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Migration period


Migration Period

Post abolition

Life on St. Maarten was not easy after the abolition of slavery, the days of our (great) grandparents, here were very few jobs and there was a lot of poverty in the community, even amongst the plantation owners. With the end of the plantation era, people returned to subsistence agriculture and fishing.


The first group of St. Maarteners left the island due to lack of work in 1890 and settled on the surrounding islands and the USA. The second wave migrants from St. Maarten went to the Dominican Republic for seasonal work in the cane fields, returning to the island in time for harvesting of salt. The third wave occurred in the 1920’s. Massive migration from St. Maarten to Aruba and Curacao took place. St. Maarteners went to work in the oil companies of Aruba and Curacao, resulting in a decline of the population to 1458 in 1952.

In the 1950’s automation was introduced in the oil refineries in Aruba and Curacao. The migrated workers from St. Maarten lost their jobs. They returned to the island. As of 1955 with the opening of the first tourist hotel “Little Bay”, jobs became available in the emerging tourist industry. This caused people from other countries to migrate to St. Maarten, bringing the population to a total number of 2928 in 1961, 9006 in 1972 and 12.207 in 1978. As the tourist industry continued to grow throughout the following decades, the population increased drastically to more than 51.000 on the Dutch side and 29.000 on the French side in 2008