World Fruits

St. Martin has some delicious native fruit trees, but many favorites were brought from other places. The Mango and Pomme Surette come from Asia originally and were brought during the colonial period. Other fruits were probably brought by Amerindian people during prehistoric times, like the Papaya and Kinnip. All of these trees have been part of the local landscape for generations, and their fruit is part of local culture and cuisine.

Mango (Mangifera indica) is perhaps the most popular fruit on St. Martin and in the Caribbean. The tree is originally from South Asia. There are many varieties. The “Julie” is one that is particularly popular on St. Martin. Usually mango trees produce a tremendous amount of fruit in early summer. Hurricanes or drought can disrupt this, causing trees to bear fruit at other times or not at all.

Papaya (Carica papaya) is grown all over St. Martin. The name “papaya” comes from the Arawak language. The Spanish adopted the word from the Amerindians they met in the Caribbean. Studies show the plant itself is native to Mexico, and was spread by Amerindian peoples during prehistoric times. Today, many enjoy its colorful fruit. Papaya fruit, seeds, leaves and roots are also used in bush medicine, to aid digestion and get rid of worms.

The Kinnip (Melicoccus bijugatus) is a popular fruit on St. Martin. When it’s in season, kids sell clusters of these small green fruits on the roadside. Beneath the skin of the kinnip is a thin layer of sweet pulp and a large seed. The kinnip tree is native to South America, and was probably brought to the Caribbean by Amerindians during prehistoric times.

The Jujube (Ziziphus mauritiana) has many names, but on St. Martin it is almost always called Pomme Surette, even by English speakers. It is originally from Asia, but has been introduced to many tropical areas. It was probably brought here for its fruit, but its leaves are also used to feed goats and other animals. It sends down deep roots quickly, helping it survive dry conditions.

New Stories at the Amuseum!

Building a guest house, surviving a hurricane, harvesting salt, teaching painting: St. Martin people have many stories to tell. At Amuseum Naturalis, we have added an exhibit with six stories from six St. Martiners. You can read in their own words about their life experiences and accomplishments. In every story, you can learn about the way St. Martin once was, and how it came to be the way it is today. Visit the Amuseum for free!

Special thanks to the participants who shared their stories and the Les Fruits de Mer interview teams that recorded these oral histories!

The Book of Cures at Amuseum Naturalis

Would you like to explore medicine and life on St. Martin in the 19th century? Amuseum Naturalis recently added a new exhibit featuring a 19th century medical notebook from St. Martin. The exhibit explores the text of the notebook and what it can tell us about St. Martin at that time. The exhibit is in the front yard of Amuseum Naturalis, visit any time during the day. You can also download a book on the same topic here: The Book of Cures.

Caribbean Curiosities

Dive into the wild world of St. Martin wildlife and nature. Caribbean Curiosities explores all kinds of unique nature stories happening all around us on St. Martin.

Use the links below to download it for free, or order it online if you’re not on St. Martin. If you are on St. Martin and would like to get a print copy, visit Librarie du Bord de Mer in Marigot, or send a message to info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

If you are a teacher or work with kids, contact us and we will do our best to provide copies for your class or group. If you or your business want to help us provide copies to schools, let us know!

Caribbean Curiosities

Take a deeper dive into some of the amazing plants and animals of St. Martin. St. Martin is full of unique animals. Many are found only in the Caribbean, and some are found only on St. Martin. Each species has its own story, and exploring this rich natural heritage is a fascinating way to explore the island. Learning how our wildlife became so unique is also a great way to understand the way all life has evolved and diversified. From prehistoric times to the present day, one of the most important ways humans have impacted St. Martin is by introducing new animal and plant species. Discover them through tales of animals that were brought to St. Martin by people and how these new species have changed the island. How has the island been changed forever by these new arrivals and what are they doing right now to change the island’s future?
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Download the book (PDF, 86 pages, 10MB).

Curiosités des Caraïbes

Caribbean Curiosities examine de plus près certains des animaux et plantes fascinants, qui met en valeur l’histoire naturelle de St. Martin et des Caraïbes.
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Shadow of a Drought

Have you ever wondered why St. Martin can seem so lush and green in November and so dry in April? How is climate change impacting nature and people? Shadow of a Drought uses striking images of the 2015 drought to explore some of these questions.

Use the links below to download it for free, or order it online if you’re not on St. Martin. If you are on St. Martin and would like to get a print copy, visit Librarie du Bord de Mer in Marigot, or send a message to info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

If you are a teacher or work with kids, contact us and we will do our best to provide copies for your class or group. If you or your business want to help us provide copies to schools, let us know!

Shadow of a Drought

Shadow-of-a-Drought-web

During 2015 drought conditions impacted much of the Caribbean. This photo essay documents some of the impacts of drought on St. Martin. It was produced by Les Fruits de Mer as a companion piece to the 2015 Migratory Bird Festival. All photos and text by Mark Yokoyama. Translation into French by Jennifer Yerkes.
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Download it as an ebook: English (PDF, 30 Pages)French (PDF, 30 pages)

En 2015, les conditions de sécheresse ont touché une grande partie des Caraïbes. Cet essai photographique documente certains des effets de la sécheresse sur Saint-Martin.
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Eye on Endemics

St. Martin and the Caribbean are special because there are many unique animals that live here and nowhere else. Get to know them and learn how adaptation and survival created these exceptional animals.

Use the links below to download it for free, or order it online if you’re not on St. Martin. If you are on St. Martin and would like to get a print copy, visit Librarie du Bord de Mer in Marigot, or send a message to info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

If you are a teacher or work with kids, contact us and we will do our best to provide copies for your class or group. If you or your business want to help us provide copies to schools, let us know!

Eye on Endemics: Caribbean Originals

This book showcases over a dozen animal species that are found only on the island of St. Martin or only in the Caribbean region. Get to know two species of lizard that live only on St. Martin. Discover insects you can’t see anywhere else. Find out which common birds on the island are Caribbean originals. And learn why there are so many unique animals on St. Martin!
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Download the book (PDF, 64 pages, 5MB).

Regard sur les Espèces Endémiques : Uniques aux Caraïbes

Ce livre présente plus d’une douzaine d’espèces animales que l’on ne trouve que sur l’île de Saint-Martin ou dans la région des Caraïbes. Apprenez à connaître deux espèces de lézards qui vivent uniquement à Saint-Martin. Rencontrez des insectes que vous ne pouvez voir nulle part ailleurs. Découvrez quels oiseaux communs sur l’île sont uniques aux Caraïbes. Et apprenez pourquoi il y a tant d’animaux uniques à Saint-Martin!
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Achetez une copie.

Pond Life

Ponds on St. Martin are amazing places full of birds and other life. Take a closer look at our amazing ponds and all the creatures that live there in the book Pond Life.

Use the links below to download it for free, or order it online if you’re not on St. Martin. If you are on St. Martin and would like to get a print copy, visit Librarie du Bord de Mer in Marigot, or send a message to info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

If you are a teacher or work with kids, contact us and we will do our best to provide copies for your class or group. If you or your business want to help us provide copies to schools, let us know!

Pond Life

If you like your ecosystems wet and wild, then you will love Pond Life. Each chapter explores a different view into these ever-changing wild spaces. How do they transform with the seasons? What has changed in recent years? How do they reflect centuries of history? Like St. Martin itself, life on the pond is rich and always in motion. Ponds connect sea and land, human and nature, past and present: dive in, and discover.
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Download the book (PDF, 70 pages, 9MB).

La vie des étangs

Si vous aimez découvrir d’incroyables écosystèmes, vous allez adorer La vie des étangs. Chaque chapitre explore une vision différente de ces espaces sauvages en constante évolution. Comment se transforment-ils avec les saisons? Qu’est-ce qui a changé ces dernières années? Comment reflètent-ils des siècles d’histoire? Comme Saint-Martin lui-même, la vie sur l’étang est riche et toujours en mouvement. Les étangs relient la mer et la terre, les humains et la nature, le passé et le présent–et vous invitent à la découverte!
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The Book of Cures

Take a unique journey into St. Martin’s past through the pages of a notebook full of medical recipes. Find out what this unique artifact can tell us about life in the 19th century Caribbean.

Use the links below to download it for free, or order it online if you’re not on St. Martin. If you are on St. Martin and would like to get a print copy, visit Librarie du Bord de Mer in Marigot, or send a message to info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

If you are a teacher or work with kids, contact us and we will do our best to provide copies for your class or group. If you or your business want to help us provide copies to schools, let us know!

The Book of Cures

In a small notebook, an unknown 19th-century author on the island of St. Martin recorded medical remedies and other useful information. Preserved for perhaps 200 years, through hurricanes and other calamities, this book of cures provides a unique window into life on St. Martin. Dive into this unique artifact on a page-by-page journey of discovery.
Buy the book.
Download the book for free. (PDF, 38 pages)

 

Le Cahier de Remèdes

Au 19ème siècle, sur l’île de Saint-Martin, un auteur inconnu a consigné des remèdes et autres informations utiles dans un petit cahier. Préservé pendant quelque 200 ans, après avoir survécu aux ouragans et autres calamités, ce cahier de remèdes offre une fenêtre unique sur la vie de l’époque à Saint-Martin. Page après page, plongez dans ce cahier extraordinaire et partez pour un voyage de découverte.
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Téléchargez une copie gratuite.

Wild Things!

Wild Things! is a book that tells some amazing stories about animals on St. Martin. Learn which animals are found only on this island and nowhere else in the world. Explore caves and freshwater habitats. Find out how animals introduced by people are transforming the island.

