All things can be said to be the sum of their disparate parts, a truth that makes the Caribbean as a whole, and St. Maarten/St. Martin in particular, extra special thanks to an uncommon border.
As far as sovereign island landmasses in our region are concerned, Sint Maarten/Saint Martin is one of only two that is shared by multiple countries. Unlike the lengthier and decidedly more infamous border that separates Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the dividing line between Dutch St. Maarten and French Saint Martin is open, free, and breezy.
Indeed, this uncommon border has long been among the most peaceful the world has ever known. The distinction, legend suggests, has roots in its very origin.
History of the Sint Maarten/Saint Martin Border
This tale dates back to the early days of European colonization of the Caribbean in the 1600s. It’s said that both French and Dutch settlers arrived and staked claims to the island at the same time. The French initially settled along the northern coast, while the Dutch put down roots in the south.
Neither side wanted to cede their claims to the other, of course. This resulted in a brief, somewhat contentious period of discord and debate.
Eventually, though, the two sides settled on a resolution quite uncommon for the times. In short, they agreed to share.
An even more novel approach was applied to determining the border. The agreed upon solution: they decided to go out for a walk.
The Stroll The Made St. Maarten/St. Martin
As the story goes, a sole representative from both the Dutch and French sides were selected. Both men were made to stand back-to-back in some extreme point of the island. They then walked in opposite directions along the coast. At the spot where they met, both sides agreed that a horizontal line would be drawn setting the border.
Looking at a map of St. Maarten/St. Martin, you might surmise that the French rep had a head start, cheated, or was more physically fit than his Dutch counterpart.
(French St. Martin is a good five square miles larger than the Dutch side.)
Historical details are sketchy, though locals swear it’s all true. Whether you believe the story or not, it’s still a neat little legend to consider as you breeze back and forth over this friendliest of borders, born of compromise and a bit of hiking along the sea.