Photos of Saint Martin

A view of the fort and some of the hotels at Marigot, the capital and largest town in Saint Martin.
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Introduction

Background

Although sighted by Christopher COLUMBUS in 1493 and claimed for Spain, it was the Dutch who occupied the island in 1631 to exploit its salt deposits. The Spanish retook the island in 1633, but continued to be harassed by the Dutch. The Spanish finally relinquished Saint Martin to the French and Dutch, who divided it between themselves in 1648. Friction between the two sides caused the border to frequently fluctuate over the next two centuries, with the French eventually holding the greater portion of the island (about 61%). The cultivation of sugar cane introduced African slavery to the island in the late 18th century; the practice was not abolished until 1848. The island became a free port in 1939; the tourism industry was dramatically expanded during the 1970s and 1980s. In 2003, the populace of Saint Martin voted to secede from Guadeloupe and in 2007, the northern portion of the island became a French overseas collectivity. In 2010, the southern Dutch portion of the island became the independent nation of Sint Maarten within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. On 6 September 2017, Hurricane Irma passed over the island of Saint Martin causing extensive damage to roads, communications, electrical power, and housing; the UN estimated that 90% of the buildings were damaged or destroyed.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

Geography

Location

Caribbean, located in the Leeward Islands (northern) group; French part of the island of Saint Martin in the Caribbean Sea; Saint Martin lies east of the US Virgin Islands

Geographic coordinates

18 05 N, 63 57 W

Map references

Central America and the Caribbean

Area

total: 54 sq km

land: 54.4 sq km

water: negligible

country comparison to the world: 230

Area - comparative

more than one-third the size of Washington, DC

Land boundaries

total: 16 km

border countries (1): Sint Maarten 16 km

Coastline

58.9 km (for entire island)

Climate

temperature averages 27-29 degrees Celsius all year long; low humidity, gentle trade winds, brief, intense rain showers; hurricane season stretches from July to November

Elevation

highest point: Pic du Paradis 424 m

lowest point: Caribbean Ocean 0 m

Population distribution

most of the population is found along the coast, with a largest concentrations around the capital Marigot, Orleans, and Grand-Case

Natural hazards

subject to hurricanes from July to November

Geography - note

the southern border is shared with Sint Maarten, a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands; together, these two entities make up the smallest landmass in the world shared by two self-governing states

People and Society

Ethnic groups

Creole (Mulatto), Black, Guadeloupe Mestizo (French-East Asia), White, East Indian, other

Languages

French (official), English, Dutch, French Patois, Spanish, Papiamento (dialect of Netherlands Antilles)

major-language sample(s):
The World Factbook, une source indispensable d'informations de base. (French)

The World Factbook, the indispensable source for basic information.

French audio sample:

Religions

Roman Catholic, Jehovah's Witness, Protestant, Hindu

Age structure

0-14 years: 25.63% (male 4,148/female 4,197)

15-24 years: 10.28% (male 1,647/female 1,701)

25-54 years: 46.2% (male 7,201/female 7,841)

55-64 years: 8.71% (male 1,328/female 1,508)

65 years and over: 9.17% (male 1,305/female 1,680) (2020 est.)

This is the population pyramid for Saint Martin. A population pyramid illustrates the age and sex structure of a country's population and may provide insights about political and social stability, as well as economic development. The population is distributed along the horizontal axis, with males shown on the left and females on the right. The male and female populations are broken down into 5-year age groups represented as horizontal bars along the vertical axis, with the youngest age groups at the bottom and the oldest at the top. The shape of the population pyramid gradually evolves over time based on fertility, mortality, and international migration trends. <br/><br/>For additional information, please see the entry for Population pyramid on the Definitions and Notes page.

