Saint Martin

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This article is about the Caribbean island. For the French half of the island, see Collectivity of Saint Martin. For the Dutch half of the island, see Sint Maarten. For other uses, see Saint Martin (disambiguation).
Saint Martin
Native name: Sint Maarten (Dutch)
Saint-Martin (French)

Nickname: The Friendly Island
Saint martin map.PNG
Saint Martin in its region.svg
Location Caribbean Sea
Coordinates 18°04′N 63°03′W / 18.067°N 63.050°W / 18.067; -63.050Coordinates: 18°04′N 63°03′W / 18.067°N 63.050°W / 18.067; -63.050
Archipelago Leeward Islands, Lesser Antilles
Area 87 km2 (34 sq mi)
Highest elevation 414 m (1,358 ft)
Highest point Pic Paradis
French Republic
Overseas collectivity Saint Martin
Capital and largest settlement Marigot (pop. 5,700)
Area covered 53 km2 (20 sq mi; 60.9%)
Kingdom of the Netherlands
Constituent country Sint Maarten
Capital Philipsburg
Largest settlement Lower Prince's Quarter (pop. 8,123)
Area covered 34 km2 (13 sq mi; 39.1%)
Demonym St. Martiner (French);
St. Maartener (Dutch)
Population 77,741 (as of January 1, 2009)
Density 892 /km2 (2,310 /sq mi)
Ethnic groups Afro-Caribbean, Caucausian, Chinese, Indian, Mixed

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 France (53 km2, 20 sq mi)[1] and the Kingdom of the Netherlands (34 km2, 13 sq mi);[2] the two parts are roughly equal in population. It is the smallest inhabited sea island divided between two nations. The division dates to 1648. The southern Dutch part comprises Sint Maarten and is one of four constituent countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The northern French part comprises the Collectivité de Saint-Martin (Collectivity of St. Martin) and is an overseas collectivity of France.

On January 1, 2009, the population of the entire island was 77,741 inhabitants, with 40,917 living on the Dutch side,[3] and 36,824 on the French side.[4]

Collectively, the two territories are known as "St-Martin / St Maarten". Sometimes SXM, the IATA identifier for Princess Juliana International Airport (the island's main airport), is used to refer to the island.


Map of Saint Martin

Saint Martin has a land area of 87 km2, 53 km2 of which is under the sovereignty of France,[1] and 34 km² under the sovereignty of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.[2] This is the only land border shared by these two countries anywhere on Earth.

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

The highest hilltop is the Pic Paradis (424 metres (1,391 ft)) in the center of a hill chain on the French side. But 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 many dry guts. Hiking trails give access to the dry forest covering tops and slopes.

The island is located south of Anguilla, separated from the British territory by the Anguilla Channel. Saint Martin is northwest of Saint Barthélemy, separated from the French territory by the Saint-Barthélemy Channel. It is one of the Renaissance Islands.


Under the Köppen climate classification, the island has a tropical monsoon climate with a dry season from January to April and a rainy season from August to December.[5] The precipitation patterns are due to the movement of the Azores high during the year.[5] With the wind direction predominantly from the east or the northeast, temperatures remain stable throughout the year and temperatures rarely exceed 34 °C (93 °F) or fall below 20 °C (68 °F).[5] 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.[6] The total average yearly rainfall is 1,047 mm (41.2 in), with 142 days of measurable rainfall.[6] Thunderstorms can occasionally occur, with 18 days with thunder per year.[6]