Use the links below to download it for free, or order it online if you’re not on St. Martin. If you are on St. Martin and would like to get a print copy, visit Librarie du Bord de Mer in Marigot, or send a message to info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

If you are a teacher or work with kids, contact us and we will do our best to provide copies for your class or group. If you or your business want to help us provide copies to schools, let us know!

Wild Things! Animals of St. Martin

Get to know the wild things of St. Martin! This entertaining overview of St. Martin’s land and freshwater wildlife will take you all over the island. Discover the unique animals living on the island of St. Martin. Learn about animals that live nowhere else in the world, explore caves and freshwater streams and find out how recently arrived species are changing the island.
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Download the book! (PDF, 46 pages).

Le Côté Sauvage!: Les Animaux de Saint-Martin

Découvrez les histoires incroyables de la faune de Saint-Martin! Apprenez à connaître les animaux qui ne vivent qu’ici, les nouveaux arrivants qui changent l’île, les bestioles qui crient la nuit et bien plus encore!
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Bugs in Paradise

Enjoy exciting images and amusing verses about some of St. Martin’s littlest critters in the book Bugs in Paradise.

Use the links below to download it for free, or order it online if you’re not on St. Martin. If you are on St. Martin and would like to get a print copy send a message to info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

If you are a teacher or work with kids, contact us and we will do our best to provide copies for your class or group. If you or your business want to help us provide copies to schools, let us know!

Bugs in Paradise

Bugs-in-Paradise-web

For our coming festival
We thought it would be nice
To make an ebook just for kids
Called Bugs in Paradise.
With photos to astound the eye
Of creatures where they dwell
The text is written all in verse
And will delight as well.
Buy the book.
Download the ebook (PDF, 24 pages, 3.2MB).

St. Martin Wildlife Guide

Are you curious about the wildlife of St. Martin? Get to know many of the creatures great and small that share the island with us. The St. Martin wildlife book is available in English and French.

Use the links below to download it for free, or order it online if you’re not on St. Martin. If you are on St. Martin and would like to get a print copy, visit Van Dorp in Madame Estate or Librarie du Bord de Mer in Marigot, or send a message to info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

If you are a teacher or work with kids, contact us and we will do our best to provide copies for your class or group. If you or your business want to help us provide copies to schools, let us know!

The Incomplete Guide to the Wildlife of Saint Martin

2nd-ed-guide-cover-web
Called “the best, and most complete, natural history book I have read about any single Caribbean island” by Dr. James “Skip” Lazell, the updated and expanded second edition of this wildlife guide is a unique volume covering all the terrestrial wildlife of St. Martin, from mammals and birds to reptiles and insects. It includes over 500 color photographs, and features hundreds of species, including those which are found only on St. Martin. The text includes detailed information about both the biology and the local history of the animals featured and is written to be accessible to persons of all ages and backgrounds.
Buy the book.
Download the book for free. (PDF, 130 pages)

 

Guide incomplet a la faune sauvage de Saint-Martin

edition-francaise-cover-web

Le Guide incomplet de la faune sauvage de Saint-Martin présente la faune terrestre de l’ile, des mammifères aux oiseaux sans oublier les insectes et araignées. Ce guide décrit des centaines d’espèces et comprend plus de 500 photos en couleur. En plus de décrire les animaux sauvages, ce livre fournit des informations sur l’écologie des espèces et leurs habitats. Ce livre constitue un guide de terrain unique sur les animaux sauvages de Saint Martin et de la région Caraïbe.
Téléchargez une copie gratuite.
Achetez une copie.

Plantilles: Plants of St. Martin

Curious about St. Martin plants and their role in history and culture? Check out Plantilles: Plants of St. Martin, a brand new book all about St. Martin’s plants.

Use the links below to download it for free, or order it online if you’re not on St. Martin. If you are on St. Martin and would like to get a print copy, visit Librarie du Bord de Mer in Marigot, or send a message to info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

If you are a teacher or work with kids, contact us and we will do our best to provide copies for your class or group. If you or your business want to help us provide copies to schools, let us know!

Plantilles: Plants of St. Martin

Plantilles is a book about plants and plant traditions on St. Martin. It tells the stories of native plants and how they survive on the island, farming and bush medicine traditions and the importance of plants in culture. It also includes a guide to local flowers.
Buy the book.
Download the book! (PDF, 95 pages).

 

Plantilles: Plantes de Saint-Martin

Saint-Martin est recouverte de plantes, et Plantilles vous donne l’opportunité d’en apprendre plus sur elles! Les plantes indigènes de l’île sont vitales pour toute vie à Saint-Martin, et elles ont des pouvoirs étonnants pour survivre aux sécheresses et aux tempêtes. Les gens dépendent aussi des plantes. Elles sont cultivées pour la nourriture et la médecine. Les traditions végétales de Saint-Martin remontent à des milliers d’années. Ces traditions proviennent de cultures différentes, notamment Amérindiennes et Africaines. Découvrez ces plantes et traditions fascinantes, et apprenez à reconnaître plusieurs des belles plantes que vous voyez chaque jour! Traduit de l’anglais par Jenn Yerkes, Amandine Vaslet et Julie Quéau.
Achetez une copie.
Download the book! (PDF, 95 pages).

The Serenaders

Tamara’s interview was recorded in April 2019 at Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House.

Local poet and entrepreneur Tamara Groenveldt shared some of her favorite St. Martin Christmas traditions in an interview in 2019:

Every family would do their potato pudding and on Christmas day they would visit different families and of course you would be exchanging foods. And of course, coconut tarts, guavaberry tarts, that’s a very big one at Christmas time.

We have sorrel, I like the juice, I’m not a big drinker. We have lime punch as well. We also have guavaberry punch. That’s a staple at Christmas time. Every family has a bottle in their house. And everyone usually knew how to make their own guavaberry rum as well. You would usually get the guavaberry and you put it to soak for at least a year. And then that would be what you would serve the serenaders when they would come by at four o’clock or whatever time in the morning.

Guavaberry tart is a St. Martin Christmas tradition. (Photo by St. Martin’s Sweetness)

So we still have serenading happening in Grand Case. We have a group of people who have decided to preserve that part of our history and they would go and they would serenade every year. It is important to me because growing up, I remember serenaders coming to your home. And it would be persons like Tanny and the Boys that were playing string band music. So they would come with like, the bath pan and the triangle, the grater with the afro pick. And they would be playing this traditional music.

They would usually sing something along the lines of “Open the door because the dew is falling on us.” So they would call your name, they would say “Charlie, open the door, open the door, for the dew is falling on us.” And so then you would have to get up at three to four in the morning, whatever time it was, and you would open your door and you should always have something prepared to give to the serenaders.

So they would want the bush tea, or they would want the guavaberry rum. If you have the potato pudding. And every household that they visit, you have to have something to offer the serenaders, ‘cause they’re coming and they’re playing for you. They’re out on your porch and they’re just playin’ all this music: “Mama make your johnny cakes, Christmas comin’!” It was amazing.

Guava and coconut tarts are also popular at Christmas time. (Photo by St. Martin’s Sweetness)

Because those persons in Grand Case still do it to keep tradition alive, it really helps me to feel the Christmas spirit. And I feel like when, some years ago, when there were all types of laws that came into being to regulate serenaders, I think that’s what actually helped our tradition of serenading to go down the drain. Because what happened was, according to how I understand it, persons who came to live on the island, who were not familiar with serenading, they started calling the gendarmes and the police and saying that these persons are disturbing us when we are trying to sleep.

Now traditionally, it is St. Martin tradition for you to come in those wee hours in the morning to serenade your friends and family and neighbors with beautiful St. Martin music. Now those persons who actually put the complaints in, they do not understand who we are as a people or what we do as a people. And by putting those laws and regulations in place, telling persons that, okay, you need to now get a permit to serenade, you know a lot of the locals felt like, “Why do I need to get a permit to serenade? I’ve been doing this for many years. It has never been a problem. This is who we are. I’m just not going to do it.”

So they refused to do it and that was what, in my opinion, helped the serenading part of our tradition to go down the drain. So kudos to the persons who are actually trying to revive it and keep it alive so that the younger generation can come in and know, or at least feel what it felt like to be serenaded by your neighbors or family or persons even coming from the other side of the island, the southern side of the island, to play music for family and friends at Christmas time.

Special thanks to the Les Fruits de Mer oral history team: Laura Bijnsdorp, Veronica Duzant, Charlie Gombis and Vida Hodge.

Learn more about Tamara’s company and their traditional St. Martin baked goods: St. Martin’s Sweetness.

A Christmas Story

Christmas house is always alive with vibrant colors and good cheer.

Christmas House is one of St. Martin’s most popular and unique attractions. It is a tradition that goes back over 30 years and has touched many thousands of lives. It can bring a smile to anyone in the world, and it is also a deep expression of St. Martin culture.

It all started as something simple. Bernadine Arnell Joe decorated her own home, and it became a place for family and friends to enjoy the holiday spirit. In her words, “We started from scratch. We made a little tree and the neighbors would come and the children would come and then it start growing. Then you start putting it outside and then people start coming and now it’s very popular.”

Today, Christmas House is still at the home of Bernadine and her daughter Monique Joe. Monique is the President of the Good Friends Association, which was created in 1987 to manage Christmas House as it grew.

Bernadine Arnell Joe tells the story of Christmas House.

