St. Maarten/St. Martin is an island in the Caribbean, known as the smallest island in the world to be divided into two by two major European powers. From its humble beginnings, St. Maarten/St. Martin has emerged a leader in tourism and real estate, once the relevant steps had been taken by both the French and Dutch governments to foster the development of St. Maarten/St. Martin in a sustainable manner.
St. Maarten/St. Martin started off as an island inhabited by indigenous Indians who traveled far south from South American by canoe until they settled the northerly islands of the English speaking island of the Caribbean. St. Maarten/St. Martin was settled by the Spanish following the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1493, including French and Dutch navigators who all made efforts to take hold of the island. The original Dutch and French settlers of St. Maarten/St. Martin generally co habited the island, whereas the Spanish who saw themselves as the rightful owners of St. Maarten/St. Martin were more hostile in their approach, were adamant in laying full and exclusive claim on St. Maarten/St. Martin by waging war. This led to a series of confrontations and open battled between the Dutch and Spanish, in spite of the Spanish abandonment of St. Maarten/St. Martin to seek wealthier lands with gold, silver and other precious metals. Losing St. Maarten/St. Martin to the Spanish for a number of years represented a major loss for the Dutch since this had meant loss of salt ponds and their inability to continue manufacturing salt for export to earn an income.
However, in 1648, the Spanish left St. Maarten/St. Martin for Puerto Rico, making way for the start of a new relationship between the French and Dutch settlers of St. Maarten/St. Martin. Under the Treaty of Concordia, both nations decided to peacefully inhabit St. Martin/St. Maarten, with the half of St. Maarten/St. Martin occupied by the French being called St. Martin (Saint Martin), and the part of the island occupied by the Dutch being called St. Maarten (Sint Maarten), both variations reflecting the language spoken by the two European nations.
As time progressed and European countries continued to spread their rules over the Western Hemisphere, new labour was sought in Africa for the production of sugar. With this came the introduction of African slaves to St. Maarten/St. Martin to labour in the sugar fields and plantations on the island. In addition to sugar production in St. Maarten/St. Martin, other crops like cocoa, coffee and cotton were planted, as well as staples that were used for subsistence by the African slaves in St. Maarten/St. Martin.
In the mid 1900’s the demand for sugar dropped, creating an economic void for St. Maarten/St. Martin, although the French continued harvesting salt, while the economy of St. Maarten had been shatter by the event. To counter the economic distress of St. Maarten/St. Martin, constructed an international airport and docking facilities for cruise ships and other boast, as the governments of St. Maarten/St. Martin made efforts to tap into emerging economic activities, namely tourism, which had began to grown in popularity. St. Maarten/St. Martin was soon to become a leading tourist destination and investment hub, and today has become of the wealthiest economies in the region.