Capital City: Great Bay
Population: 74,852 (Jan 2007)
Languages spoken: French
Religion: In French Saint-Martin, the most popular religion is Roman Catholicism.
Head of state: Francois Hollande but the elected President of Territorial Council is Frantz A Gumbs
National Dish: Callaloo soup, stewed with
pork, hot peppers, okra, chicken stock and spices.
Brief history of the Island:
Ancient relics date the island’s first settlers, probably Ciboney Indians (a subgroup of Arawaks), back to 3,500 years ago. Then another group of Arawaks migrated from South America’s Orinoco basin around 800 A.D
Mainly a farming and fishing society, the Arawaks lived in villages of straw-roofed buildings which were strong enough to resist hurricanes. Their tranquil civilization valued artistic and spiritual pursuits.
Their lives were turned upside-down, however, with the descent of the Carib Indians from the same region they had come from. A warrior nation, the Caribs killed the Arawak men and enslaved the women. When Europeans began to explore the Caribbean, Carib society had almost completely displaced the Arawaks.
The first European who saw the island was Christopher Columbus ans although he claimed it a Spanish territory, it was the French and Dutch who fought over the land.
A legend grew up around the division of the island. According to legend, in order to decide on their territorial boundaries, the two sides held a contest. It began with a Frenchman drinking wine and a Dutchman drinking jenever (Dutch gin). When both had sufficiently imbibed, they embarked from Oysterpond on the island’s east coast. The Frenchman headed off along the coast to the north, while the Dutchman followed the coast south.
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.
On September 5, 1995, Hurricane Luis severely pounded the islands causing numerous damages 35 years to the day after Hurricane Donna.
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”.
Facts about the Island:
- St Martin has two ancient names: “Sualouiga” Carib word meaning “Land of Salt” and “Qualichi” Arawakan word meaning “Land of Brave Women”
- St Martin is famous for its vibrant night life, duty free shopping and beaches
- The island is divided into 2 Countries- North (French) known as St Martin and the South (Dutch) Know as Sint Maarten
- National Dance : The Ponum Dance – pronounced “Panam” – which evolved following harvest festivals and other celebrations. It is seen to portray St Martin Cultural originality and elegance.
Famous people from the Island:
Roland Richardson – Artist
Simeone Venter Trott – (1908 – 1989) Educationalist, Photographer of photos for Passports, and Seamtress specialising in Wedding Gowns.
Carlos A Cooks – (1913 – 1966) Historian, Political Activist, linked with the Black Power Movement. He rejected the word “Negro” preferring to use “Black” or “African”
Picture of the Island: