Travel News

Two New Countries are Born

On Sunday, October, 10, 2010, the islands of Curacao and St. Maarten (Saint Martin) were designated as constituent countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The term constituent country is a political term referring to a country that belongs to a larger entity. Previously both islands were considered island territories within the Netherlands Antilles, which has now been dissolved. The kingdom will still oversee finances and the defense policy of the nations of the Netherland Antilles, which was also known as the Dutch Antilles.

The Netherlands Antilles was made up of the Windward Islands (northern) group of Saba, St. Eustatius, and St. Maarten and the Leeward Islands (southern) group of Curacao and Bonaire. Aruba was part of the Netherlands Antilles until 1986 when it became its own entity under the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Bonaire, Saba, and St. Eustatius will now be special municipalities under the kingdom.

While politically part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Curacao is geographically part of South America due to its location. Curacao is located off the coast of Venezuela. With a population of around 180,000, Curacao includes the main island along with a small island called Klein Curacao, or Little Curacao. Its capital is Willemstad. The first inhabitants of Curacao were the Arawak Amerindians. Spanish explorers arrived in 1499, and then the Dutch took over occupation of the island in 1634. In 1954, the island gained self-government control as an island territory of the Netherlands Antilles.

St. Maarten is located around 186 miles east of Puerto Rico and is divided between France and The Netherlands. The Dutch side has a population around 37,000. Like Curacao, St. Maarten was originally inhabited by the Arawak, who were later chased out by the Carib Amerindians. Christopher Columbus actually named the island upon his arrival in 1493 when Spain claimed the island. As the French, English, Danes, Dutch, and Spanish battled for control of the West Indies, the Dutch presence increased. Although the Spanish regained control in 1633, the island was divided into French and Dutch zones in 1648.

The current currency of the Netherlands Antillean guilder will continue to be used until 2012, when the proposed Caribbean guilder is set to become the official currency of Curacao and St. Maarten.

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