Introducing St-Martin/Sint Maarten
For hundreds of years the Caribbean was the colorful playground of wannabe imperialists who flexed their colonial muscles while transporting rum, slaves and gold between worlds. These faraway kingdoms would repeatedly conquer and retreat, radically changing the political geography with the spark of a cannon. After years of divvying up – and re-divvying up – these sand-strewn paradises like a game of Risk, only one of the 7000 islands in the entire Caribbean remained so dear to two separate empires that they decided to share it.
It’s easy to understand why this stunning island – known as St-Martin to the French, and Sint Maarten to the Dutch – has captured the hearts of many. A mere glance reveals conical, coolie-hat-like peaks rising dramatically from the depths of the ocean, and gentle cerulean currents that tumble landward to kiss the bleach-blonde sands.
Today, the allure goes deeper than the island’s natural gifts. The arbitrary division of land has given the scrubby island two very distinct personalities, like a set of Siamese twins. Although fundamentally one entity, both sides are engaged in an unconscious game of tug-of-war as they struggle to assert their individuality. At times they work as one, and in other instances they become a caricature of themselves by exaggerating the traits that makes them unique: the French cling to their European roots, as demonstrated by the food and local lingo, while the Netherlands Antilles side plays up their jammin’ attitude by appealing to the hedonistic pleasures of visitors. But, although neither side likes to admit it, the whole really is greater than the sum of its parts.
Last updated: Oct 20, 2009
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24 January 2012
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