Monique remembers family working together to create something for the neighborhood children: “My mother used to do a little Christmas deco in the yard and the neighbor children used to come around. I also had an uncle in The States who used to send little decorations. When I finished my studies, I also wanted give the children a little party in the yard and from there it grew to the Christmas house.”

The Christmas House has always been free. Visitors can make a donation, but there has never been a fee to enter. In the 1980s “the island was bloomin’.” Local merchants would provide candy and toys for the kids. Today, grants and supporters like Super U help make Christmas House possible.

It was designed for kids, but as Monique says, “and of course we have the goodies for the parents. Mom always used to make the cake and the puddin’ and the punch, so we are famous for that.” Celebrating the local heritage of the island is a big part of the experience: guavaberry punch, coconut tarts and other local Christmas traditions are always shared.

After Hurricane Irma, many assumed that Christmas House would not be open in 2017. The house was damaged and many of the decorations were lost. As Bernadine recalls, “when I looked out the morning after, I thought this is it. All the stuff was put aside outside there, messed up.”

But Santa himself seemed to send a message. “There was a Santa standing up on the roof there, looking out at the street. And I said, but this is a sign. And then we had some flowers from garlands that stayed up from last year and they were still there. I said, with all this destruction and these things stay there, we have to do something. And with that spirit, we did something.”

The Birds Are Going in a Strange Direction

Josianne’s interview was recorded in April 2019 at Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House.

Hurricane Donna struck St. Martin on September 4th, 1960. It caused extensive damage and several deaths. Josianne Fleming-Artsen recounted her childhood memories of Hurricane Donna in an interview in 2019:

My name is Josianne Fleming-Artsen. I was born in Aruba because my parents went to Aruba for the Lago oil industry. At that time my father was moving around. Moved from Santo Domingo to Aruba and we were born there. Lago laid off the St. Martin people first who were working in Aruba and so we were to return to St. Martin in 1960.

That was the first time I flew on an airplane. I was maybe seven or eight years old, I think around that age. We came to St. Martin and we landed on this very simple airport. I think that was the first of August, around that time. The hurricane came a month later. That hurricane was Donna.

That was the first experience of us with the hurricane. In those days we had no phones and all of that and no weather reports. My father probably learned a lot when he was at Santo Domingo. He knew about the weather. He knew about birds. He knew about these things.

I remember him being in the garden and it was a very quiet day and there was no breeze; it was like the quiet before the storm and he said, “Something is going to happen.” He was looking up, he said, “The birds are going in a strange direction.” He said he’s going to bar-up the house because he said we have to get ready for weather. That same night around twelve o’clock Hurricane Donna came and destroyed St. Martin.

I remember that night because I was my father’s girl, so my daddy anytime he was up I’m up too. I remember him trying to keep the windows down and the doors that were in between. I was like, “What is going on here?” When we got up the next morning, I remember seeing all the trees were like, no leaves, everything was like a war zone in St. Martin.

I remember every morning, every day, the government brought us food, rations we called it at that time. A big truck would come and you would get water. You would get oil for cooking. You would get flour because flour was a good commodity. You could make your Johnny cakes and you could make bread. Those three things, I remember clearly that we received on a very regular basis.

Fast forwarding, all the repairs that were done were done with jollification. People would help each other repair their roofs, whatever needed to be done. It would be people coming together on a weekend, Saturday and Sunday was to help each other. The owner of the house would then prepare a big pot of food and everybody would chip in and help. That has been going on since I know St. Martin.

Special thanks to the Les Fruits de Mer oral history team: Laura Bijnsdorp, Veronica Duzant, Charlie Gombis and Vida Hodge.

Stories Between the Pages

In a clothbound ledger of salt production accounting from Pierre Beauperthuy’s collection, there are hints of many stories about the salt business and life on St. Martin from 1935 to 1950. The stories are hidden in expenses and timesheets and sales of salt to different ships.

Royalty shares for salt production rights.

Tucked between the pages of this ledger a few scraps of paper have even more to tell us. A small rectangle of paper shows the “Royalty for Salt Ponds for year 1941.” It shows the royalty shares for investors, 1/8 to L.C. Fleming, 1/6 to D.C. v Romondt & Co, 1/3 to D. Beauperthuy and 3/8 to L.R. v Romondt’s sons. The total amount is 205.25 francs.

Payment receipt for the salt royalty fee.

Also tucked in to the ledger is an official form from Guadeloupe. It is a receipt for the payment of the 200 francs royalty fee for the right to produce salt on the salt pond in St. Martin. It doesn’t specify the pond, but perhaps it covers all the ponds on the French side, and the 205.25 francs collected from the various families was for paying this fee.

These papers help us see how salt production was managed collectively. They also show the relationships between the families with wealth at the time. Perhaps it tell us something about the unity on the island that these ponds were shared resources, managed cooperatively.

A tally of salt picking work.

Another sheet of paper shows personal relationships in a different way. It is a list of names, each one followed by a set of numbers added together. The page has no title, but it is almost certain that the people were salt pickers at the Orient Bay pond. The numbers were the barrels of salt picked per day. The names themselves certainly sound familiar: Alice Barry, Jane Hyman, Joseph Fleming, Susan Richardson, James Gumbs, Martha Brooks, Carmen Illidge and many more. They are people with family still living in French Quarter today.

In one way, this sheet of paper captures something almost timeless. The names have been St. Martin names for generations. The salt picking was done in a way that goes back hundreds of years. The ponds themselves and the spring sun that dries them out until the salt blows are far older still.

But this salt picking tally was actually written on the back of a notice sent by a trading company called Merritt and Critchley. Dated February 14, 1941, it announced that the company could no longer ship oils in metal containers, including kerosene and cooking oils. It had also finally got a license to sell rope again. These restrictions were put in place by the U.S. government as it began to control materials needed for the Allied war effort in WWII.

Trade restrictions due to WWII.

In 1941, local people picked salt in the traditional manner. In many ways they were distant from the outside world. But as a faraway war gathered steam, they would face hardships, being cut off from some of the goods they used in daily life.

If you want to take a closer look at these papers, visit http://soualibra.com and go to the Archives page to download them.

Stories Between the Lines

A salt production ledger.

A clothbound ledger from Pierre Beauperthuy’s collection has “Beauperthuy Heirs Salt Sales and Expenditures” written on the cover in faded ink. Inside there are tall columns of income and expenses. Though it doesn’t have the thrill of a great novel, perhaps there are some stories hidden between the lines.

The first section is a tally of purchases and salt sales. It starts in August, 1935. Some of the first items include a pair of oars that cost 78 francs, and another pair that cost 25. The first income noted was salt sold to the schooner Inèse on September 30th. These entries continue for fifteen dense pages, ending in April of 1950.

This ledger tells a lot about the economics of salt production. Royalties are paid for the salt ponds and profits are paid out to shareholders. Costs for purchases like paint, rope, hoe picks and even a journal are recorded.

Some typical entries.

The ledger also gives us a sense of the ebb and flow of work on the salt pond. Salt is sold to various boats throughout the year. For each ship there is the value of the salt and of “shipping expenses” which probably covered the labor of bagging the salt and loading it onto the ship.

Salt reaping is usually done during the spring dry season. In 1936, the costs of salt reaping are recorded in a series of entries from May 2nd to June 5th. In 1937, no reaping is recorded, and only four sales of salt are recorded from June to the end of the year. There are only three sales in all of 1938. The expense of salt reaping in 1938 is recorded in January 1939. It seems to be a somewhat unpredictable business.

The cost of salt reaping may show the difference from one harvest to the next. In 1939, 11,557 francs were paid for reaping. In 1940, it was only 4,484 and in 1941 it was only 2,373. A low yield can be picked more quickly and cheaply, but the workers earn less and there is less salt to sell.

A year of sales and expenses.

The names of the ships are recorded for each sale. Inèse I and Inèse II, Nina and Nina II, and Louisa B come to pick up salt many times over the years. Ships like Javeline and Restless only appear once in this ledger. Each ship leads to a unique story of maritime trade and the connections between islands.

A few entries in the ledger leave us with little mysteries. On September 30, 1936, there is a 25 franc expense for “Truck (salt shipping)” and a 60 franc expense for “Donkey.” Was this a moment when machines were taking over the work done by animals? On December 30th, 1937, 54 francs are spent on a trap door. Where was that, and is it still there?

If you want to take a closer look at this journal, visit http://soualibra.com and go to the Archives page to download it.

We Used to Eat Fresh Things

Delphine David shares some of her memories in 2018 at the White and Yellow Cross Care Foundation.

Many people who grew up on St. Martin before the tourism era remember hard times. The search for work abroad separated many families. At home, it often took hard work and resourcefulness to make ends meet. In an interview in 2018, Delphine David shared some of her memories:

My name is Delphine David, born the 11th of October, 1940 on St. Martin. My mother taught us to cook from young, and secondly, my father was in Aruba. So, my mother had to be the father and mother. So, when she go out to make a dollar, I had to stay home and mind the other brothers and sister. Many days I couldn’t go to school, ‘cause I had to stay home with them.

I used to make johnny cake, fry up johnny cake, with them, with the bush tea. My favorite thing was fish and dumpling. And fried chicken, I had to kill the chicken and then cook it. So, we used to eat fresh things in those days. It’s not like now, you go in the shop and buy a box of chicken. No, I had to go out there and catch a fowl, clean it, season it and cook it for them.

Chicken in its original packaging.

