dutch side[4] and 32,489 on the French side.[5] Note that the figure for the French side is based on censuses that took place after the devastation of Hurricane Irma in September 2017, whereas the figure for the Dutch side is only a post-censal estimate still based on the 2011 census. The first census since Hurricane Irma on the Dutch side of the island took place in October 2022.[8] Population of the island on 1 January 2017, before Hurricane Irma, was 75,869 (40,535 on the Dutch side,[4] 35,334 on the French side[9]).

The island's traditional pre-colonial name is Oualichi which is Arawakan, meaning "the island of women".[10]

Collectively, the two territories are known as "Saint-Martin / Sint Maarten", or sometimes "SXM", the IATA identifier for Princess Juliana International Airport, the island's main airport. St. Martin (the French portion) received the ISO 3166-1 code MF in October 2007.[11] In 2010, the Dutch part had its status changed to that of a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands and was given the code SX.[12]

Geography edit

Map of Saint Martin

Saint Martin has a land area of 87 km2 (34 sq mi), 53 km2 (20 sq mi) of which is under the sovereignty of the French Republic,[1] and 34 km2 (13 sq mi) under the sovereignty of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.[13] This is the only land border shared by the French Republic and the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

The main cities are Philipsburg on the Dutch side and Marigot on the French side. The Dutch side is more heavily populated. The most populous settlement on the entire island is Lower Prince's Quarter, which is on the Dutch side.

The highest hilltop is the Pic Paradis (424 m, 1,391 ft) in the centre of a hill chain on the French side. Both sides are hilly with large mountain peaks. This forms a valley where many houses are located. There are no rivers on the island, but there are many dry gullies. Hiking trails give access to the dry forest that covers tops and slopes. The 1648 Treaty of Concordia was signed on the hill lying on the international border between Marigot and Philipsburg, now known as Mount Concordia, Concordia Hill, or Mont des Accords.

The island is located south of Anguilla and is separated from that British overseas territory by the Anguilla Channel. Saint Martin is northwest of Saint Barthélemy and is separated from that French overseas collectivity by the Saint-Barthélemy Channel.

Neighbouring islands include Saint Barthélemy (French), Anguilla (British), Saba (Dutch), Sint Eustatius "Statia" (Dutch), and Saint Kitts and Nevis (independent, formerly British). With the exception of Nevis, all of these islands are easily visible on a clear day from St. Martin.

History edit

Flags flying in Marigot harbour, Saint-Martin

It is commonly believed that Christopher Columbus named the island in honour of Saint Martin of Tours when he encountered it on his second voyage of discovery. However, he actually applied the name to the island now called Nevis when he anchored offshore on 11 November 1493, the feast day of Saint Martin. The confusion of numerous poorly charted small islands in the Leeward Islands meant that this name was accidentally transferred to the island now known as Saint-Martin/Sint Maarten.[14][15]

After jointly reclaiming the island, on 23 March 1648, the Kingdom of France and the Dutch Republic agreed to divide the island between their two territories, and created a formal border with the signing of the Treaty of Concordia. Later conflicts resulted in 16 border changes over the years, but it has been stable since 1816.[16][17] The French side has 21 square miles (54 km2) and the Dutch side, 16 square miles (41 km2).

Crossing from St. Martin to Sint Maarten, dedicated in 2008
Enlargeable, detailed map of Saint Martin

Politics edit

There currently is a movement aiming to unite the Dutch and French halves of the island of Saint Martin.[18] A "Unity Flag" for representing this unification was created in 1990.[3]

Currently, the island is divided into Sint Maarten (the southern half of the island, part of the Netherlands) and the Collectivity of Saint Martin (the northern half of the island, part of France). The island has been divided since the signing of the Treaty of Concordia in 1648, which today remains as one of the oldest treaties still in effect. Unification of the island enjoys support from the population of both halves.[18][19]

The Treaty of Concordia allows freedom of movement between both parts of the island, which has promoted a common sentiment among the island's inhabitants, although this is also the reason why some see a formal unification as unnecessary. Other arguments against unification of the island are that neither France nor the Netherlands would allow it and that both sides would require full independence to achieve it.[18]

On 31 August 1990, the "Unity Flag" of Saint Martin was adopted at the Preliminary Conference on National Symbols at the Philipsburg Jubilee Library, in Sint Maarten. This flag was created to represent the people of both halves of the island and the unification of the latter, and is hoisted today on some houses and sometimes by churches and religious groups in Saint Martin.[3] In August 2020, when restrictions and controls were added to the Saint Martin–Sint Maarten border to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, some protesters against these measures flew this flag with them.[20] In September 2020, these restrictions were lifted, and people from both sides of the island started chanting "One island, one people, one destiny".[21]

