Sunday, March 27, 2005

Art Lovers at St. Martin

The island has a vibrant art scene. A recent art promotion had 60 participants, who made their work publicly available. This "Open Door" event showed an amazing range of art being worked on. Some are more visible, as famous Roland Richardson, also called the Father of Caribbean Impressionism, and some are working in secluded studios, and have their work on display in famous NY-City galleries. A typical example is Norma Trimborn with her unique, expressive oil paintings of exceptional vigor. Away from the commercial zones, between quiet Baie Lucas and Oyster Pond are the premises of Dona Bryhiel, a French artist with very interesting artworks of Caribbean and Southern France subjects.

The above mentioned Roland Richardson has been honored with a limited edition of a French postal mail envelope, valued at 83 Euro Cents, which is sold exclusively at the French post offices on the island.

We also make this wonderful print (see above, reduced scan) on its original envelope available at $ 4.50 including mailing, sent to island and art lovers in its original, unused condition, or stamped and mailed through the French postal service. Payment preferably by PayPal, user-id here.

A new section of the widely visited island website St-Maarten-Info will be dedicated to ongoing art events.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Crime - a Serious Island Problem

Recently, there are more reports about crimes on the island. A significant share happens between the local population, often involving battery and assault. Unfortunately, also some robbery incidents involving visitors occurred. One focal point has been the area around Oyster Pond, an usually very quiet area.

A widely discussed question in message boards, such as
(TTOL) is the inconsistent response by police. Mainly, the French police, the Gendarmerie Nationale has been blamed for being non responsive.

Living here, the picture is somewhat mixed. The French Government is spending substantial funds for security. Beside the local Gendarmerie staff, they swap in some 38 additional Gendarmes each quarter, who are delegated from police stations in France. These officers publicly show a lot of presence. They regularly establish road blocks, and check people and cars.

The municipal police force is a separate city controlled unit mainly dedicated to traffic control and street safety. They show a strong presence in Marigot and Grand Case, but not much at other locations.

The criminal investigations are to a large extent the domain of the Guadeloupe crime unit. French St. Martin is a subordinated, administrative unit of Guadeloupe. If a serious crime happens, they fly in from Guadeloupe, and direct the investigation.

Although, I did not personally experience any crime, and had no reporting needs to the police, I have experienced the Gendarmerie as polite, straightforward, committed, and responsive. When compared to the many other islands, we visited or lived on, it is positively one of the safer ones. (on another island, we experienced that police officers had been the burglars, and broke into our office!!!) We are here far off Jamaican "standards". Still, everybody got to be careful, and we have to realize that this island, as many others, is not a quiet Midwest town. A melting pot of dozens of ethnic groups, a wide range from super rich to extremely poor, and administrative shortcomings create a dangerous mix at times!