Posted by: rosyroadsadventures | March 8, 2012

Politics

N 18° 03.77′   W 63° 05.31′

Marigot, St. Martin

click to see detail

We are still in St. Martin watching for our weather window to travel.  Maybe soon.

It is election time in French Saint Martin.  We had a glimpse of various election practices in the countries along our route. In the Dominican Republic campaign signs were posted everywhere, months and months before the event, and dotted all the major roads.  Candidate  messages were broadcast via booming loudspeakers as campaign trucks slowly drove through the towns.  In the British Virgin Islands, very loud election eve auto parades slowly snaked through the island culminating in a large celebration for people of all parties to come together and enjoy.  Election day was treated as a holiday and no one could claim they forgot to vote.

Here in St. Martin there are six parties offering Territorial Council President candidates and a slate of council members.  Saint Martin formerly was considered part of Guadeloupe, an overseas department of France.  In 2007 it was granted status as a collectivity of France after the people voted to secede from Guadeloupe.   The island is now more directly tied to France and the Territorial Council charged with administering the local government.   

An official billboard presents the candidates.  We haven’t seen banners, placards or bumper stickers around town.  There have been community rallies, radio talk shows, newspaper and various internet forums covering the choices the voters will make on March 18th.  The billboard in the photograph, in downtown Marigot near the Office of Tourism, was only put up last week and didn’t include all the candidate posters until yesterday.  We are watching with interest to see what will go in the vacant spot.  Perhaps the results? 

It doesn’t seem that the election process consumes nearly as much time as it does back home, but it does seem to generate similar controversy on topics of concern. The main election issues here are jobs, economic challenges, crime, illegal immigration and education.  There is a sense of the “native St. Martiners” versus the residents of other heritages as this melting pot community debates their future.  

Having been on the island for over three months, we see the ingredients for French St. Martin to blossom.   With a little clean-up, more community policing and strategic enterprise Marigot might be transformed into something closer to Gustavia, the more glamorous St. Barts harbor town.  There are untapped opportunities to meet the needs of tourists and provide jobs for more of the unemployed people here.  Expanding the economic base would be a more complex challenge.  However the election turns out, we wish the folks here great success as they work to improve their community.   

Island and French cultures and traditions run deep and change is further complicated by the great diversity here. This calypso song performed by newly crowned St. Martin Carnival Queen Christiana Denis expresses the sentiments of some native islanders: 

Stand Up for Ourselves

When I see how mi country change overnight

I have every reason to be uptight

My hart in pain under heavy strain

Because they say its me own damn people to blame.

Politicians talking, nations building

Back of mi head a bell start to ring

Too much foreigners in key positions

That’s how they plan to run mi nation.

 I see Haitians in front a we

European in front a we

Puerto Ricans in front a we

And that’s how they running me country

I see Guyanese in front a we

More Chinese in front a we

More yardees in front a we

And’s that’s how they running me country.

Day after day locals suffering

In every corner we getting sting

Like wildfire spreading on grass

That’s how they buning de poor man ass

Lawd de coming for me

I a St. Martiner

I demand to be treated as such!

 

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