  • Circa 800 BCE — Settled by Arawak Indians who arrived from South America.[7] The Kalinago followed later and gave the island the name Soualiga, or Land of Salt.
  • November 11, 1493 — Claimed for Spain by Christopher Columbus on his 2nd voyage[8] as all islands seen. Named Isla de San Martín passing at large distance offshore west of Saba island, and set on the very first maps.[9]
  • 1624 — Some French cultivated tobacco in French Quarter.[citation needed]
  • 1629 — Pierre Belain d'Esnambuc and his Colonists hide and found shelter in St.Martin after a spanish attack on St. Kitts.[10]
  • 1631 — Dutch small colony on Groot Baai ("Great Bay") to collect salt.[citation needed]
  • 1633 — A large spanish force attack and defeated the dutch garnison of Fort Amsterdam.
  • 1644 — Peter Stuyvesant from Curaçao attempt to take back the Fort from the spaniards but failed. He had a leg wounded badly forcing an amputation and later becoming a famous pegleg. (See article "Attack on Saint Martin").
  • 1648 — Peace of Münster, the spaniards quit Fort Amsterdam. Officials Dutchs from Statia and frenchs from St-Christophe (St-Kitts) sign the "Mt. des Accords" treaty[11] to able a peaceful recovery of "their" island's former sides.[12][13]
  • 1651–1665 — the Order of Saint John ruled the French part of the island.[citation needed]
  • 1672-1679 — Franco-Dutch War, the English occupied entire island. Ended by the Treaties of Nijmegen.
  • 1679–1689 — French occupied entire island.[citation needed]
  • 1689–1792 — Dutch zone under the new Dutch West India Company (Nieuw West-Indische Compagnie) administration.[14][citation needed]
  • 1690–1699 — Nine Years' War, English occupied entire island.
  • 1699–1702 — Treaty of Ryswick, French occupied entire island.
  • 1703–1717 — War of the Spanish Succession, Dutch & English occupied entire island.
  • 1734 : In St.Martin, French and Dutch sign a reciprocal neutrality treaty to secure and cooperate in case of war or invasion (this treaty displeased the English).[15]
  • 1740 to 1744 : Looting and spoliations by the english from nearby Anguilla.
  • 1744-1748 — British troops occupied entire island. In 1744 (because of the War of the Austrian Succession) the british army invade the french side, with the help of the dutch governor John Philips who betrayed the treaty of 1734. All the french population was expelled off island. The French colonists will return after the short peace following the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748).
  • 1750 — Construction of the Fort Louis that dominates the harbour and village of Marigot and its bay.
  • 1756 to 1763 — British looting raids from Anguilla during the Seven Years' War.
  • February 24, 1779 – February 3, 1781 — French occupied entire island.
  • February 3, 1781 – November 26, 1781 — British occupied entire island.
  • 1781 to 1783 — British occupation of the french side because of the American Revolutionary War.
  • May 18, 1793 – April 5, 1794 — Dutch administered entire island because of the French Revolution.
  • 1794 — British occupation of the french side because of the French Revolution wars).
  • April 29, 1795 – March 24, 1801 — French revolutionaries occupied entire island, then they were able to apply the first Abolition of slavery on the whole St.Martin as they had already done since 1793 in Guadeloupe, french Guyana, Saint Lucia and Haïti. (The complete law was proclaimed on February 4, 1794 by the national assembly in Paris) -
  • March 24, 1801 – December 1, 1802 — British occupied entire island because of the Napoleonic Wars.
  • July 9, 1810 — Annexed along with the Netherlands by France (not effected).
  • 1810–1816 — British occupied entire island.
  • 1816 — After the return of the french monarchy, french and Dutch zones restored.
  • May 27, 1848 — Final abolition of slavery (on the french side only).
  • 1863 — Dutch side abolition of slavery.
  • 1919 — Saba, Sint Eustatius and Saint Martin united as Netherlands Windward Islands.
  • 1936 — Dutch side officially adopted the Dutch spelling Sint Maarten.
  • December 15, 1954 — Saba, Sint Eustatius and Saint Martin united with Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao as the Netherlands Antilles, a separate country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands
  • September 4, 1960 — Hurricane Donna hit the island causing extensive damage.
  • 1981 — First time of a Concorde airplane landing on the island, at Princess Juliana International Airport.
  • January 1, 1986 — Aruba attained a "status aparte" within the Kingdom of the Netherlands and left the Netherlands Antilles
  • 1989, 16 december — French president François Mitterrand and United States president George H.W. Bush senior meet on a french side resort.[16]
  • September 5, 1995 — Hurricane Luis devastated the island.
  • November 20, 1999 — Hurricane Lenny struck the island causing catastrophic damage and claims 3 lives.
  • June 23, 2000 — Referendum on Saint Martin resulted in a "status aparte" within the Kingdom of the Netherlands receives 68.9% support.
  • December 7, 2003 — The population of the French part of the island voted in favour of secession from Guadeloupe in order to form a separate overseas collectivity (COM) of France.
  • February 22, 2007 — French side became a separate overseas collectivity (COM).
  • October 10, 2010 — The Netherlands Antilles are dissolved.[17] Saint Martin became one of four constituent countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands.


Flags flying in Marigot harbor, Saint-Martin.

In 1493, Christopher Columbus embarked on his second voyage to the New World. According to legend, Columbus sighted and perhaps anchored at the island of Saint Martin on November 11, 1493, the feast day of Saint Martin of Tours. In his honor, Columbus named the island San Martin.[citation needed] This name was translated to Sint Maarten (Dutch), Saint-Martin (French) and "Saint Martin" in English.

At Columbus's time, St. Martin was populated, if populated at all, by Carib amerindians. The former Arawaks had been chased by the Caribs coming from the North coast of South America a short time before the arrival of the Spaniards who followed in Columbus' wake.[citation needed] The Arawaks were agricultural people who fashioned pottery and whose social organization was headed by hereditary chieftains who derived their power from personal deities called zemis.