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: NA

youth dependency ratio: NA

elderly dependency ratio: NA

potential support ratio: NA

Median age

total: 33.3 years

male: 32.5 years

female: 34.1 years (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 100

Birth rate

14.2 births/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 128

Death rate

4.56 deaths/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 206

Net migration rate

-6.09 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 210

Population distribution

most of the population is found along the coast, with a largest concentrations around the capital Marigot, Orleans, and Grand-Case

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 0.99 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 0.97 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 0.92 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.88 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.78 male(s)/female

total population: 0.92 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Infant mortality rate

total: 6.85 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 8 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 5.65 deaths/1,000 live births (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 163

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 80.36 years

male: 77.24 years

female: 83.6 years (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 48

Drinking water source

improved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: NA

unimproved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: NA

Environment

Environment - current issues

excessive population pressure (increasing settlement); waste management; salinity intrusions into the main land of the island; fresh water supply is dependent on desalination of sea water; over exploitation of marine resources (reef fisheries, coral and shell); indiscriminate anchoring of boats damages coral reefs,causing underwater pollution and changes the sediment dynamics of Saint Martin's Island

Climate

temperature averages 27-29 degrees Celsius all year long; low humidity, gentle trade winds, brief, intense rain showers; hurricane season stretches from July to November

Waste and recycling

municipal solid waste generated annually: 15,480 tons (2012 est.)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Overseas Collectivity of Saint Martin

conventional short form: Saint Martin

local long form: Collectivite d'outre mer de Saint-Martin

local short form: Saint-Martin

etymology: explorer Christopher COLUMBUS named the island after Saint MARTIN of Tours because the 11 November 1493 day of discovery was the saint's feast day

Government type

parliamentary democracy (Territorial Council); overseas collectivity of France

Dependency status

overseas collectivity of France

note: the only French overseas collectivity that is part of the EU

Capital

name: Marigot

geographic coordinates: 18 04 N, 63 05 W

time difference: UTC-4 (1 hour ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: marigot is a French term referring to a body of water, a watercourse, a side-stream, or a tributary rivulet; the name likely refers to a stream at the site of the city's original founding

Independence

none (overseas collectivity of France)

National holiday

Fete de la Federation, 14 July (1790); note - local holiday is Schoelcher Day (Slavery Abolition Day) 12 July (1848), as well as St. Martin's Day, 11 November (1985), which commemorates the discovery of the island by COLUMBUS on Saint Martin's Day, 11 November 1493; the latter holiday celebrated on both halves of the island

Constitution

history: 4 October 1958 (French Constitution)

amendments: amendment procedures of France's constitution apply

Legal system

French civil law

Citizenship

see France

Suffrage

18 years of age, universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President Emmanuel MACRON (since 14 May 2017); represented by Prefect Serge GOUTEYRON (since 16 December 2020)

head of government: President of Territorial Council Daniel GIBBS (since 2 April 2017); First Vice President Valerie DAMASEAU (since 2 April 2017)

cabinet: Executive Council; note - there is also an advisory economic, social, and cultural council

elections/appointments: French president directly elected by absolute majority popular vote in 2 rounds if needed for a 5-year term (eligible for a second term); prefect appointed by French president on the advice of French Ministry of Interior; president of Territorial Council elected by its members for a 5-year term; election last held on 26 March 2017

election results: Daniel GIBBS (TDG) elected president; Territorial Council vote - 18 votes, 4 blank, 1 invalid

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Territorial Council (23 seats; members directly elected by absolute majority vote in 2 rounds if needed to serve 5-year terms); Saint Martin elects 1 member to the French Senate and one member (shared with Saint Barthelemy) to the French National Assembly

elections: Territorial Council - last held on 18 and 25 March 2017 (next to be held in March 2022)

election results: Territorial Council - percent of vote by party (first round) - TDG 49.1%, MJP 13.7%, MVP 12.3%, HOPE 8.7%, Continuons pour Saint-Martin 6.5%, other 9.7%; seats by party - NA; percent of vote by party (second round) - TDG 64.3%, MJP 24.2%, MVP 11.5.5%; seats by party - TDG 18, MJP 4, MVP 1; composition - men 13, women 10, percent of women 43.5%

French Senate - held on 28 September 2014 (next to be held not later than September 2020) French National Assembly - last held on 11 and 18 June 2017 (next to be held by June 2022) French Senate - 1 seat: UMP 1 French National Assembly - 1 seat: UMP 1

