The Island of Sint Maarten
This island was originally discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493 and claimed for Spain. Later on, it was the Dutch who occupied the island in 1631 and set about exploiting its salt deposits. The Spanish retook the island in 1633, but continued to be challenged by the Dutch. The Spanish eventually relinquished Saint Martin to the French and Dutch, who divided it between themselves in 1648 into Saint Martin (northern portion) and Sint Maarten (southern portion), respectively. In 1954, Sint Maarten and several other Dutch Caribbean islands became part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands known as the Netherlands Antilles. In a 2000 referendum, the citizens of Sint Maarten voted to become a self-governing country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The change in status became effective in October of 2010 with the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles. In 2007, the northern portion of the island became a French overseas collectivity. Together, these two entities make up the smallest landmass in the world shared by two self-governing states.
The economy of the island relies primarily on tourism which averages one million visitors per year. 85% of the labor force is engaged in this sector. The island is reported to have the highest per capita income in the Caribbean. The two co-existing nationalities, known as ‘the friendly island’, provide a European flair in a moderate year round climate. The island has over 37 beautiful and exotic beaches with world famous turquoise water and white sand. There are no restrictions against foreign property ownership and the Dutch side of the island offers favorable tax laws for real estate buyers. Housing consists primarily of villas, condominiums with most offering spectacular views of the island.