St. Maarten

   Even though only the southern half of the island is under Dutch control, with about 32,000 inhabitants it is the largest of the three Windward (Bovenwindse) NetherlandsAntilles. The north ern part, St. Martin, belongs to the French departement of Guade loupe, although the population voted for secession from this depart ment in 2003. Christopher Columbus visited the isle during his second journey to the Americas, on 11 November 1493, the feast day of St. Martin. The Spanish did not give up their claims until 1644, by which time Dutch and French adventurers had already settled there. The Dutch Republic and France partitioned the island in 1648, and that agreement was reconfirmed in 1817. The present authority, his deputies, and the island’s council (11 members) have their seat in the capital of Philipsburg. Tourism is highly developed, because large planes can land at Princess JulianaAirport. While Dutch is the offi cial language, English is the first spoken language. In the 2000 referendum, the majority voted for the option of becoming an indepen dent part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, just like Aruba. St. Maarten will probably receive this status in 2008.

Historical Dictionary of the Netherlands. . 2012.

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