When I was growing up, things were so bad with my mother that she will buy a bag of flour, a big bag of flour. And where she throw the flour, I don’t know. But she used to take the bag, the flour bag, wash it good, put it in the sun, let the sun draw out the marks. She used to crochet, so she will take that bag, measure us, and crochet right around, fix our waist, tie our waist with a string, and that was our outfit.

At the tender age of fifteen years, I went on to Aruba. I lived there for sixteen years. Got married and I divorced. I came home with my two kids.

Sometimes we’d go on a beach, celebrate parties on the beach. The music box in the tree. And a barbecue grill, we was barbecuing chicken, spare ribs. And we had a coal pot cooking rice, rice and peas. We left home with everything raw and when we reach there, we cook it.

Living as a single mother alone with two kids, all I can remember is that I worked very hard. But after I raised my two kids, send them on to scholarship, they’re my happy life. Never had no one to worry about.

Local Climate

Sargassum on the beach is a local impact from a global problem.

There are huge challenges in this world. It is easy to get overwhelmed by them. St. Martin is a small place. We can make choices, but we can’t solve the big problems. St. Martin can’t stop the burning of the Amazon rainforest, lower global greenhouse gas emissions or create a vaccine for coronavirus. Some problems, like the great Pacific garbage patch or huge forest fires, are distant. Some are almost invisible, like the mass extinction of plants and animals.

Climate change is both a global problem and a local one on St. Martin. The islands of the Caribbean create less than 1% of greenhouse gas emissions. They can go green and lead by example, but they can’t change the world. St. Martin can’t fix global warming.

At the same time, the St. Martin is more impacted by climate change than most places. These changes are already happening and they are easy to notice. Models predict tropical storms will be more frequent and more severe. They also predict our area will become drier, and we have had unusually dry weather every year since 2014. We think climate change is one of the factors bringing huge amounts of sargassum algae to the Caribbean in the last decade.

Knowing how to farm well on St. Martin was important in the past. (Photo: Nationaal Archief)

Many things cascade from these big changes. Hurricanes threaten human life, tourism and nature. Droughts hurt farmers, livestock and wildlife. Sargassum is a nightmare for beach tourism. It can also hurt marine life and fishing.

St. Martin can’t stop climate change. But local action can change the future on the island. Building for stronger hurricanes can make people safer. Mangroves and coral reefs also protect people from storm surge. Diverse native forests can help wildlife survive droughts. These actions all benefit people, nature and the economy over the long term.

Learning from the past is a key part of local action. People on St. Martin learned how to build homes that could survive storms. Farmers timed their crops with the wet and dry seasons. People fished the ponds when the seas were too rough.

Local building wisdom is a survival skill.

In the past, people spend more time outside. They interacted with nature. They depended on their knowledge of the island. A hundred years ago, no one would have been surprised by rain in November or dry hills in April.

St. Martin can’t change the atmosphere, but it can change its own destiny. Learning from elders is a first step. They can help us see what has already changed. We can save their hard-earned wisdom before it disappears. They survived many similar challenges. What they learned can help us improve the future.

Do you have some wisdom to share? Write in to The Daily Herald or info@lesfruitsdemer.com and share it with us.

In Theory and in Life

During the 1980s and 1990s, a pair of professors from the United States wrote many articles about tourism, development and sustainability in the Caribbean. Klaus de Albuquerque taught sociology and anthropology. Jerome L. McElroy was an economics professor. Their work presented a view of the future that looks a lot like our present.

One of their breakthroughs was to look at Caribbean destinations through the lens of the product life cycle model. In this model, the life of a product is broken into the stages of introduction, growth, maturity and decline. For example, compact discs were new and the players were expensive in the early 1980s. They became more popular in the 1990s, but have declined in this century as other products replaced them.

For Caribbean islands, they described the first phase as “initial discovery.” More adventurous tourists looking for unspoiled nature or new experiences start to find an island. The tourism is small-scale, and local people start businesses to serve these tourists.

Local culture was important to St. Martin’s first tourists. (Photo by Boy Lawson)

The professors describe the growth phase as one of rapid change. Foreign money comes in, and an island becomes known internationally. Large hotels and cruise ship piers are built. Governments offer tax incentives to investors.

Mature destinations have an economy that depends on tourism, though growth is slowing. Man-made attractions, like casinos and shopping, replace natural attractions that may be degraded and overcrowded. Both nature and the local population can be stressed by the number of tourists.

When speaking to St. Martiners and long-time visitors, it is easy to see these phases in what people experienced. Development was not on the same timeline all over the island, but the 1950s to the 1970s was largely a period of early visitors enjoying local nature and culture.

Many locals remember a St. Martin full of local businesses that transformed in the 1980s. The development of Mullet Bay is often seen as a landmark in tourism and foreign development. Meanwhile, French tax incentives brought money from France. During this boom, businesses flourished, the population grew and the island changed. Local people took part in that growth to a degree, but the role of local culture and locally-owned business declined.

Locals like Jeanne Louise “Ma Chance” Duzant Chance were the pioneers of St. Martin’s food culture.

St. Martin’s tourist industry had hit maturity by the time Hurricane Luis hit in 1995, if not before. McElroy and de Albuquerque considered St. Martin the “most penetrated” destination in the Caribbean as far back as 1988. They based this on tourists and spending compared to the local population, and the density of hotel rooms. Disruptions like Luis may have made it harder to notice the slow down. But it is easy to see the environmental decline and overcrowding. Many businesses complain about the lower quality of tourists as the island struggles to recapture growth.

Often, outside analysis by academics is not very useful. In this case, the life cycle concept seems to offer a lot. The memories of local people can make it even more valuable. We can learn how local businesses helped build strong communities in the early phase of tourism. We can recapture some of the local culture that made the island so unique. Because the next phase is either a transformation, or a decline.

Twenty-nine Days

Thirty-five years ago the Reverend Marcel Eugene Hodge opened the Les Alizés guest house in Grand Case. This is the story of how he envisioned, built and opened the guest house, in his own words.

While I was working construction with Le Galion, chez Bernard—great man. He was so great. His money was not big in those days, but it was constant. He would never owe you one franc. So, I see he would come up on the job every day. Nine o’clock he come up. By eleven o’clock, he’s going back home because he got to go back to Marigot to be there to eat with his wife and children.

So, I said to the workers, “Look at this. This man only spends two hours up here. We are running the work. I’m doing the maintenance, we got other men there with us, the ladies are running it, this young man is the manager. Why can’t we get together and get a piece of land by the beach and make a small hotel?”

Pastor Hodge, the man who made Les Alizés.

Well, they thought it was the craziest thing. They say, “Man, Hodge, we know you’re intelligent, we know you’re smart, but this is the foolishest thing I hear you say. How you gonna do that?”

It keep dawning on me, yes it could be done. So, when I came to the idea, I started the guest house here in ’82, ’83. I started to build here. Money was so flourishing in my pocket that to build three rooms, it take me three years.

But by 1985, the 25th of October, we opened up with three rooms. Nobody in the village gave me credit for doing it. They said, “Why don’t you take that and just rent them out by the month?” You could get $25 for a room, you know, so it would have been a month, I probably have $75. But I said “No, this is a guest house.” And they laugh at me. Some feel sorry for me.

One of the big men in Grand Case I really looked up to as the lawyer, the advisor, was the late Mr. Emile Tackling. He was our all-in-all, the one we looked to advice, for instruction. He said, “Son, I know you’re ambitious, but don’t work with that. That gonna be too difficult for you. Leave that to the big boys that can handle that, like your boss Bernard. Just you rent them by the month.” And I said, “No, Mr. Tackling.” We used to call him Pops. “No, Pops. I want to do this guest house.”

When I opened it, one day, nobody come. Just got a sign by the road: Les Alizés guest house. Ten days, nobody come. Twenty days, nobody come. Twenty-five days, nobody come. And every afternoon friends would come up. Some would sympathize with me, some to laugh at me, “Hey preacher, what about the guest house, man? She full? She ain’t full yet?” I said, “No, not yet, they ain’t come yet.”

And when we get 29 days, a couple passed through here on a Volkswagen. They were overnighting in Philipsburg and they were going on a three-mast sailing boat somewhere in the Caribbean. They came because, they said, “This is a fishing town and we wanted to stay here for the night, and we saw the sign and we came.”

And they said, “How much a night?” And I said, “25 US dollars per night for the one room.” Don’t ask me how big I was. I felt so big, so important. After three years of building, now I’m getting my first $25.

After they left, we started to get one, two people come in. Sometimes all three rooms went, sometimes one, sometimes two. But, up to when Irma came three years ago, twelve months a year, we were never empty for six nights. The most we stayed without guests would be five nights. But the sixth night, for sure we got guests.

The French Years

In a small notebook from St. Martin, recipes for medicines and other valuable notes were stored. It has been protected and saved for about 200 years. Like many books of this kind, it was passed on from one person to another, perhaps from generation to generation in the same family.

After 27 pages written in English, there is a change in handwriting. An additional sixteen pages of remedies are written in a different style, primarily in French. This section begins with a remedy “Pour mal de gorge” or “for sore throat” and ends with a recipe for “Collyre” or “eye drops.” The eye drops seem to contain sulfur, which would burn the eyes. But they also included cocaine, so the patient wouldn’t feel the burning.

A switch to French.

The new handwriting is harder to read, and less consistent. The writing in this section may be from several people, as the ink, style and even language changes. A remedy “For putrid sore throat” appears after many pages in French and is followed by more French remedies. Pages are skipped, and in some cases remedies are included with no mention of what they are meant to treat.