Political parties and leaders

Continuons pour St. Martin [Aline HANSON]
En marche vers le progres or MVP [Alain RICHARDSON]
Gereration Hope or HOPE [Jules CHARVILLE]
Movement for Justice and Prosperity or MJP [Louis MUSSINGTON]
New Direction [Jeanne VANTERPOOL]
Rally Responsibility Success (Rassemblement Responsabilite Reussite or RRR [Alain RICHARDSON]
Team Daniel Gibbs 2017 or TDG [Daniel GIBBS]
Union for Progress (Union Pour le Progres or UPP) [Louis-Constant FLEMING]; affiliated with UMP

Diplomatic representation in the US

none (overseas collectivity of France)

Diplomatic representation from the US

embassy: none (overseas collectivity of France)

Flag description

the flag of France is used

National symbol(s)

brown pelican

National anthem

name: O Sweet Saint Martin's Land

lyrics/music: Gerard KEMPS

note: the song, written in 1958, is used as an unofficial anthem for the entire island (both French and Dutch sides); as a collectivity of France, in addition to the local anthem, "La Marseillaise" remains official on the French side (see France); as a constituent part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, in addition to the local anthem, "Het Wilhelmus" remains official on the Dutch side (see Netherlands)

Economy

Economic overview

The economy of Saint Martin centers on tourism with 85% of the labor force engaged in this sector. Over one million visitors come to the island each year with most arriving through the Princess Juliana International Airport in Sint Maarten. The financial sector is also important to Saint Martin’s economy as it facilitates financial mediation for its thriving tourism sector. No significant agriculture and limited local fishing means that almost all food must be imported. Energy resources and manufactured goods are also imported, primarily from Mexico and the US. Saint Martin is reported to have one of the highest per capita income in the Caribbean. As with the rest of the Caribbean, Saint Martin’s financial sector is having to deal with losing correspondent banking relationships.

In September 2017, Hurricane Irma destroyed 95% of the French side of Saint Martin. Along the coastline of Marigot, the nerve center of the economy, the storm wiped out restaurants, shops, banks and open-air markets impacting more than 36,000 inhabitants.

GDP (official exchange rate)

$561.5 million (2005 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 1% (2000)

industry: 15% (2000)

services: 84% (2000)

Industries

tourism, light industry and manufacturing, heavy industry

Labor force - by occupation

85 directly or indirectly employed in tourist industry

Exports - partners

United States 35%, Netherlands 26%, Antigua and Barbuda 21%, France 10% (2019)

Exports - commodities

gold, special use vessels, furniture, scrap aluminum, rum (2019)

Imports - partners

United States 76%, Netherlands 7%, France 7% (2019)

Imports - commodities

jewelry, diamonds, pearls, recreational boats, cars (2019)

Exchange rates

euros (EUR) per US dollar -

0.885 (2017 est.)

0.903 (2016 est.)

0.9214 (2015 est.)

0.885 (2014 est.)

0.7634 (2013 est.)

Energy

Electricity access

electrification - total population: 100% (2020)

Communications

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: fully integrated access; good interisland and international connections; broadband access; expanded FttP (Fiber to the Home) and LTE markets; regulatory development; telecom sector contributes greatly to the overall GDP; telecom sector is a growth area (2020)

domestic: direct dial capability with both fixed and wireless systems (2018)

international: country code - 590; landing points for the SMPR-1, Southern Caribbean Fiber and the SSCS submarine cables providing connectivity to numerous Caribbean islands (2019)

note: the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on production and supply chains globally; since 2020, some aspects of the telecom sector have experienced downturn, particularly in mobile device production; many network operators delayed upgrades to infrastructure; progress towards 5G implementation was postponed or slowed in some countries; consumer spending on telecom services and devices was affected by large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes; the crucial nature of telecom services as a tool for work and school from home became evident, and received some support from governments

Broadcast media

1 local TV station; access to about 20 radio stations, including RFO Guadeloupe radio broadcasts via repeater

Internet country code

.mf; note - .gp, the Internet country code for Guadeloupe, and .fr, the Internet country code for France, might also be encountered

Internet users

total: 1,100

percent of population: 3.5% (July 2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 224

Transportation

Airports - with paved runways

total: 1

914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2019)

Transportation - note

nearest airport for international flights is Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM) located on Sint Maarten

Military and Security

Military - note

defense is the responsibility of France