|St. Maarten History|
St. Maarten is the southern part of the island also occupied by St. Martin, a French colony in the Caribbean. St. Maarten, however, is a Dutch colony and part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. So what can we learn about this island when we take a look back into the realms of St. Maarten history?
The first people to settle on the island were the Arawak tribes who moved along the island in search of a good place to settle. They were soon to be replaced by a much more powerful and more violent tribe known as the Caribs. The Caribs had settled across much of the Caribbean before the big powers of the European nations decided that they might have an interest. St. Maarten history seemingly begins in much the same way as other Caribbean nations.
The islands were first discovered by the Spanish explorer Sir Christopher Columbus, although he never entered the island. He claimed the island for Spain, yet they never showed much interest. Since the Dutch were on the lookout for a strategic position close to Brazil, they opted to settle on St. Maarten. The Spanish recaptured the island in 1631 after noticing they were losing their monopoly in this area.
The Dutch were not planning on letting go of St. Maarten and thus planned a number of attacks in an attempt to regain the island. This went on for the best part of a decade and the governor at that time got fed up. He asked permission from the King of Spain to abandon the island. This was duly granted and the Spanish literally dismantled all of their forts and left. Some say the islands were then reinforced after a small number of hiding French and Dutch sent for reinforcements.
St. Maarten history becomes more of an anecdote than fact upon retelling how the island was divided. Apparently, the French set off one way and the Dutch the other way around the coast of the island. Where they met would draw the line. This was added to by the idea that the French drank wine beforehand and the Dutch were off their heads on gin. This made for one of the most comical moments in both St. Maarten history and indeed worldwide history.
Economic Changes in St. Maarten
Slaves first crossed paths with this island when the land owners planted sugar cane to generate revenue. The slaves were brought from Africa in order to work the sugar plantations. This continued until the French abolished slavery in 1848, 15 years after the British. The sugar trade gradually fell due to a fall in sugar prices and the abolition of slaves. Labor became far more expensive and thus there were no longer profits to be made in this way. The Dutch signaled a move towards tourism in 1950 and thus St. Maarten history had moved away from sugar and into the more modern trade of the tourist industry. The island certainly has the natural beauty to attract the guests. The Dutch were slightly ahead of the French on this one who converted their efforts to tourism in 1970.
St. Maarten history is one divided by the Spanish conquests and the Dutch and French interests in its location. The Dutch, owning the southern half, made a profit on sugar and slaves until the abolishment after which tourism became the main focus. This is how you will find the island today, a shrine to natural beauty and a tropical paradise.