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Saint Barthelemy / Saint-Barthélémy
[aka Saint Barts]

The regional and departmental levels of Guadeloupe constitute the traditional architecture to which the communities of Saint-Barthélemy and Saint-Martin are no longer organically linked. The prefecture of Saint-Barthélemy and Saint-Martin is thus a territorial administration of the State, resulting from the decrees of 24 July 2009.

The economy of Saint Barthelemy is based upon high-end tourism and duty-free luxury commerce, serving visitors primarily from North America. The luxury hotels and villas host 70,000 visitors each year with another 130,000 arriving by boat. Population was 7,209 (July 2016 estimate). The relative isolation and high cost of living inhibits mass tourism. The construction and public sectors also enjoy significant investment in support of tourism. With limited fresh water resources, all food must be imported, as must all energy resources and most manufactured goods. The tourism sector creates a strong employment demand and attracts labor from Brazil and Portugal. The country’s currency is the Euro.

Located over 5,000 miles from Paris and over 1,500 miles from New York, a little island that seems to float on the water at 17°55 North and 62°50 West. The island of Saint Barthélemy, casually known as Saint Barth, is quite small at just 24 km2 (eight square miles). Considered one of the oldest volcanic islands in the Lesser Antilles, its dry, rocky soil is not suited for agriculture. Its fauna, while seemingly rare, has an unusual diversity: iguanas, land and sea turtles, and marine birds, from the pelican—mascot of the island—to the charming little hummingbird found in gardens. The flora grows as best it can, depending on the weather, as there is not always enough rain. Yet this does not inhibit the proliferation of multicolored flowers in the gardens of island homes.

Discovered in 1493 by Christopher COLUMBUS who named it for his brother Bartolomeo, Saint Barthelemy was first settled by the French in 1648. In 1784, the French sold the island to Sweden, which renamed the largest town Gustavia, after the Swedish King GUSTAV III, and made it a free port; the island prospered as a trade and supply center during the colonial wars of the 18th century. France repurchased the island in 1877 and took control the following year. It was placed under the administration of Guadeloupe. Saint Barthelemy retained its free port status along with various Swedish appellations such as Swedish street and town names, and the three-crown symbol on the coat of arms.

In 2003 the islanders voted to secede from Guadeloupe, and in 2007 the island became a French overseas collectivity. In 2012, it became an overseas territory of the EU, allowing it to exert local control over the permanent and temporary immigration of foreign workers including non-French European citizens.

Petty street crime, including purse snatching, does occur. For the year 2015, the number of of the Gendarmerie Department was 110 Military, 96 based in Saint-Martin and St. Bartholomew's. With regard to the Mobile gendarmes, they were augmented by an Platoon on August 1, 2015, in accordance with the promise made by the President of the Republic of 8 May 2015. This was from 72 to 88, 81 for Saint-Martin and 7 for St. Bartholomew's. In Saint-Martin, a slightly increased delinquency of 2.3% was registered for the year 2015, against the current. In 2014 there was a decrease in delinquency that was explained mainly by the decline in property crimes, including delinquency of appropriation and violence to people.

This crime of proximity creates the sense of insecurity, which represents 45.5% of the balance sheet. The island of Saint-Barthélemy is located in the extreme northeast of the Caribbean Sea, 25 km southeast of Saint-Martin, 230 km north-west of "mainland" Guadeloupe and 6,500 km from Paris. It is a mountainous island of about 21 km² (25 km² with its islets). The highest point of the island is the Morne Vitet, at 286 meters. The island is surrounded by numerous islets: Chevreau Island, Coco, Fourchue Island, Frigate, La Tortue, Le Boulanger, Grenadins, Sugar Loaf, Pele, Petit Jean, Toc Vers, etc ...

The climate is tropical with small temperature variations. The average temperature of air and water is 27 ° C. We can distinguish two seasons: one dry is called the period of "Lent" and the other more humid called "wintering period". The wettest season (May to November) is characterized by short showers.

The island of St Barthélemy is a dry island. As there are no natural resources to supply fresh water, it was necessary to install a system to transform ocean water, which we have in abundance all around the island, into potable water. The process used is called desalination, and through evaporation, this allows the salt content to separate from the seawater. During this process, the water loses most of its minerals and is therefore not usable before minerals are added back in, making it acceptable for consumption and not dangerous to the body. The water is then transferred to large holding tanks (one in Colombier and one in Vitet), which allows the redistribution of water to the population via gravity.

The roads in the French West Indies are the best in the Eastern Caribbean. Roads are well paved and well maintained. Main roads are well marked; secondary roads and tourist sites are adequately marked. Excellent maps are available and local residents are helpful. Both Martinique and Guadeloupe have expressways. Traffic safety is enforced by the police. Night driving can be dangerous, especially in the mountains and on winding rural roads.

In 2013, the population of Saint-Barthélemy had 9417 inhabitants, up 5.78% compared to 2009. The most recent data show a relatively old population: 21% is less than 20 years old compared with 31% in Guadeloupe and 36% in Saint-Martin. The over 60 years represent 12.8% of the population. The foreign community accounts for 12.2% of the total population (compared with 32% in Saint-Martin) and comes mainly from the European continent. Between 2003 and 2008, 1,825 people settled in Saint-Barthélemy. Among them, 1,071 people come from Metropolitan France.



The tiny French-Dutch island of Saint-Martin, covering just 88km², is nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Much more than a beach-lover’s paradise, the island of Saint Martin is teeming with natural, cultural and human riches. Thanks to its climate and untouched natural heritage, the island offers unparalleled year-round watersports and outdoor activities. The capital of duty-free shopping, St. Martin is also renowned for its friendly welcome, culinary delights and lively nightlife.

