Dutch Caribbean

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Dutch Caribbean
Flag of the Netherlands.svg
Dutch Caribbean location map.svg
Location of the Dutch Caribbean islands
Area 999 km2 (386 sq mi)
Population (2010) 315,339
GDP (Nominal) US$ 8.911 billion[1]
GDP per Capita (Nominal) US$ 29,240[1]
Density 305/km2 (790/sq mi)
Languages Dutch, English, Papiamento
Government 3 countries
3 special municipalities

The Dutch Caribbean (historically known as the Dutch West Indies) refers to territories, colonies, and countries, both former and current, of the Dutch Empire and the Kingdom of the Netherlands that are located in the Lesser Antilles archipelago of the Caribbean Sea.

Current territories comprise the islands of Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba. The contemporary term is sometimes also used for the Caribbean Netherlands, an entity since 2010 consisting of the three islands of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba, which are special municipalities of the Netherlands.[2][3]


The islands in the Dutch Caribbean were from 1815 on part of the colonies Curaçao and Dependencies (1815–1828) or Sint Eustatius and Dependencies (1815-1828), which were merged with colony of Suriname (not considered part of the Dutch Caribbean, although it was on the southern Caribbean in Northeastern South America) and governed from Paramaribo until 1845, when all island became part of colony again called Curaçao and Dependencies.

In 1954, the islands became the country (Dutch: Land) Netherlands Antilles (1954−2010). The autonomy of the Netherlands Antilles' island territories was specified in the Islands Regulation of the Netherlands Antilles. Initially the Netherlands Antilles consisted of 4 island territories: Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao and the Windward Islands. The latter split into the Island Territories Saba, Sint Eustatius and Sint Maarten in 1983.

The island of Aruba seceded from the Netherlands Antilles in 1986 to become a separate constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, leaving five island territories within the Netherlands Antilles. This situation remained until the complete dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles as a unified political entity in 2010. In that year Curaçao and Sint Maarten became autonomous constituent countries within the Kingdom (like Aruba); while Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba became special municipalities of the consituent country Netherlands proper.


Currently, there are two main divisions in the Dutch Caribbean:

  • those islands that have the status of being constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
  • those islands that have the status of being special municipalities of the Netherlands alone, as distinct from the Kingdom in its entirety.

Constituent countries

Willemstad, the capital of Curaçao and the largest city in the Dutch Caribbean

There are three Caribbean islands that are countries (Dutch: landen) within the Kingdom of the Netherlands: Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten. The Netherlands is the fourth and largest constituent country in the Kingdom.

Sint Maarten comprises approximately one half of the island of Saint Martin. The northern half of the island – the Collectivity of Saint Martin – is an overseas territory of France.

Special municipalities

The three Caribbean islands that are special municipalities of the Netherlands alone: Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba. Collectively, these special municipalities of the Netherlands are also known as the "BES islands" or the Caribbean Netherlands.


Territory Population Area (square km)
Aruba 103,400 179
Bonaire 17,408 294
Curaçao 158,986 444
Saba 1,991 13
Sint Eustatius 4,020 32
Sint Maarten 33,609 37

Grouping of islands

The islands have also been informally grouped in the following ways:


  1. ^ a b COUNTRY COMPARISON GDP, Central Intelligence Agency.
  2. ^ "Rijksdienst Carbische Nederland (Rijksdienst Dutch Caribbean)". Government of the Netherlands. Retrieved 4 June 2015. 
  3. ^ "Visa for the Dutch Caribbean". Netherlands Embassy in the United Kingdom. Retrieved 4 June 2015. 

External links

  • Media related to Dutch Caribbean at Wikimedia Commons

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