The Modern Era

As is demonstrated by its national coat of arms incorporating the Caribbean pelican, French fleur-de-lys, Swedish crowns, Maltese cross and an American Indian device, the history of St Barts is made up of a long series of successive conquests and reconquests which have forged its unique character.

Opening up air routes

The first landing by Remy de Haenen on the savannah at St Jean in 1945 would slowly alter the economy of the island and the lives of its inhabitants. This new means of transport made the island more accessible and the island organized itself and caught a glimpse of a potentially different future. Unable to develop a proper economy based on industry or agriculture, St Barts slowly began to encourage tourism.

Tourism really took off after 1957, when David Rockerfeller bought a property in Colombier and attracted more and more celebrities and wealthy Americans captivated by the island’s tranquility, lifestyle and privacy. Today, the island lives almost entirely from tourism and its economy is based on hotels, luxury villas and restaurants.

New status

This prosperity gave rise to a new idea. When Remy de Haenen succeeded Alexandre Magras as mayor of Saint-Barthélemy in 1962, he was already considering a type of autonomy for the island. Successive mayors built on this notion, but it was not until the 1990s, under the mandates of Mayor Bruno Magras, that the plan for a Collectivité d’Outre-Mer, or French overseas autonomous collectivity, became reality.

On 7th December 2003, St Barts began a new chapter in its history – 95.51% of its inhabitants voted in favor of the constitutional bill for the creation of an overseas autonomous collectivity, with a turnout of 78.71%. This became law on 21st February 2007. The mayor’s office became the Town Hall for the collectivity and Mayor Bruno Magras now runs the island in the new role of President of the Collectivity.

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