Some notable supporters of this movement include Albert Fleming, former leader of the Collectivity of Saint Martin, who in 2014 stated his support for the unification of the island.[22]

Climate edit

Under the Köppen climate classification, the island has a tropical savanna climate (Aw)[23] with a dry season from January to April and a rainy season from August to December.[24] The precipitation patterns are due to the movement of the Azores High during the year.[24] With the wind direction predominantly from the east or the northeast, northeasterly trades, temperatures remain stable throughout the year and temperatures rarely exceed 34 °C (93 °F) or fall below 20 °C (68 °F).[24] Temperatures remain steady throughout the year with an average mean temperature of 27.2 °C (81.0 °F). The average sea temperature is 27.2 °C (81.0 °F) ranging from a low of 25.9 °C (78.6 °F) in February to a high of 28.4 °C (83.1 °F) in October.[25] The total average yearly rainfall is 1,047 mm (41.2 in), with 142 days of measurable rainfall.[25] Thunderstorms can occasionally occur, with 18 days with thunder per year.[25] Precipitation totals are quite variable from year to year, depending on the number of passing tropical cyclones.

Because the island is located within the tropics, it is regularly threatened by Atlantic hurricane activity in the late summer and early fall.

Climate data for Saint Martin (Princess Juliana Airport) 1971–2000
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 32.7
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 28.6
Daily mean °C (°F) 25.5
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) 23.2
Record low °C (°F) 18.6
Average rainfall mm (inches) 66.0
Average rainy days (≥ 1.0 mm) 11.9 9.3 9.0 11.8 10.3 8.4 12.2 13.9 13.5 13.8 14.8 13.3 142.0
Average relative humidity (%) 74.7 74.1 73.6 75.0 75.9 75.1 74.8 75.4 76.3 76.8 77.4 76.6 75.5
Mean monthly sunshine hours 257.2 235.2 271.6 265.4 251.0 245.1 257.2 288.1 232.4 244.6 235.0 246.7 3,009.4
Percent possible sunshine 73.5 72.7 72.2 70.6 62.4 62.0 63.2 67.7 62.8 67.0 68.3 71.4 67.8
Source: Meteorological Department Curaçao[25]

Hurricane Irma (2017) edit

Extensive damage to buildings in Sint Maarten on 7 September 2017, hours after Hurricane Irma made landfall on the island

On 6 September 2017 the island was hit by Hurricane Irma (Category 5 at landfall), which caused widespread and significant damage, estimated at $3 billion, to buildings and infrastructure.[26] A total of 11 deaths had been reported as of 9 July 2018.[27][28][29] France's Minister of the Interior, Gérard Collomb, said on 8 September 2017 that most of the schools were destroyed on the French half of the island. In addition to damage caused by high winds, there were reports of serious flood damage to businesses in the village of Marigot. Looting was also a serious problem. Both France and the Netherlands sent aid as well as additional police and emergency personnel to the island.[27][30] The Washington Post reported that 95% of the structures on the French side and 75% of the structures on the Dutch side were damaged or destroyed.[31][32]

Some days after the storm had abated, a survey by the Dutch Red Cross estimated that nearly a third of the buildings in Sint Maarten had been destroyed and that over 90 per cent of structures on the island had been damaged.[33] Princess Juliana Airport was extensively damaged but reopened on a partial basis in two days to allow incoming relief flights and for flights that would take evacuees to other islands.[34]

Economy edit

INSEE estimated that the nominal GDP of the French side of Saint Martin amounted to 582 million euros in 2014 (US$772 million at 2014 exchanges rates; US$660 million at Feb. 2022 exchange rates)[35] The nominal GDP of the Dutch side of the island, Sint Maarten, was estimated at 2,229 million Antillean guilders (US$1,245 million at the official peg) in 2014.[36] The nominal GDP of the entire island was thus US$2.01 billion in 2014.

The nominal GDP per capita of the entire island stood at US$27,923 in 2014.[37]

The Dutch side of the island experienced a big recession in 2017 and 2018 due to the devastation of Hurricane Irma which struck the island in September 2017. Real GDP experienced a negative growth of -5.8% in 2017 and -6.6% in 2018 (GDP figures after 2018 have not been published yet).[36] GDP of the French side of the island has not been estimated since 2014.