The cures in this section seem to come from at least six doctors. It would be pretty surprising if there were six doctors practicing on St. Martin in the late 1800s. This was after the sugar industry had collapsed and most planters had left the island. It is possible that a number of doctors had visited the island over a period of years, and these remedies were collected that way. The changes between English and French might also reflect the language spoken by the doctor giving the cure.

Cocaine eye drops.

One remedy for flu is attributed to a doctor “à Paris.” This may mean that the the remedy came from a book by a Parisian doctor. Perhaps some of the other doctors in this section were not practicing on the island, but had published their remedies. If so, this may show a shift from learning cures directly from a doctor in the early 1800s to having access to printed materials at the end of the century.

Though more challenging to decipher, this section of the notebook surely offers more insights into life on the island and healthcare at the time. By comparing it to the earlier part of the book we may be able to learn more about how life was different between the end of the slavery era and the beginning of the traditional period. This tiny book, which has given us so many insights into history and culture, has more treasures to offer.

The Mysterious I.D. Gumbes

In a small notebook from St. Martin, recipes for medicines and other valuable notes were stored. Though many of the cures were surely useless, this small book was clearly valued. It has been protected and saved for perhaps 200 years.

A handwritten index on the book’s final page gives the user a quick guide to the contents. The letter F leads to three different cures for fever and one for flux. S is for swelling, P is for pills and poultice. B is for belly ache and W for worms.

Amidst the single letters is IDG for “I.D. Gumbes pills (receipt given by Dr. Allaway).” A review of page 12 reveals that these were pills “to act on the Liver.” Even in this unconventional index, it would make more sense to file them under L for liver.

An unconventional index.

Who was I.D. Gumbes? It is a good question. This person was probably wealthy. The other people named in this notebook were mostly land owners. The people who received most European medical care at that time were wealthy.

Like many with the name Gumbes or Gumbs, I.D. may have had a connection to Anguilla. But they surely lived on St. Martin for a while. They received a prescription from Dr. Allaway of St. Martin. The author of the notebook mentions a prescription “for my daughter Anna Gumbes.” I.D. may have been her parent.

The I.D. Gumbes map of the Great Salt Pond.

I.D. Gumbes also drew a detailed map of the Great Salt Pond and town of Philipsburg in 1847. Their name is in the bottom right corner of the map. The map is beautiful. It shows plans for a crescent-shaped dam in the pond to divert rainwater from the hills away from the salt pans. The writing on the map is a mixture of pencil and ink, printing and cursive. Could it be the cleanest and most careful handwriting by the same person who wrote the little notebook?

Oddly, there doesn’t seem to be any other information about I.D. Gumbes. There seems to be no record of them being born, getting married, or dying on the French side. Searchable Dutch records start later, probably after I.D. was dead. If their major life events happened elsewhere, records could exist. But it would be much harder to connect them to the person in the notebook.

Based on the map and the notebook, I.D. Gumbes was probably wealthy and educated, at the top level of local society. Yet, we have almost no information about this person. It is like looking at a person’s life through a keyhole.

If we know so little about I.D., what about the poor planters and fishermen? What of the enslaved people who were the majority of St. Martiners? As more documents are digitized and shared, we will surely learn more about life on St. Martin 200 years ago. But countless stories will never be told.

A Warm Bath

Jaundice is a yellowing of the skin and eyes. It is caused by a build up of a compound called bilirubin. It has a variety of possible causes. The liver normally breaks down bilirubin, so often jaundice is a sign of liver problems. Causes can include liver damage from alcohol abuse or viral hepatitis.

In the 19th century, doctors didn’t known the causes of jaundice. There was an epidemic of jaundice—probably hepatitis E—in Martinique in 1858. On St. Martin, people probably developed jaundice for a variety of reasons. Our 19th century notebook contains a treatment for it:

For Jaundice

Rhubarb 2 drams
Castile soap 1 dram
Oil of annis 12 drops rubbed together & made into 18 pills two taken night & morning & a warm bath every other night going to bed, it is necessary to take exercise.

Rhubarb, castile soap and anise seed oil are all common in prescriptions from European doctors at the time. Unlike some treatments, none of the ingredients are actual poisons. But the rest of the treatment is more interesting than the medicine.

Treatments for jaundice, liver problems and measles recovery.

Bathing became more common over the course of the 19th century, but for most people it was still rare. The resources required to take a warm bath would have been exceptional at the time on St. Martin. One would need a cistern with plenty of water, a tub, and people to draw and heat the water.

This is one of the clearest signs of status and wealth recorded in the notebook. The person receiving this treatment would have to be a wealthy planter, or family member. Depending on the time this was written, they were either a slaveholder or controlled a workforce of formerly enslaved people. They were part of a tiny group of people living in some comfort. The vast majority of the people on the island worked to provide that luxury, but lived in poverty.

No one cutting cane or picking salt would have needed a reminder that it is “necessary to take exercise.” Even less-wealthy white St. Martiners were doing plenty of hard physical labor at the time.

The very next treatment is for pills “to act on the Liver.” Perhaps they were for the same condition that caused the jaundice. The recipe for these pills also includes rhubarb and anise oil. But these pills also include mercury, which is highly toxic.

In 19th century St. Martin, wealth could buy many things. It could buy a warm bath every other night. It could buy a life free from manual labor. It could buy the advice of fellow plantation owner Dr. Allaway. But it couldn’t buy health.

Medical Discovery

In a small notebook from St. Martin, a medical discovery from the 1800s is recorded. The title of the entry is “A New Discovered Cure for Dysentery.” This remarkable cure is: “a tumbler of good white flour and water, as thick as cream, three or four times a day, or often as the patient may be thirsty, and perhaps there will be no occasion to use it the second day.”

It is a surprisingly simple cure. Seven pages earlier in the very same notebook, another cure for dysentery took up a page and a half. It required many ingredients prepared into powders and pills and given at intervals throughout the day and night.

The new cure was probably more effective. Dysentery is an intestinal infection that causes diarrhea. The new cure kept the patient hydrated while their body fought the infection. Starchy, low-fiber flour water could also help stop the diarrhea. By contrast, the old cure included ingredients that would make the patient vomit and have more diarrhea.

This flour water cure seems better than the many cures full of poisonous chemicals. It also seems a lot like drinking arrowroot pap, a thick, starchy drink made from arrowroot. Arrowroot was used as food and medicine by Amerindian people in prehistoric times. Drinking arrowroot pap for intestinal problems was already widespread long before this “new” recipe was written down.

This suggests the transfer of knowledge. On the same page, there is a “Tysan to break a fever.” The French word tisane means herbal tea, so it seems knowledge was shared between French and English speakers. More importantly, the tea included local herbs: “stinging weed roots” and “black dog roots.” Caribbean plant medicine came from African and Amerindian traditions. This notebook seems to show these traditions being absorbed by Europeans.

Were these “new” cures drawn from different traditions?

Many of the cures in this notebook are credited to someone. Often it is Dr. Allaway, who owned a plantation in Colombier. The dysentery cure and fever tea do not credit anyone. Perhaps this is because they were learned from an enslaved healer.

Though we won’t ever know the exact history of these cures, it is interesting to see the adoption of cures that may reflect non-European healing traditions. The mixing of cultures and traditions makes the Caribbean a rich and vibrant place. The colonial system was largely dismissive of the knowledge and heritage of the people it ruled, but in this case perhaps they were able to learn a few things.

The Flux

Historical documents are often formal papers written by officials and preserved by the state. Much of what we know about St. Martin’s history comes from records like these. Private documents, like letters and journals, are often lost over the generations. When they are available, they can open a whole new window into the past.

A small book from the 1800s preserved by Pierre Beauperthuy is one of these treasures. It contains many recipes for medicinal cures, and other knowledge that the author found important. It told us not only how illnesses were treated, but also the materials and techniques available.

Pages from a notebook detailing a treatment for the flux.

The flux was a term for dysentery commonly used in the 1800s. The disease itself is an intestinal infection, often caused by Shigella bacteria. People were usually infected by drinking contaminated water or unrefrigerated milk. The disease usually causes severe diarrhea.

The treatment for flux is one of the most complex treatments recorded in the book. It starts by giving the patient “Emetic of Ipacacuana” which is essentially syrup of ipecac. This would induce vomiting, presumably to get the sickness out of the body. This was a common step in treating any disease of the digestive system.

Starting the next day, the patient would receive two medicines. During the daytime, they were given a powder three times a day. This powder was made from cream of tartar, rhubarb and ipecacuana. At night, the patient was to receive a pill made from opium and ipecacuana. Tartar and rhubarb were typically used as laxatives, and opium is a pain reliever.

An illustration of intestines with dysentery. (C. Batelli, 1843)

Could such a cure be beneficial? Probably not. Since dysentery is an infection of the intestines, particularly the colon, vomiting probably only increased the level of dehydration. The instructions even include a special note to avoid giving the patient the powder right after eating, “as they may sicken, which is not the intention.”

Laxatives are a strange choice to treat a patient that already has diarrhea. They could make dehydration even worse Opium would help for pain, but also slows down the digestive system, which is not recommended.

Though the medicines might not be great, but there were other instructions: “the patient should avoid eating any vegetable whatever, their diet should be dry and nutritive, the waters previously boiled and cooled.” Boiling water would make it safe to drink, and avoid reinfecting the patient. Rice or barley water were also recommended, which also seems helpful. It also warns “the use of milk to be avoided” and “the patient kept from damp or cold.”