The Caribs' territory was not completely conquered until the mid-17th century when most of them perished in the struggle between the French, English, Dutch, Danes and Spanish for control of the West Indies.[citation needed]

The Dutch first began to ply the island's ponds for salt in the 1620s.[citation needed] Despite the Dutch presence on the island, the Spaniards recaptured St. Martin in 1633. One year later, they built a fort (now Ft. Amsterdam) and another artillery battery at Pointe Blanche to assert their claim and control access to Great bay salt pond.[citation needed]

A massive influx of African slaves[citation needed] took place in the 18th century with the development of sugarcane plantations by the French Protestants and Dutch. Slavery was abolished in the first half of the 19th century. On some of their territories the British imported Chinese and East Indians to take the place of slaves. Thus, St. Martin and the other islands are populated by a mixture of Amerindian, European, African, Indian and Asian peoples.

Border division[edit]

Border crossing between St. Martin and Sint Maarten
A newer monument, crossing from St. Martin to Sint Maarten, dedicated in 2008

On March 23, 1648, France and the Dutch Republic agreed to divide the island between their two territories, with the signing of the Treaty of Concordia.

Folklore surrounds the history of the once ever-changing border division between St. Martin and Sint Maarten, and a popular story among locals narrates that "to divide the island into two sections, [in 1648] the inhabitants were told to choose two walkers, one chosen by the French-dominated community and the other one by the Dutch-dominated community, who were put back to back in one extreme of the island, making them walk in opposite directions while stuck to the littoral line, and not allowing them to run. The point where they eventually met was set as the other extreme of the island, and the subsequently created line was chosen as the frontier, dividing Saint-Martin from Sint Maarten. Seemingly, the French walker had walked more than his Dutch counterpart (each one earned his land, respectively, 54 km² and 32 km²). As the first man chose wine as his stimulant prior to the race, while the latter chose Jenever (Dutch Gin), the difference between such beverages' lightness was said to be the cause of the territorial differences by French locals, while Dutch locals tended to blame the French walker for running."[18][19]

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". After some delay, the treaty was ratified in November 2006 in the Netherlands, and subsequently entered into force on 1 August 2007. Though the treaty is now in force, its provisions are not yet implemented as the working group specified in the treaty is not yet installed.[citation needed]

St. Martin received the ISO 3166-1 code MF in October 2007.[20] The status of the Dutch side was due to change to a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands in December 2008, but this was postponed to (and took place on) 10 October 2010.[17] The Dutch part now has ISO 3166-1 code SX.[21]


INSEE estimated in 2005 the GDP per capita of Saint Martin for 1999 to be €14,500 (about US$15,400).[22][23]

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.[24]


On January 1, 2009 the population of the entire island of Saint Martin was 77,741 inhabitants, 40,917 of whom lived on the Dutch side of the island,[3] and 36,824 on the French side of the island.[4] A local dialect is spoken informally on both sides of the island.[25]

Culture and tourism[edit]

St. Martin's Dutch side is known for its festive nightlife, beaches, jewelry, drinks made with native rum-based guavaberry liquors, and casinos.[26] 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).

Tourists often use accommodations[27] such as hotels,[28] guesthouses,[29] villas, and timeshares.

Rental cars are the primary mode of transportation for visitors staying on island.[30] Traffic on the island has become a major problem. Long traffic jams between Marigot, Philipsburg and the airport are common.[citation needed] In recent years sargassum weed has arrived on the south ("Dutch") shoreline, but the northern French coast is generally free of the weed.[31]

Because the island is located along the intertropical convergence zone, it is occasionally threatened by tropical storm activity in the late summer and early fall.

Neighbouring islands include Saint Barthélemy (French), Anguilla (British), Saba (Dutch), Sint Eustatius "Statia" (Dutch), 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.


Shopping on St Maarten and Saint Martin offers duty-free goods in numerous boutiques. Popular goods include local crafts & arts, exotic foods, jewelry, liquor, tobacco, leather goods, as well as most designer goods. Most often the designer goods are offered at significant discounts, often up to 40% lower than US retail prices.

Saint Martin uses the euro as its currency, while Sint Maarten uses the Netherlands Antillean guilder, pegged at 1.79 per United States 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 in the coming years. Almost every store on the island also accepts the United States dollar, although sometimes a more expensive exchange rate is used.


