Sint Maarten is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It encompasses the southern third of the Caribbean island of Saint Martin, while the northern two-thirds of the island constitutes the French overseas collectivity of Saint-Martin. Its capital is Philipsburg. Its population is 37,000 on 34km2.
The official languages are Dutch and English. A local English-based creole dialect is also spoken. An annual regatta is also held over 3 days culminating in the first weekend in March. Among the leading cultural artists of the island are Isidore "Mighty Dow" York, kaisonian, panman; Roland Richardson, Impressionist painter; Nicole de Weever, dancer, broadway star; Susha Hien, choreographer; Lasana M. Sekou, poet, author, independence advocate; Clara Reyes, choreographer; Tanny and The Boys, string band music group.
After abolition of slavery, plantation culture declined and the island's economy suffered. In 1939, St. Martin received a major boost when it was declared a duty-free port. The Dutch side began focusing on tourism in the 1950s, with the French side following suit two decades later. Because of being split up into a Dutch and a French part, the tourist boom was heavier on Sint Maarten than on the surrounding islands. Its Princess Juliana International Airport became one of the busiest in the Eastern Caribbean. For much of this period, Sint Maarten was governed by business tycoon Claude Wathey of the Democratic Party.
The island's demographics changed dramatically during this period as well. The island's population increased from a mere 5,000 people to around 60,000 people in the mid-1990s. Immigration from the neighbouring Lesser Antilles, Curaçao, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, the United States, Europe, and Asia turned the native population into a minority.
Sint Maarten became an "island territory" (eilandgebied in Dutch) of the Netherlands Antilles in 1983. Before that date, Sint Maarten was part of the island territory of the Windward Islands, together with Saba and Sint Eustatius. The status of an island territory entails considerable autonomy summed up in the Island Regulation of the Netherlands Antilles. The island territory of Sint Maarten was ruled by an island council, an executive council, and an administrator (Dutch: gezaghebber) appointed by the Dutch Crown.
The island is famous for its runway at Princess Juliana International Airport, in which landing aircraft pass within at least 20 feet of Maho Beach below, due to the close proximity of the runway to the ocean. The planes appear to land dangerously close to beach goers. Therefore this beach and airport has become a popular place for people to view airplane landings.
Facts and Figures:
Area: 34 sq km
Population: 40.289 (2014 est.)
Government type: Unitary parliamentary representative democracy under constitutional monarchy
GDP (PPP): $798.3 million (2010 est.)
Per Capita: $15.400 (2008 est.)
Currency: Netherlands Antillean guilder (ANG)
Map of Sint Maarten
Flag of Sint Maarten