Although sighted by Christopher COLUMBUS in 1493 and claimed for Spain, it was the Dutch who occupied the island in 1631 to exploit its salt deposits. The Spanish retook the island in 1633 but continued to be harassed by the Dutch.
The Spanish finally relinquished Saint Martin to the French and Dutch, who divided it between themselves in 1648. Friction between the two sides caused the border to frequently fluctuate over the next two centuries, with the French eventually holding the greater portion of the island (about 61%).
The cultivation of sugarcane introduced African slavery to the island in the late 18th century; the practice was not abolished until 1848. The island became a free port in 1939; the tourism industry was dramatically expanded during the 1970s and 1980s.
In 2010, the southern Dutch portion of the island became the independent nation of Sint Maarten within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Temperature averages 27-29 degrees Celsius all year long; low humidity, gentle trade winds, brief, intense rain showers; hurricane season stretches from July to November
Creole (Mulatto), Black, Guadeloupe Mestizo (French-East Asian), White, East Indian, other
Making a circle with the thumb and index finger can be taken as an insult.
Conch & Dumplings — conch (sea snail) tenderized and pressure-cooked with dumplings, herbs, and spices; the sauce from the conch and dumplings is used as gravy to eat with rice, vegetables, or johnnycakes (pancakes made with cornmeal)