Air France Airbus A340 landing at Princess Juliana International Airport

Border checks[edit]

Neither side of the island is part of the Schengen Area; full border checks are performed when traveling between the island and Europe. Passport controls are also exercised when taking the ferry from Marigot to Anguilla. There are rarely checks at the border between the two sides of the island. The Franco-Dutch treaty on Saint Martin border controls 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 following tighter French visa requirements would harm their tourism.[32]


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, causes some spectacular approaches. Aviation photographers flock to the airport to capture pictures of large jets just a few metres above sunbathers on Maho Beach. [33]

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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b INSEE, Government of France. "Démographie des communes de Guadeloupe au recensement de la population de 1999" (in French). Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  2. ^ a b Central Bureau of Statistics Netherlands Antilles. "Area, population density and capital". Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  3. ^ a b Department of Statistics (STAT) of St. Maarten. "Population, St. Maarten, January 1 st" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-08-20. 
  4. ^ a b INSEE, Government of France. "Les populations légales 2009 entrent en vigueur le 1er janvier 2012." (in French). Retrieved 2010-08-20. 
  5. ^ a b c "Climate Summaries". Meteorological Department Curaçao. Retrieved February 21, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Summary of Climatological Data, Period 1971-2000" (PDF). Meteorological Department Curaçao. Retrieved February 21, 2013. 
  7. ^ Destination St.Martin
  8. ^ Columbus, Ferdinand (1571). A History of the Life and Actions of Adm. Christopher Columbus. in Churchill, Awnsham (1732). A Collection of voyages and travels 2. pp. 501–624.
  9. ^ The Cantino map on wikimedia Commons
  10. ^ Guillaume Coppier, "Histoire et voyage des Indes occidentale, ...", 182 p., imp. J. Huguetan, à Lyon (1645).
  11. ^ Copy of the original text at
  12. ^ Encyclopaedie van Nederlandsch West-Indië, Herman Daniël Benjamins en Joh. F. Snelleman
  13. ^
  14. ^ Heijer, H. den: Goud, ivoor en slaven. Scheepvaart en handel van de Tweede Westindische Compagnie op Afrika, 1674‑1740, Zutphen 1997, Walburg Pers
  15. ^ (Archives)
  16. ^ [1] Chicago tribune, Dec 17, 1989.
  17. ^ a b St. Maarten-St. Martin - Consensus, but no date set for new status Archived September 2, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ Frank Jacobs (April 24, 2012). "One Island, Two Countries". The New York Times. 
  19. ^ Pérez, Abón Satur (Chief Editor) (1980). Nueva Geografía Universal, Tomo IX, América. (New Universal Geography, Volume IX, America). Promexa. p. 19. ISBN 84-7113-130-7. 
  20. ^ ISO 3166-1 Newsletter.Assignment of code elements for Saint-Barthélemy and Saint-Martin and update of France and other French Territories
  21. ^ 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
  22. ^ Estimation du PIB de Saint-Barthélemy et de Saint-Martin, INSEE.
  23. ^ World Development Indicators, World Bank. Accessed on 30 July 2012.
  24. ^ "CIA Factbook". Retrieved 2014-02-10. 
  25. ^ Holm (1989) Pidgins and Creoles, vol. 2
  26. ^ "Casinos". 2013-06-17. Retrieved 2014-02-10. 
  27. ^ "accommodations". 2013-06-17. Retrieved 2014-02-10. 
  28. ^ "hotels". 2013-06-17. Retrieved 2014-02-10. 
  29. ^ "guesthouses". 2013-06-17. Retrieved 2014-02-10. 
  30. ^ "Rental cars". 2013-06-17. Retrieved 2014-02-10. 
  31. ^ "St. Martin FAQ's". Grand Case Beach Club. 2015-08-01. Retrieved 2015-08-01. 
  32. ^ "Immigration Formalities". Retrieved 2014-02-10. 
  33. ^ Aviation Photos: Philipsburg / St. Maarten - Princess Juliana (SXM / TNCM),


  • Baldachino, Godfrey (2006), "The Impact of Public Policy on Entrepreneurship: A Critical Investigation of the Protestant Ethic on a Divided Island Jurisdiction," Journal of Small Business and Entrepreneurship 19 (4), pp. 419–430.
  • Dana, Leo Paul (1990), “Saint Martin/Sint Maarten: A Case Study of the Effects of Politics and Culture on Economic Development,” Journal of Small Business Management XXVIII (4) October, pp. 91–98.
  • Dana, Leo Paul (2010), Entrepreneurship & Religion, Cheltenham, United Kingdom: Edward Elgar, ISBN 978-1-84720-572-8.
  • Houston, Lynn Marie (2005). Food Culture in the Caribbean. Greenwood Press, 2005. ISBN 0-313-32764-5.

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