ART & CULTURE
The French side has a carnival just before Lent. There are the usual events over several days leading up to the big festivities at the carnival grounds just outside Marigot. The Dutch side does it all over again in April on their carnival grounds near Philipsburg: bands, parades, calypso, rum, Heineken, etc. You have to see it to believe it, and the best place to see it from is in downtown Phillipsburg.
The first European settlers on St. Maarten were: the Dutch
They officially claimed the island in 1631 and built a Fort on the peninsula, between Great Bay and Little Bay.
The Spanish invaded the island in 1633. At the time the population consisted of 95 Dutch men, 2 Dutch women, 20 Negro men and 10 Negro women, and one Indian woman. The Dutch loss of St Maarten, led to the conquest of Curaçao.
The Spanish occupied St. Maarten until 1648. During their occupation they expanded the fort. The Dutch made an attempt to recapture St. Maarten in 1644. Peter Stuyvesant failed to do so and lost his leg during this battle.
In 1874 Fort Amsterdam was used for the last time with the firing of a canon in honour of King William III silver reigning anniversary.
In 1987 a group of Dutch archaeologists, coordinated by Jan Baart (from Amsterdam), excavated a large portion of the fort during a three month stay. Some of the most important findings were the skeleton of a Spanish officer who died in the battle with the Dutch in 1644 and artefacts from Spanish, Dutch and English occupations of St. Maarten.
FORT ST. LOUIS
Overlooking Marigot Bay on the leeward side of the island sits the imposing figure of Fort St. Louis, the largest historical monument in St.Martin. Named for the famous crusading king of France, it was originally built in 1767 to protect the settlement at Marigot from foreign invaders. The plans were sent over directly from Versailles at the order of the ill-fated French king, Louis XVI. Following the events of 1789, the fort was temporarily occupied by the Dutch to prevent the further spread of revolutionary democracy which had reached the island from Guadeloupe.
Currently this historical site is accessible via the steep climb up to the summit providing a panoramic view of the island and the sea surrounding it. The area is open 24/7 and there are signs explaining historical events.
THE SALT INDUSTRY
Salt has always been a precious natural resource for people. The Arawaks named the island “Soualugia”, meaning land of Salt. When the Dutch moored on St. Maarten (1624) to repair damage they had sustained during their voyage, they soon “discovered” The Great Salt Pond. This was a major find, because now they had access to a vast supply of valuable goods. The salt was sold to traders in the Caribbean and “New England” in the USA. St. Maarten had become very important to them. The salt was stored at three locations in Philipsburg without protection from the elements. If, for a prolonged period of time there was no rain, the salt yields were very substantial. The salt industry was a very hard life for all those involved in it. During harvest season (6 – 7 months of the year) at least 500 people, including children and senior citizens, slaves and free citizens from the Dutch and the French side of the island, would work in different groups with each person having a special task to fulfil. The Dutch side stopped production of salt in 1949, to be followed by the French side in 1967. After which the salt industry came to an end on the island.
HMS Proselyte (shipwrecked 1801, Great bay)
H.M.S Proselyte was originally a Dutch war Frigate, named “Jason”, and was built in Rotterdam in 1770. After a mutiny, the ship was handed over to the British Royal Navy in June 1796. The British altered it from a 36 piece (canon) to a 32 piece (canon) and renamed it H.M.S. “PROSELYTE”. The Ship sank in full view of Philipsburg on September 2nd, 1801 when it hit a coral reef. The “PROSELYTE” today lies on her starboard side just beyond the mouth of Great Bay at Philipsburg. The “PROSELYTE Reef” has become a popular dive site.
FLORA & FAUNA
St. Maarten has a wide variety of different habitats which determine the flora and fauna of the island.
THE TREATY OF CONCORDIA
Treaty of Concordia
The treaty of Concordia or the partition treaty of 1648 was an agreement signed by the Dutch and the French to divide the island of St. Maarten in two, A French side and a Dutch side. Even though the original document disappeared, the treaty is still valid to this day.
CULTURAL CONTACTS ON LOCAL LEVEL
The St. Maarten Nature Foundation
The St. Maarten Pride Foundation
SIMARC (Sint Maarten Archaeological Center)
EPIC ( Environmental Protection in the Caribbean)
Emilio Wilson Historical and Culture Foundation
Emilio Wilson Estate Management foundation
The St. Maarten Monument Preservation Foundation
The Philipsburg Jubilee Library
Museum "Sur la Trace des Arawaks, Marigot, St. Martin
ON NATIONAL LEVEL
NAAM (Nat. Archaeological Anthropological Memory Management)
ON INTERNATIONAL LEVEL
MAC (Museum Association of the Caribbean)