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Sint Maarten, also spelled Saint Martin, country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the Lesser Antilles, northeastern Caribbean Sea. It occupies the southern third of the island of Saint Martin.
The northern two-thirds of the island constitutes the French overseas collectivity of Saint-Martin. The capital of Sint Maarten is Philipsburg, which is also the main settlement.
The Arawak and Carib inhabited the island before its sighting by Christopher Columbus on November 11, 1493, the feast day of St. Martin of Tours. It was claimed by several European powers—notably the Dutch and the French, who partitioned the island in 1648. The Dutch portion of the island became a part of the Dutch West Indies in 1828 and in 1845 was one of the six Dutch island territories in the West Indies that were brought under collective administration. In 1954 those six were reorganized into the Netherlands Antilles, becoming an integral part of the Netherlands politically with autonomy in their internal affairs. However, in 1986 one of the constituent members, Aruba, chose to leave the Netherlands Antilles and establish its own autonomy within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Sint Maarten’s interior is mostly hilly, sloping down to coastal lagoons, salt pans, and sand spits. The climate is warm and sunny year-round, with moderate rainfall spread fairly evenly throughout the year. Both English and Dutch are official languages. One-third of the population is Roman Catholic, and there are smaller but significant proportions of Pentacostals and Methodists. Adventists and Hindus constitute smaller minorities.
The economy is based increasingly on tourism, as the government encourages exploitation of the island’s most valuable natural resources: its clean beaches and pleasant climate. The currency is the Netherlands Antillean guilder, to be replaced eventually with a new Caribbean guilder. Sint Maarten’s main cultural event annually is the multiday Carnival held in April.
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