The first settlers on the island were Arawak Indians. Christopher Columbus discovered the island on his second voyage to the New World in 1493. The Arawaks were chased away by the Caribe Indians, who were then put to work by the Spaniards, thereby introducing the first slaves. The Dutch came in the 1620’s to harvest salt, as well as to create a half-way point between Amsterdam and Brazil. Then the French came in the 1630’s, introducing sugar, coffee, cotton and tobacco plantations…and a major influx of slaves. Slavery was abolished in 1848, whereupon the British brought the Chinese and East Indians to work. The island changed hands between the Dutch, French and English powers 16 times between 1620 and 1815. It is easy to see how the population is made up of 115 to 120 nationalities!
During WWII, the US built runways on a number of Caribbean Islands to eliminate the threat of German submarines. The runway on the Dutch side later became an international airport, helping to usher in an era of tourism and economic prosperity.
Ironically, the Dutch flag is very similar to the French flag, with the exception that the bands of color are horizontal versus vertical.