The flux was common at the time, so it makes sense to find a detailed treatment in this book. Patients that stayed hydrated and didn’t get reinfected also had a good chance at recovery. This may be another reason why the treatment is so detailed. Perhaps it reflects a process of trial and error in developing and refining this method. By comparing this treatment to others from the same era, it might be possible to find out which parts were from medical training and which were developed on St. Martin.

Island Youth

Three boys enjoy their youth as the tourism industry rises up behind them. (Photo by Herbert Miller)

One of the most evocative images of St. Martin from the early tourism era is a photo of Great Bay by Herbert Miller that was published as a postcard. Unlike most postcards, the composition is vertical. Nearly half the photo is just cloudless blue sky. In the distance, a cruise ship is headed towards the pier. On the beach, a trio of tiny sailboats have their colorful sails up, ready to rent.

Further inland, in the foreground of the photo, the beach slopes down towards another water line. Perhaps this is the outflow from Fresh Pond, not quite reaching the sea at this moment. Three boys are standing at the water’s edge. One dips a stick or net into it. Their backs are to the sea, the cruise ship and rental boats. Behind them, the tourism industry is rising up to take over the island, but for the moment they are in their own world.

Of all the published photos of St. Martin’s past, not many feature kids. Of these, some are carefully posed school photos. Others are images of big events where kids happened to be present. Very few show the life of kids outside the bounds of school, church and family.

Kids in a boat. (Photo from the Tropenmuseum)

We do know some things about the life of kids in the past. Some of the popular songs and games have been added to the Intangible Cultural Heritage Inventory of Sint Maarten. Often these games and songs have small differences from island to island. This gives us hints about the movement of people and culture through the region.

Schoolchildren on the pier. (Photo by Boy Lawson)

Elders are still a great source of knowledge about life as a kid on St. Martin. They often have detailed memories about his time in their life. It is important to document because the island has changed so much. The experience of growing up has also changed all over the world. Technology, fears about safety and changes in parenting styles have transformed childhood.

Many kids had a lot of freedom in the past. They traveled all over the island on foot or by donkey. They also spent a lot of time in nature, catching lizards with nooses made from grass. It could also be a lot of work, helping out around the home or even working in the salt pond. We will never go back to those days, but it would be a great loss if our memory of them disappears.

What were some of your favorite childhood memories? Share it by sending it to info@lesfruitsdemer.com or to The Daily Herald.

School Pictures

The year 2020 has been a difficult time for students and schools on St. Martin. Schools were quickly closed for safety. Classes moved online when students, teachers and parents were not prepared for it. There was confrontation when police were sent to shut down a private school that reopened in the fall. The border closure has prevented students and teachers from crossing the border from their home to their school.

Though this is an exceptional year, many of these educational anomalies are not entirely new to St. Martin. Back in the day, many students would walk to the most accessible school, regardless of the border. Students in French Quarter headed south to Philipsburg rather than circle the northern part of the island to get to Marigot.

Correspondence courses were the virtual learning of the analog era. On St. Martin, both youth and adults took classes by mail to learn subjects or trades that weren’t taught on island. This remote learning often empowered local people who didn’t have the resources to study abroad.

This year, many students will miss out on some or all of their education. There are students without devices, without internet connections and without a quiet place to study. This also echoes the past. During much of the last century, St. Martiners went abroad to find work. This often put stress on families, prompting older children to leave school to take care of their younger brothers and sisters.

Looking back at some of the photographs of school life on St. Martin, we can get a feel for the changes in education. Zooming in on an image of a one room school in the early 1940s, we see students lined up in front with a range of emotions on their faces. The teacher is mostly hidden in the doorway.

Students at a one room school in the 1940s.

A particularly cinematic photo from around 1950 shows a teacher leaning over to help a young student. Behind them, a shingle roof and palm tree are framed by an arched window. In the foreground, a student lies face down on a chair. The walls of the room are bare.

Classroom circa 1950. (Photo by Hugo Wilmar)

A classroom photo from around 1990 is suddenly much closer to what one might see today, if school was in session. There are fluorescent lights and posters on the walls. There are desks in rows instead of shared benches. The blackboard is perhaps the biggest giveaway. Today it is likely replaced by a whiteboard, digital whiteboard or projector screen.

Classroom circa 1990.

There are relatively few images of school life on St. Martin over the years, but the ones that we have can bring back memories. Recording memories of school can help preserve this important part of life on the island.

What are your memories of school in St. Martin? Share it by sending it to info@lesfruitsdemer.com or to The Daily Herald.

Working Life

People bag salt at the Great Salt Pond. (Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen)

Work is a big part of life for almost everyone. On St. Martin, working life has changed dramatically over the last century. Official records report the rise and fall of industries over the years. Photos and stories can tell us more about what working life was really like.

Until recently, much of the economy depended on natural resources. Fish and lobster were harvested from the sea, cattle were raised, salt was harvested and a variety of crops were grown. Today, few people make their living this way on St. Martin.

Tourism also brought a huge change in the amount of work available on the island. Before the 1960s, many people left the island to work in the oil industry in Aruba or farms in the Dominican Republic. Over the last 50 years, the reverse has happened. People from all over the Caribbean and the world have come to St. Martin to find jobs.

What did these bigger trends mean for the average person? In an image of salt production from about 100 years ago, we see men, women and children at work. A breaker, high on the mound of salt, wields a pickaxe to break up the crystal crust. The salt slides down to the foot of the mound, where others shovel it into bags. All the workers are Black. In the photo, their faces, hands and feet are silhouetted against the white of the salt.

Men bale hay. (Nationaal Archief)

One thing most jobs had in common was the heat. In a photo from the early 1940s, several men are using a machine to bale hay. There isn’t a single leaf on the bare branches of the tree above them. Though the photo is in black and white, the hills look parched in the background.

By contrast, the job of setting lobster traps in the Simpson Bay Lagoon looks much more enjoyable. In a photo from the late 1940s, two men are surrounded by mangroves. One is rowing a small boat, the other wading out with it, one hand on the lobster pot to make sure it is well balanced.

Setting lobster traps. (Nationaal Archief)

These images start to give us a feeling for the working life in St. Martin’s past. But they don’t tell the whole story. In each case, these photos were probably taken to document one of the island’s major industries. Many other kinds of work, including building, farming, cooking and child care are very poorly documented. This is a space where personal photos and stories about life can fill in important gaps, if we can save them in time.

Do you have a story about work in St. Martin? Share it by sending it to info@lesfruitsdemer.com or to The Daily Herald.

Archives Alive

Youth watch a film on the beach in 1947. (Photo by Willem van de Poll, Nationaal Archief)

When we think of archives, we might imagine a cold and sterile room. Harsh lights shine down on row after row of shelves, each stacked high with boxes and binders. Inside, there is page after page of the most boring documents possible, legal and administrative paperwork. It is dry and lifeless to the last word.

This image of an archive isn’t necessarily wrong. Many documents are boring, but still need to be saved. Storage space for these millions of documents won’t be designed as a fun space to hang out. Most of us probably won’t visit an archive anyway. More of the world’s archives are becoming accessible online every day.

Donkey riding in 1964. (Photo by Boy Lawson, Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen)

When archives are online, we don’t have to think about the vast rows of shelves, or even the hum of the data center where the online archive is hosted. We access the archive via a web page, and search or browse to find what we want. As archives have gone online, they have also started with materials that people are likely to be interested in.

The National Archives of the Netherlands and the National Museum of World Cultures both have small, but wonderful collections of photos from St. Martin that you can view online. There are some familiar photos that have appeared in books and on postcards. They capture familiar views and buildings like the courthouse.

Look closely, and you can also find some vibrant slices of life from days past. You can see youth entranced while watching a movie on the beach. Kids ride donkeys in the midday sun. Vegetables are on sale in the street in Marigot. A woman prepares lobsters at an outdoor table.

Preparing lobsters in Simpson Bay, 1947. (Photo by Willem van de Poll, Nationaal Archief)

These photos capture everyday life and human emotion. They bring us closer to feeling what life was like back then. Most of the photos were taken by outsiders. They were consciously documenting life on the island, so we are experiencing the island through a kind of filter. But some of the images are still very much alive.

There is a missing piece that we can still provide. Stories from elders and memories passed down through families can help give meaning and context to these images. While these elders are still here with us, we should take the time to listen to their part of the story.

Marigot market in 1964. (Photo by Boy Lawson, Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen)

Do you have a memory about one of the images in these online archives? Share it by sending it to info@lesfruitsdemer.com or to The Daily Herald.

Invisible Moments

Playing dominos. Photo by Francisco Hidalgo.

A key part of St. Martin culture is hidden. Every description of the island begins by saying the island is half French and half Dutch. What this really means is almost never explained. A quick look at the tourist centers of the island reveals strong American influences. A population doubled over and over in the last fifty years is full of people from all over the Caribbean and beyond.

All of this is today’s St. Martin culture. The mix of people and traditions defines life on the island. It is a welcoming culture, The Friendly Island. It is a fast-moving culture that grew a quiet island into a tourist hub in a few decades. It keeps the island fun, fresh and exciting.

There is also a deeper, older culture. It doesn’t have much to do with the stories used to tell tourists what they should think about St. Martin. It is a Caribbean culture. It is a culture of people who worked together to survive when it wasn’t that easy. It is a culture connected to the land and the sea. It is a culture of making, building and growing.

Builders working in a churchyard. Photo by Gordon James.