The main industry of the island is tourism. In 2000, the island had about one million visitors annually. About 85% of the workforce was engaged in the tourist industry.[38]

Demographics edit

On 1 January 2019, the population of the whole island was 73,777 inhabitants, with 41,177 living on the Dutch side[4] and 32,489 on the French side.[5] Note that the figure for the French side is based on censuses that took place after the devastation of Hurricane Irma in September 2017, whereas the figure for the Dutch side is only a post-censal estimate still based on the 2011 census. The first census since Hurricane Irma on the Dutch side of the island is scheduled to take place in October 2022.[39] Population of the island on 1 January 2017, before Hurricane Irma, was 75,869 (40,535 on the Dutch side,[4] 35,334 on the French side[9]).

Due to a major influx of immigrants searching for better employment and living conditions over the past 30 years, the number of Creoles has been surpassed by the number of immigrants. The island's population is highly diverse, containing people from more than 70 countries.

With so many nationalities present, quite a few languages are spoken. An English-based creole is the main local vernacular.[40] However, the official languages are French for Saint-Martin, with Dutch and English being official for Sint Maarten. Other common languages include various French creoles (spoken by French Caribbean immigrants), Spanish (spoken by immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and various South American countries), and Papiamento (spoken by immigrants from Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao).[41]

Culture edit

The island's culture is a blend of its African, French, British, Dutch, Amerindian, and Asian heritage. Although each side's culture is influenced by their respective administering countries, they share enough similar heritage and traditions that it can be difficult to tell where Saint-Martin ends and Sint Maarten begins.

The Creole population can trace most of their roots to Africa, France, the Netherlands and the British Isles. Only some stones remain from the ruins of the two forts built by the Spanish occupation in its early takeover. But during the colonial period, the British settlers and several military dominations left their idiom as the main language spoken on the island, and have made a large impact on St. Martin's culture.

In French Saint-Martin, the most practised religion is Roman Catholicism. Dutch Sint Maarten favors Protestant denominations, particularly Methodism. The island also has small Jewish, Seventh-day Adventist, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, and Rastafari communities.[42]

The whole island is known for its excellent cuisine. Creole, French, and West Indian cooking are particularly renowned.

Popular music on St. Martin includes a variety of styles found throughout the Caribbean. Calypso, merengue, soca, zouk, reggae, and chutney all contribute to the festive culture.

St. Martin's Dutch side is known for its festive nightlife, beaches, jewellery, drinks made with native rum-based guavaberry liquors, and casinos.[43] The island's French side is known for its nude beaches, clothes, shopping (including outdoor markets), and French and Indian Caribbean cuisine. English is the most commonly spoken language along with a local dialect. The official languages are French for Saint-Martin, and both Dutch and English for Sint Maarten. Other common languages include various French-based creoles (spoken by immigrants from other French Caribbean islands), Spanish (spoken by immigrants from the Dominican Republic and various South American countries), and Papiamento (spoken by immigrants from Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao).

Among the leading cultural artists of the island are Youth Waves, music band; Isidore "Mighty Dow" York, kaisonian, panman; Roland Richardson, Impressionist painter; Ruby Bute, painter; Nicole de Weever, dancer and Broadway star; Lasana M. Sekou, poet, author, independence advocate; Clara Reyes, choreographer; and Tanny and The Boys, string band music group.

News publications on St. Martin include The Daily Herald,[44] Soualiga News Day,[45] Soualiga News,[46] St. Maarten News,[47] SMN News,[48] SXM Island Time,[49] and SXM Talks.[50]

Currency edit

The official currency of Saint Martin is the euro, while Sint Maarten uses the Netherlands Antillean guilder, pegged at 1.79 per US dollar. As a consequence of the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles, the Netherlands Antillean guilder will cease to be legal tender and be replaced by the Caribbean guilder, which was scheduled for circulation in the first half of 2021,[51] but now scheduled for 2024.[52] Almost every store on the island also accepts the United States dollar, although sometimes a more expensive exchange rate is used.

Transport edit

Air France Airbus A340 landing at Princess Juliana International Airport

Public buses are the primary mode of transportation for visitors staying on the island.[53]

Border checks edit

Neither side of the island is part of the Schengen Area; full border checks are performed when travelling in and out of the island. Passport controls are also exercised when taking the ferry from Marigot or Princess Juliana International Airport to Anguilla. There are rarely checks at the border between the two sides of the island.

