The Friendly Website - our St Maarten
Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America
Gran Cocina Latina unifies the vast culinary landscape of the Latin world, from Mexico to Argentina and all the Spanish-speaking countries of the Caribbean. In one volume it gives home cooks, armchair travelers, and curious chefs the first comprehensive collection of recipes from this region.
An inquisitive historian and a successful restaurateur, Maricel E. Presilla has spent more than thirty years visiting each country personally. She has gathered more than 500 recipes for the full range of dishes, from the foundational adobos and sofritos to empanadas and tamales to ceviches and moles to sancocho and desserts such as flan and tres leches cake.
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A little friendly good feeling from St Maarten everyday
A Franco-Dutch island where English is spoken
During their stay on St Maarten, many visitors are surprised to hear the population of this Franco-Dutch island speaking the language of Shakespeare.
Some Europeans detect a recent Americanization in the Caribbean area since the 1970´s. Sint Maarten is indeed an island located in the Caribbean area and it is part of the whole of the American continent.
More than 7000 kilometers away from Europe, it is not surprising that the island´s inhabitants have special commercial and cultural relationships with North America. However the real origin of the use of English is much more deeply rooted in the culture of the native Sint Maarteners.
At the beginning of the 1620´s, France, England, and Holland were the first European countries looking to break the hegemony of Spain and Portugal in the West Indies, and colonized Saint Kitts and Statia islands. In 1627 on Statia, Thomas Warner - British - and Pierre Belain d´Esnambuc - French - signed a treaty concerning the share of the sand from where their troops went away to conquer other French and British colonies. St. Maarten´s colonization is closely linked to that start, because the families moving to Saint Maarten were mainly from Saint Kitts and other British islands of the area, and mainly from Anguilla.
Several registries show the large number of those English settlers who came by force or with the agreement of the successive representatives of the King of France. So in 1764, Knight Descoudrelles, the commander of the Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthelemy islands, wrote:
"The main obstacle to the strong establishment of Sint Maarten is the cruel manner in which the English have always treated the inhabitants of this island, who have always been taken by privateers or pirates who expelled the inhabitants, each time after having robbed and burned, all they had."
Six years later he added: "There are more English and Dutch than French people on the French side of Saint Martin. The habits and uses of the farmers are dominant on the island. In principle, we were determined to welcome only French, but the setting up of the livestock warehouse which was supposed to be created did not occur, so the inhabitants we attracted were little by little discouraged by the difficulties with the bad quality of the soil and the lack of security for their possesions and so they finally left the island. In 1769 we were compelled to allow the strangers on the French side or it would have stayed fallow." At the same time "the people who make up the Dutch colony of Sint Maarten are nearly all English, so only English is spoken..."
The helplessness of the French administrators can be understood, for they discovered an island without any fortifications, isolated from any other Dutch and French colonies, surrounded by English islands. Besides, the lack of rain did not motivate the arrival of the settlers. The English settled on the nearby island Anguilla, located 10 miles from the nothern coast of Sint Maarten. Naturally they came there to establish sugar refineries.
At the beginning of the 19th century the Sint Maarteners' surnames were mostly English sounding: names like Gibs, Hodge, Howell, Gumbs, Smith, Wilson.., were part of the oldest settled names and then transmitted to the slaves working on the sugar plants, as well as to their direct descendants.
Observing the map of this friendly island, it is amazing that the localities are called with English sounding names, sometimes Frenshified, which by then had lost all of their meaning.
In the middle of the 1960's the French and the Dutch administrations tried to revive the use of the French and the Dutch languages.
At the same time, the first tourists arriving on the island, came from... North America. So the English language became an economical asset in a Caribbean area where it is easier to speak and travel with the native inhabitants when you are an English speaking tourist. Thus English was the obvious language, or let's say "Sint Maartener's English" is a mixture of English, Creole, Dutch, French, and Irish, where the pronounciation and accent make a very special and charming language of its own.