Much of this culture is invisible. We see images of the bustling market, but rarely the fisherman at sea or the farmer in the field. We see images of churches and homes, but rarely the people building them. We see meals at fancy restaurants, but not home cooks at work. We may see weddings and big events, but rarely the quieter pastimes that people enjoyed.

Cleaning fish in Grand Case. Pierre Beauperthuy Collection.

Important work has been done to document this culture. The National Intangible Cultural Heritage Inventory for Sint Maarten includes many traditions common throughout the island. It is a key step in preserving cultural memory. Images, interviews, videos and stories can help bring the list to life.

Building kites. Pierre Beauperthuy Collection.

When we see photos of everyday life in the past, there is an instant fascination. Instead of seeing what the island is supposed to be, we see what it really was. Being able to connect with past keeps it from fading away entirely. It also helps us understand what St. Martin is today.

Do you have a photo of one of St. Martin’s invisible moments? Share it by sending it to info@lesfruitsdemer.com or to The Daily Herald.

Invisible Spaces

There are images of St. Martin that many people can probably picture in their mind right now: the Philipsburg courthouse, the bustle of Marigot market and the geometry of salt pans on the Great Salt Pond. We know the view of Marigot from Fort Louis and Great Bay from Fort Amsterdam.

We know these images because they have been captured and shared over and over again. They were made into postcards. They illustrate books. A google image search brings up many of these iconic views, along with countless views of planes landing in Maho.

There’s nothing wrong with having iconic views. We don’t tire of classic images of Philipsburg stretched between pond and bay or looking down the hill at La Savane and Grand Case. But the invisible places on St. Martin outnumber the familiar ones.

Churchgoers in Colombier in 1963. Photo by Gordon James.

When most people picture St. Martin, it isn’t Middle Region, French Quarter or Colombier. There aren’t postcards of Colombier. Coffee table photo books aren’t full of images of Middle Region. Most of the commonly seen photos of the island were created by outsiders, for outsiders or both. They may do a great job showing what the island is like to visit, but they capture just a thin slice of island life.

It is human nature to capture the things that seem important: big buildings, busy places and capital cities. Of course the images that spread are the ones that sell the island. But when it comes to history and culture, everything is important. Invisible spaces are a problem. They leave a community with an incomplete memory of itself.

French Cul-de-Sac and the view of Pinel. Photo by Gordon James.

Many places on St. Martin may be all but invisible to the outside world, but the people that live there know them. The people that live there surely have photos of their neighborhoods. Thanks to the internet, we are no longer limited to the photos that appear in books. It is possible to share images of every place, and we should. In the great scrapbook of St. Martin memories, there should be no invisible spaces.

People gather at Coconut Grove. Photo by Gordon James.

Do you have a photo of one of St. Martin’s invisible spaces? Share it by sending it to info@lesfruitsdemer.com or to The Daily Herald.

Free Bird Coloring Book Offers Virtual Tour of the Caribbean

Free copies of the coloring book Endemic Birds of the West Indies are available at Amuseum Naturalis.

There are almost 200 birds that live only in the Caribbean. Some live only in a certain part of the region, and some live only on a single island. A new coloring book, Endemic Birds of the West Indies, features 50 of these special birds. Copies are available for free at Amuseum Naturalis in French Quarter.


“Kids are often amazed to learn that there are birds and other animals that live only on their island,” commented the writer, Mark Yokoyama. “These birds, and this book, can help them discover how special their home is. It is also a chance to take a bird tour of the Caribbean and see some of the incredible birds from other islands.”


“Endemic” means found only in a specific place. In the Caribbean that can mean just one island, like the Sisserou parrot in Dominica. Or it can be birds special to a region, like our Sugar Bird and the hummingbirds that live on St. Martin. The book features five birds that are found on St. Martin.


St. Martin’s Antillean Crested Hummingbird is one of the birds featured in the book.

The coloring book features beautiful illustrations by artist Christine Elder, and text by Mark Yokoyama. It was published by BirdsCaribbean. There are 50 coloring pages and fun activities. The book also explains why there are so many unique birds here, and how we can help them.


Anyone who wants a free copy can pick one up in the exhibit hall at Amuseum Naturalis on the hill above Galion beach in French Quarter. Teachers or youth leaders interested in multiple copies can email info@lesfruitdemer.com. The book can also be downloaded for free at: lesfruitsdemer.com/resources/books/

A Right to Culture

The right to access cultural heritage was recognized as a basic human right over 70 years ago. It makes perfect sense. People have a right to their history and their culture.

Heritage takes many forms: buildings, photos, documents, language, songs, dances, objects and more. Many of these things need to be physically preserved. They need to be protected from water, fire, rodents and other threats that are as old as time. Keeping these materials safe may mean limiting access to them.

Luckily, the digital age has created new ways to share heritage. Scans, photos, transcriptions and videos can give cultural access to almost everyone. There’s no limit to the number of objects that can be on display. It doesn’t matter if the original copy is in an archive thousands of miles away. Vast collections can be searchable in an instant.

Access to cultural heritage, like this storefront scene, is often happening through personal sharing. (Photo by Gordon James)

In an age when limitless cultural access is possible, how is St. Martin doing? Neither the territorial archives of Saint-Martin, nor the national archives of Sint Maarten are online in any form. Key collections of history, heritage and archaeology are not online either. Records and documents from St. Martin are available from digital collections in France, the Netherlands and the US, but these are often incomplete or difficult to find.

The lack of digital access is made worse by the lack of physical access. After the destruction of the médiathèque in Concordia, there is no public access to the archives. The Jubilee Library only offers a fraction of its collection at its temporary location.

Amazing work has been done to preserve heritage. Materials were safeguarded through Irma and collections were rebuilt after. Intangible heritage has been documented. Individuals have shared photos and stories online. The people doing this work, often for decades, are heroes.

But it is still not enough. As long as the island struggles to find the resources to preserve heritage, it won’t have the ability to share that heritage. In a vicious circle, that hidden heritage is valued less, and fewer resources are given to protect it.

It is time to give St. Martiners access to their culture. This will require new resources for the task. It can create good jobs digitizing, organizing and presenting these materials. It will rekindle interest and pride in St. Martin culture. It can be a resource for schools to teach kids about their home. It will make St. Martin a more interesting place to live and to visit. And it is a right. The people of St. Martin should demand it.

What cultural heritage do you want access to? Let us know by sending a message to info@lesfruitsdemer.com or to The Daily Herald.

1961 Opinions

The Digital Library of the Caribbean includes many resources about the region, including archives of old newspapers. Sadly, there aren’t many from St. Martin. Happily, there are some issues of the Windward Islands Opinion from the early 1960s.

The Opinion from July 8, 1961 is just ten pages long, but packed with insights and observations about the island. The front page is dedicated to “Man of the Week” Charles E. Gibbs from Cripple Gate. Gibbs is praised for his work at the Post Office and his active role in the Methodist Church. Though he is the focus, it is clearly important that his daughter is the “Post-Mistress in charge of the Post Office at Margiot.” The article is about honest work, family and the progress of a people.

The Windward Islands Opinion, July 8, 1961 from the collection of the Digital Library of the Caribbean.

The paper is like a conversation with its readers: “Our readers of Simpsonbay have again called out attention to the fact that nothing has yet been done about repairing the public cistern of this little town.” The cistern was damaged during Hurricane Donna in 1960. With the peak of hurricane season coming, the readers and the paper were worried about a resource that people still depended on.

Cricket was clearly popular at this time. Three cricket-related articles were published in this issue, including a notice that “a friendly game of cricket will be played between the girls of Philipsburg and those of French Quarter either on July 13, or on July 14.” Due to a lack of players from Philipsburg, it was planned as a “scratch-match between the two teams with each side consisting of players from both teams.”

A letter to the editor lamented the loss of agricultural education. “Some years ago, it was possible for the boys of our island to learn the science of agriculture here in the schools. During the course of that time it was also possible for these boys to visit the Experiment Station in order to experience that which was taught to them.”

A fashionable wedding was described in detail: “The radiant bride’s gown (imported from Puerto Rico) was truly an outstanding achievement in design. The snug bodice (of rich chantilly lace over crystal satin) featured a scooped neckline and wrist-length sleeves. Shimmering organza roses focussed the attention on the silk organza full-length skirt. Beautifying the bride’s head was a sparkling tiara, which held in place a finger-tip veil of illusion net.”

This one issue includes dozens of other short items. There are complaints about the unsanitary conditions of the Marigot market under the sandbox tree and the irregular mail service between the islands. There is an article about Emancipation Day celebrations on Statia: “It is almost 100 years since freedom was given in these islands.” A 200 room hotel was planned on the French side. Would ferry owners be able to hold up progress on the Saba airport?

This paper is not just a look at the news of the day. It captures daily life in surprising detail. It reveals hopes and fears. It is a rich window into what is now almost another world entirely. Treasures like this need to be saved as a record of both history and humanity.

Do you have memories from this time? Let us know by sending a message to info@lesfruitsdemer.com or to The Daily Herald.

A Local Movement

Last week’s article featured a recent petition to change the name of Philispburg to Great Bay. The petition creators want to stop honoring the slaveholder John Philips and start using a name traditionally used by St. Martiners. Many readers had thoughts about the petition and shared them in online comments.

Several readers wanted to avoid what is “happening in the USA” or “becoming like the USA.” They seemed to believe that the fight for social justice is new, and that it started in the United States. Nothing could be further from the truth. Since the Haitian revolution and countless other uprisings to the present day, the Caribbean has led the world in the fight for freedom, dignity and equality.