In 1994, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and France signed the Franco-Dutch treaty on Saint Martin border controls, which allows for joint Franco-Dutch border controls on so-called "risk flights" arriving from off-island and only admitting foreigners having permission to travel on both sides of the island. After some delay, the treaty was ratified in November 2006 in the Netherlands and subsequently entered into force on 1 August 2007. Its provisions are not yet implemented as the working group specified in the treaty is not yet installed.[citation needed][needs update] The treaty requires a working group that has never been set up, to harmonize external checks at the two main airports. The Dutch side has expressed concern that new and tighter French visa requirements would harm their tourism income.[54]

Airports edit

Sign warning people that standing too close to the airport fence on Maho Beach can be dangerous

The island is served by many major airlines that daily bring in large jet aircraft, including Boeing 747s and Airbus A340s carrying tourists from across the world. The short main runway at Princess Juliana International Airport and its position between a large hill and a beach cause some spectacular approaches. Aviation photographers flock to the airport to capture pictures of large jets just a few metres[vague] above sunbathers on Maho Beach.[55][better source needed]

There is a small airport on the French side of the island at Grand Case, L'Espérance Airport for small aircraft serving neighbouring Caribbean islands. It frequently suffers thick fog during the hurricane season due to its location.

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b c "Mise à jour du plan de prévention des risques naturels de la collectivité territoriale de Saint-Martin" (PDF). Preferecture of Saint-Barthélemy and Saint-Martin (in French). Government of France. p. 14. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 June 2022. Retrieved 21 February 2022.
  2. ^ a b "Statistical yearbook 2017" (PDF). Department of Statistics, Sint Maarten. Retrieved 21 February 2022.
  3. ^ a b c "12th anniversary of St. Martin's "Unity Flag" observed Saturday on Conscious Lyrics; students raise money for unity bumper stickers". House of Nehesi Publishers. 29 August 2002.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Population Estimates and Vital Statistics 2021" (PDF). Department of Statistics, Sint Maarten. Retrieved 21 February 2022.
  5. ^ a b c "Populations légales des collectivités d'outre-mer en 2019". INSEE (in French). Government of France. Retrieved 21 February 2022.
  6. ^ "EUR-Lex – 12016ME/TXT – EN – EUR-Lex". Retrieved 24 August 2019.
  7. ^ "Status Caribisch gebied". (in Dutch). Retrieved 7 December 2023.
  8. ^ "Sint Maarten to start population census 2022 | Loop Caribbean News". Loop News. Retrieved 19 January 2024.
  9. ^ a b "Populations légales des collectivités d'outre-mer en 2017". INSEE (in French). Government of France. Retrieved 21 February 2022.
  10. ^ "St. Martin | The Caribbean Pet". Retrieved 6 March 2021.
  11. ^ ISO 3166-1 Newsletter.Assignment of code elements for Saint-Barthélemy and Saint-Martin and update of France and other French Territories.
  12. ^ ISO 3166-1 Newsletter. Code elements for Bonaire, Saint Eustatius, and Saba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten (Dutch part), update of other territories and minor corrections.
  13. ^ "Geography St Martin island – locate st martin island in the Caribbean – St Martin west indies sxm – tourism board st martin".
  14. ^ Hubbard, Vincent K. (2002). A History of St Kitts. MacMillan Caribbean. p. 13. ISBN 0333747607.
  15. ^ Morison, Samuel Eliot (1974). The European Discovery of America, The Southern Voyages. Oxford University Press. pp. 108-109.
  16. ^ Frank Jacobs (24 April 2012). "One Island, Two Countries". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 1 October 2019.
  17. ^ Satur Abón Pérez (1980). Nueva Geografía Universal, Tomo IX, América. (New Universal Geography, Volume IX, America). Promexa. p. 19. ISBN 978-84-7113-130-0. OCLC 1097733586.
  18. ^ a b c Badejo, Fabian Adekunle (25 December 2004). "The reunification of St. Martin: A pipe dream or an inevitable choice?". House of Nehesi Publishers.
  19. ^ Hoogers, Gerhard; Karapetian, Gohar (12 November 2020). "One island, two nations and a European Union: St. Martin". IACL-AIDC Blog.
