Both locals and tourists enjoy the beach at Grand Case in French St. Martin.
The French and Dutch nations have coexisted peacefully on the island for three centuries. According to a colorful legend, the boundaries were established in a walking contest in 1648 in which the Frenchmen paced off the larger share of the island.
Columbus had discovered and named the island in 1493, and in the 1630's the French and Dutch both settled on the island. In the early days the island was a pirates' haven with the island's many coves and bays used as hiding places. It was in St. here that Peter Stuyvesant (the last Dutch governor of New York) lost his leg in a struggle with the Spanish in 1640.
As was the case with much of the Caribbean, the cultivation of sugar cane introduced slavery into the island. The French abolished slavery in 1848, and the Dutch slaves were emancipated 15 years later. After a prolonged depression, the island was declared a duty-free port in 1939. Today, tourism is the leading factor in the economy of this beautiful and multicultural island.
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