Living in today’s St. Martin/ Sint Maarten
The islands’ inhabitants come from countries all over the world. This multicultural society makes a visit here a unique experience. Where else can you enjoy two different countries and varicolored cultures in one vacation? Its magnetic ambiance and thrilling landscape will surprise visitors, not to talk about the flavors of the international ‘cuisine’, the beauty of its beaches, royal beachfront villas, and international resorts. Sea excursions allowing discovery of the neighboring islands like St. Barth, Anguilla, Tintamarre, Pinel, just to mention a few.
Since July 2007, St. Martin is an overseas collectivity of France, which is governed by a Territorial Council (23 members) and an Executive Council (7 members). The council is elected by popular vote, for a 5-year term, and is headed by a President, Mr. Franz Gumbs, who was elected in August 2008. Sint Maarten became an independent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands in October 2010.
Official languages on the island are Dutch and French, but English is widely spoken on both sides of the island. Native St. Martiners speak a kind of ‘Creole’, which is a mix of French, African and some other dialects. Papiamento is spoken on Sint Maarten, which is derived from Portuguese, Spanish, and an African influence, English, Dutch and native Arawak.
St. Martiners are very religious, and Roman Catholicism is widely spread on both sides of the island, followed by The Methodist Church.
The island’s cuisine and style of cooking and preparation illustrate the melting pot of its population, a perfect alliance of European, African and Caribbean tendencies.
Inspired by its African roots using a lot of drums, the music of the Caribbean includes Calypso, Merengue, Reggae, Zouk and Soca.
St. Martin, as part of France, is organized under the French postal system; its zip code is 97, which stands for the French Oversea Departments and Territories. 971 is dedicated to Guadeloupe, together with St. Martin 97150 and St. Barth 97133 (Guadeloupe 97100, Martinique 97200, Guyana 97300, La Reunion 97400, St. Pierre et Miquelon, 97500, Mayotte 97600).
The island’s economy was based on sugarcane, like most of the Caribbean islands. The labor was performed by slaves, as Europeans refused to come to the islands, even with the promise to become land owners in exchange for unpaid labor for a period of 36 month. Todays’ economy depends on tourism (85%), offshore finances and petroleum refining.
Food, crude petroleum and manufactured items are primarily imported from the USA and Mexico. Per head income is the highest of all Caribbean islands, and growth is considerably more important on the Dutch side.
Located at 63.5° West, Longitude and 18.5° North, Latitude between the Tropic of Cancer and the Equator, St Martin/ Sint Maarten is part of the Lesser Antilles. The island benefits from its centralized location: 4 hours flight to New York, 3 hours flight to Miami, one and half hours to Caracas, 45 minutes to Puerto Rico and Guadeloupe, and an 8 hour flight from Europe (France, The Netherlands).
The total surface is 88km2, 18 km long at its longest point and 13 km wide at its widest point. ! French St. Martin occupies a surface of about 54 km2 in the north, Dutch Sint Maarten 34 km2 in the south. There is no physical border between the 2 nations, people and goods travel freely between both sides. Its average elevation above sea level is approximately 20 meters, while the highest point, Pic Paradise, rises up to 424 meters.
Population counts 45.000 inhabitants on the Dutch side, and 40.000 inhabitants on the French side.
St. Martin/Sint Maarten ‘The friendly island’ has a heart for its Flora and Fauna. The National Natural Reserve protects and develops its natural heritage. Several trails have been established for the interested visitor to discover its beauty. The marine reserve stretches over 11 km of coastline, from Anse Marcel to Oyster Pond, including the islands of Tintamarre, Rocher Creole, Pinel and Caye Verte.