  20. ^ Steel, Jenny (9 August 2020). "Protest at Saint Martin border: "you are basically blocking us from living"". Caribbean Network.
  21. ^ Letuvée, Florent (16 September 2020). "Frontière: L'unification qui fait la force? Pas que... Une victoire mais il reste la "crise" sanitaire à gérer". (in French).
  22. ^ "Former mayor Albert Fleming calls for unification of St. Martin north and south with the support of UP party candidate #5 Josianne Artsen". Saint Martin News Network. 1 August 2014.
  23. ^ "Sain Martin".
  24. ^ a b c "Climate Summaries". Meteorological Department Curaçao. Archived from the original on 17 February 2013. Retrieved 21 February 2013.
  25. ^ a b c d "Summary of Climatological Data, Period 1971–2000" (PDF). Meteorological Department Curaçao. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 July 2013. Retrieved 22 September 2016.
  26. ^ Meade, Natalie (2 March 2018). "St. Maarten is still striving to recover from its worst hurricane in a century". The New Yorker. Retrieved 26 April 2019.
  27. ^ a b Davies, Caroline (8 September 2017). "Caribbean islanders fear another battering after Irma wreaks havoc". The Guardian.
  28. ^ Robles, Frances; Semple, Kirk; Yee, Vivian (7 September 2017). "Caribbean Devastated as Irma Heads Toward Florida". The New York Times.
  29. ^ "Revisited – Video: One year after Hurricane Irma, St Martin struggles to recover". France 24. 7 September 2018. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  30. ^ "ABC News". ABC News. Archived from the original on 13 September 2017.
  31. ^ "Dutch officials: Irma damaged or destroyed 70 percent of St. Maarten homes, leaving island vulnerable to Jose’s approach", Washington Post, 9 September 2017. Accessed 9 September 2017.
  32. ^ "Hurricane Irma destroys ‘95%’ of French part of St. Martin—official", Agence France-Presse, 7 September 2017. Accessed 9 September 2017.
  33. ^ "Third of buildings on Dutch St. Martin destroyed". CBS News. 12 September 2017.
  34. ^ "St. Martin's famous airport badly damaged by Hurricane Irma". ABC News. 7 September 2017.
  35. ^ "Estimation of per capita GDP in Saint-Martin" (PDF). CEROM. INSEE. May 2018. Retrieved 21 February 2022.
  36. ^ a b "GDP 2018 - Press Release" (PDF). Department of Statistics, Sint Maarten. Retrieved 21 February 2022.
  37. ^ Total 2014 GDP of Saint-Martin (US$772 million) and Sint Maarten (US$1,245 million) divided by the number of inhabitants in 2014 ("Populations légales 2014 des départements et collectivités d'outre-mer". INSEE (in French). Government of France. Retrieved 21 February 2022."Population Estimates and Vital Statistics 2021" (PDF). Retrieved 21 February 2022.).
  38. ^ "CIA Factbook". Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  39. ^ See job offer as census interviewer for the Oct. 2022 census: [1].
  40. ^ Holm (1989) Pidgins and Creoles, vol. 2
  41. ^ Culture of St. Maarten Archived 6 December 2006 at the Wayback Machine. St. Maarten Tourism Office.
  42. ^ "What Are the Religions in Sint Maarten/Saint Martin?". April 2022.
  43. ^ "Casinos". 17 June 2013. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  44. ^ "The Daily Herald". Retrieved 16 September 2020.
  45. ^ "Sint Maarten Online Newsday Source". Retrieved 16 September 2020.
  46. ^ " | All the news St. Martin & St. Maarten". Retrieved 16 September 2020.
  47. ^ " – News Views Reviews & Interviews – Always on point!". – News Views Reviews & Interviews. Retrieved 16 September 2020.
  48. ^ "St. Martin News Network – St. Martin News Network – Latest News in and around St. Maarten/St. Martin". Retrieved 16 September 2020.
  49. ^ "Home 5". SXM IslandTime. Retrieved 16 September 2020.
  50. ^ "SXM Talks | Sint Maarten News And Discussion". Retrieved 16 September 2020.
  51. ^ "Central Bank announces introduction of Caribbean Guilder in 2021". 15 November 2020. Retrieved 8 December 2020.
  52. ^ "CBCS moves ahead with the Introduction of the Caribbean Guilder" (PDF). Centrale Bank Curaçao and Sint Maarten. January 2023.
  53. ^ "Bus transit Saint-Martin". 22 June 2015. Retrieved 6 November 2016.
  54. ^ "Immigration Formalities". Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  55. ^ "Aviation Photos: Philipsburg / St. Maarten – Princess Juliana (SXM / TNCM)".

Sources edit

Further reading edit

External links edit

General information
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