The tiny French-Dutch island of Saint-Martin, covering just 88km², is nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Much more than a beach-lover’s paradise, the island of Saint Martin is teeming with natural, cultural and human riches. Thanks to its climate and untouched natural heritage, the island offers unparalleled year-round watersports and outdoor activities. The capital of duty-free shopping, St. Martin is also renowned for its friendly welcome, culinary delights and lively nightlife.

Since the early 1980s, the population of St. Martin has increased dramatically. The population of the French side of the island rose from 8,000 in 1982 to around 35,000 in 2007. More than 38,959 inhabitants live on the Dutch side.

In all, over 120 nationalities can be found on St. Martin, with significant numbers of French, Haitians, Dominicans, Americans and people from other European countries. There are also communities originating from other Caribbean islands, South America, Asia and Africa. The most widely spoken languages are English, French, Haitian, Guadeloupe and Martinique Creole, Papiamento, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian.

Most of the island’s built-up areas are situated in its low-lying zones along the coast. The capital city is Marigot, where the “Hôtel de la collectivité”, prefecture and most of the collectivity’s administrative buildings and services are located. Other towns and districts include Grand Case, Colombier, Cul-de-Sac, Quartier d’Orléans, Nettle Bay and Terres Basses.

Archaeological investigations carried out on Saint Martin since the 1950s have pointed to the presence of American Indian settlers on the island from 2000 BC until the 15th century AD. Between 800 BC and 300 BC the island was inhabited by Arawaks. Two groups are thought to have settled on the site of Hope Estate (in the hills across from today’s Route de L’Espérance, which leads to Grand Case Airport) between 200 BC and 300 BC and from 300 AD to 500 AD. Possibly from South America, these early dwellers, who were semi-nomadic, were hunters, fishermen and farmers. Further migratory waves of fishermen and farmers arrived and settled in villages.

In all, over thirty pre-Columbian settlements have been discovered on the island, in particular Baie Rouge at Terres Basses, which is of continuing interest to archaeologists. In 1400 AD the Arawaks were displaced by the much-feared cannibalistic warriors, the Caribs. Historical research suggests that the Taínos were the last American Indian people to have settled on the island in the 1500's ; they died out after the arrival of the first European colonists, who brought viruses and disease.

On St Martin’s Day, November 11th 1493, Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus, on his second journey into Antillean waters, landed on the island, naming it “Saint Martin” and marking a new discovery for the Western world.

In the heyday of 16th-century corsairs and buccaneers, the Spanish, French, Dutch, Portuguese, English and Flemish coveted the island for its protected waters and salt deposits, earning it the name of Soualiga, Land of Salt.

It was over the course of the sixteenth century that the remaining American Indian populations on the island were enslaved and deported to neighboring islands. Now too small for the conquistadors, the Spanish started to lose interest in the island and began to desert it. The Dutch began to settle on Saint Martin between 1627 and 1631 with the intention of exploiting the island’s natural salt deposits, which it required for its North American operations. The Dutch erected a fort, which provoked a spirited attack from the Spanish. The island fell under Spanish military control in 1638. The Spanish deserted Saint Martin for good in 1648, considering it to be too small (88km²) and of limited interest.

On March 23rd of the same year, the French and the Dutch settled the matter of the ownership of the island when they signed the Treaty of Concordia, named after the mountain (Mount Concordia) on which the agreement was signed. France and the Netherlands would divide the island into two parts, France occupying the northern section (54km²) and the Dutch the southern section (34km²). The Treaty recognised both the dual nationality and the unity of the island: there would be no physical border between the two nations and people and goods would move freely between the two zones. And so, Saint Martin became known as the “Friendly Island”, a name that it keeps to this day. All of the provisions of the 1648 treaty are still enforced today.

In 1713 (Treaty of Utrecht), France lost Saint Kitts (now Saint Kitts and Nevis) to the English. The administration of the French side of Saint Martin had up to this point been linked to Saint Kitts, on which the island was dependent. The loss of Saint Kitts severed all ties with France, and from this date onwards French Saint Martin could rely only on itself. In 1763 the French part of the island is annexed to the island of Guadeloupe, 250km away. Between 1775 and 1784, the white population increases from 300 to 500, and the number of slaves - mostly blacks - shipped in on trade ships or imported from neighbouring islands, increases sharply from 1000 to 2500 individuals.

In 1863 slavery was abolished on the Dutch side. Fifteen years after their French counterparts, slaves on the Dutch side are finally free. During these fifteen years, “Dutch slaves” had only to cross the border between the two zones to be free. The abolition of slavery results in a slump in trade. In spite of quality goods being produced on the island (cattle, cotton, rum and salt), the late 19th century saw an economic downturn.

In 1939 France and the Netherlands abolished customs duty and indirect taxes between the two zones (Dutch and French), which allowed for unimpeded development of commercial and economic relations between the two parts of the island. In 1943, the site of the present-day Princess Juliana International Airport (Dutch side) became a strategic US airbase and a key weapon in its arsenal against German submarines. And so, the War helped to Americanise and anglicise the population of Saint Martin/Sint Maarten, and English became the working language across the island, competing with French in the north and Dutch in the south.

By the early 1980s, tourism had taken over as the main source of revenue for the population. Successive tax exemption laws (Pons, Paul, Robien Besson and Girardin) have contributed greatly to this economic boom. The tourist economy reached new heights in 1994, with over 600,000 visitors coming through Princess Juliana Airport. In 2007, over 1,430,406 cruise ship passengers came through the deep water port at Great Bay (Dutch side). In 2007, over 2 million people visited Saint Martin.

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Page last modified: 07-09-2017 14:09:45 ZULU