On St. Martin, the fight began during slavery. We have records of revolt in Marigot in 1830 and escapes to freedom in Anguilla and St. Kitts after slavery was abolished in English territories. The Diamond Escape 26 from Cole Bay claimed their own freedom after emancipation on the French side. In doing so, they changed the conditions of slavery on the Dutch side for the next 15 years. Their legacy has been celebrated since 2005 through reenactments of their run for freedom.

The 2019 reenactment of the run for freedom.

The Ponum Dance dates back to the era of slavery. Kept alive for generations, it was revived by Inez Eliza Baly-Lewis in 1982. It has been studied, cherished and performed since then by Clara Reyes and other St. Martiners. Today the dance is at the heart of local culture.

The mission statement of the Windward Islands Opinion newspaper.

In 1959, Joseph H. Lake, Sr. founded the Windward Islands Opinion newspaper “as a means of helping to improve the social, economical and political conditions of the Windward Islands by advocating against the causes of injustice and oppression.” He wrote about the need for fair wages and respect for workers. He promoted self-pride, unity, democracy and freedom.

A group of St. Martiners from both sides of the island started St. Martin Day in 1959. Felix Choisy, Clem Labega, Hubert Petit and Claude Wathey created the holiday to celebrate island unity, and the people and culture of St. Martin. They chose November 11th so they wouldn’t need to ask permission from the French or Dutch to celebrate their own island.

The national flag of St. Martin represents the island and its people as one nation.

The national flag of St. Martin, now also known as the unity flag, was created in 1990 to represent both sides of the island, and all St. Martiners as one nation. The design of the flag, and the symbols used, depict the island itself and its history. It stands for freedom, unity and local pride.

There are countless other examples of St. Martin leading a movement towards justice, equality and respect for all. This movement is made of local authors, activists, historians, teachers, artists and leaders. It is made of everyone who preserves and passes on memories and traditions. This movement didn’t come from the USA. It is probably older than the USA itself. And it will carry on as long as people live on this island.

Do you have a favorite moment in St. Martin’s movement towards justice and equality? Share it by sending a message to info@lesfruitsdemer.com or to The Daily Herald.

The Decolonial Well

Right now, there is an online petition to change the name of Philipsburg to Great Bay. Great Bay is a name many St. Martiners have used their whole life. That is, when they aren’t simply calling it Town. The petition was started by Joseph Lake, Jr. and quickly received several hundred signatures.

A view of Great Bay in 1947.

According to the petition, “Great Bay is the traditional and historic name given to our capital by “Our” People. Philipsburg is the name forced on our capital by the slave master John Philips. To officially name Great Bay is to claim it as our own.” There are similar movements all over the world to decolonize and reclaim public spaces.

John Philips was a slaveholder and the Commander of the Dutch part of St. Martin. He was an active part of a colonial system that enslaved people. He is often credited with increasing the population and prosperity of the island. Population gains came mostly through increases in number of enslaved persons. And they did not share in any prosperity. The town was named after him by the Council, another part of the colonial power structure. Slavery continued on St. Martin for over 100 years after his death.

A view of Great Bay in the 1940s. (Beaux Arts photo)

The movement to rename Great Bay makes us reconsider John Philips. It also suggests we rethink other names drawn from history. St. Martin is blessed with monuments to salt pickers, bus drivers and other non-colonial figures, but many places still bear the names of slaveholder estates.

Colonialism persists in these place names. It also persists in the written histories of the island that draw from colonial archives. It persists in narratives presenting the island as French and Dutch.

Decolonizing thought and culture on St. Martin is an ongoing task. Old stories must be examined. False stories must be corrected. And new stories must be added to what we present as the history and culture of the island.

Living memory, oral history and personal collections of photos and belongings are the decolonial well. That is where we will find the stories and images that better represent the island. We will need to draw from it to tell the peoples’ story. Without this well of human knowledge, we are left with the official archives that have showcased the few and ignored the many for far too long.

The name Great Bay was kept by the people. It didn’t have to be on a map or a sign. Personal, family and community heritage are the building blocks of a newer, truer history. Saving this heritage helps us build a better future. With it, the children of tomorrow will finally be able to look at their heritage and see themselves.

What local names, places and people do would you like to recognize? Send a message to info@lesfruitsdemer.com or to The Daily Herald.

Amuseum Naturalis Announces July 7th Reopening

Amuseum Naturalis is located at The Old House in French Quarter.

After closing for lockdown, St. Martin’s free nature and heritage museum Amuseum Naturalis will be reopening in “park mode” for the public to enjoy safely! Starting Tuesday, July 7th, guests are invited to make self-guided visits during daylight hours to the outdoor areas, including the open-air Amuseum exhibit hall, and outside exhibit areas, viewpoints and gardens including the agriculture heritage displays, bush tea garden, and the St. Martin poetry exhibits. 

Amuseum Naturalis is located at the historic Old House in French Quarter. It is created and run by the all-volunteer Les Fruits de Mer association, and presents more than 40 fascinating exhibits showcasing the unique wildlife, culture and history of St. Martin. 

“With outdoor exhibits and beautiful views, we hope that the Amuseum can be a fun and safe place to enjoy nature and heritage during a tough time,” explained Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “Our top concern is the safety of the community, so we ask that visitors follow safety instructions so we can stay open.”

The Amuseum features outdoor exhibits and scenic views.

To keep the community safe, properly worn masks are required for all visitors, as well as respecting physical distance of 2 meters between non-household members. Hand sanitizer will be available. Visitors will need to bring their own drinking water.

For now, guided group visits and activities are not available, to protect the community. However, teachers and youth group leaders are encouraged to contact info@lesfruitsdemer.com to find out about the many things that are currently offered to schools and youth groups, including free books and other free, fun educational resources. 

Access to the indoor areas and services of the Amuseum is now available by appointment on a case-by-case basis. These include Soualibra, the free research library about St. Martin, and the free Heritage Preservation services. Those interested are invited to contact info@lesfruitsdemer.com for more information.

St. Martin poetry exhibits showcase local authors.

The Amuseum can also be visited virtually at any time at http://amuseumnaturalis.com/. The Amuseum@Home program of free ebooks, activities, short films and games based on St. Martin nature and heritage are available at http://www.lesfruitsdemer.com/category/athome/ or by visiting Les Fruits de Mer on Facebook. The free Heritage Backup program and tools are available at http://www.lesfruitsdemer.com/projects/heritage-backup/.

Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House is located on the hill above Le Galion. Entry is free to all. More information and a map are available at http://amuseumnaturalis.com/.

The End of an Era?

A vintage postcard highlights tourists on St. Martin. (Barbara Cannegieter Postcard Collection)

During the late 1700s and early 1800s, the sugar industry briefly ruled the land of salt. Forests were cut and cane was planted far and wide. Mills were built and a handful of slaveholders prospered from the labor of enslaved people. 

On St. Martin, the industry did not last very long. St. Martin couldn’t compete with larger islands that had more rainfall. Sugar production literally and figuratively dried up here. During the middle of the 1800s, emancipation finally ended slavery.

There are echoes of the past in the crises we face today. During the late 1900s and early 2000s, the tourism industry ruled the land of salt. Hotels and restaurants were built on beaches and hills. The tourism industry provided great economic growth, but inequality endured. 

As with sugar, tourism brought investment from wealthy nations. In foreign boardrooms or on the island, those who own and profit from the tourism industry often come from the same background as the slaveholders of previous centuries. Those profiting the least, or perhaps struggling to find work at all, are often descended from enslaved people. (There are, of course, investors, tourists and locals of all races, but to ignore history and the racial inequality that continues today comes dangerously close to embracing a Caribbean version of “all lives matter” when much work remains to be done.)

Some promotional materials show a racial divide between staff and guests. (Barbara Cannegieter Postcard Collection)

The coronavirus epidemic brings the tourism industry to a point of crisis. Analysts predict international travel will be down at least 80% during 2020. With no cure in sight, perhaps the peak of tourism on St. Martin is already behind us. It is a troubling thought. After the decline of sugar, it took over 100 years for tourism to bring economic growth back to the island.

Perhaps it is also a hopeful time. Some local scholars find the post-sugar and pre-tourism era a cultural peak. The late Daniella Jeffry called it the Traditional Period and said it “was characterized by the development of an egalitarian culture that gave rise to a common set of social, political and economic values and activities.” 

The second global crisis of 2020 is the ongoing struggle against racial inequality. The flow of investment and tourists from wealthy, white-majority countries to poorer, black-majority islands builds bias into Caribbean tourism. Many old promotional images show white visitors enjoying the island, while black people are serving them. Today, with many service workers coming from Europe, many locals have been pushed out of tourism entirely.

The present is terrifying and the future is ominous. But if it is the end of an era, perhaps it can also be the beginning of something better. St. Martin could adopt a more sustainable version of tourism, and diversify into new industries. This could create more diverse jobs that bring more people into the economy. The people starting these new businesses may be more representative of the island as a whole. Perhaps there could be a “New Traditional Period” where greater equality and prosperity exist together.

What do you think the future holds for St. Martin? Send a message to info@lesfruitsdemer.com or to The Daily Herald.

Note: Everyone has a different life experience and perspective. We understand and appreciate that and we encourage you to post your views. However, comments that minimize or deny racial injustice are hurtful to those experiencing it. Whatever your intention, please consider how your comments may impact others.