cultural diversity of St. Maarten springs from its historical
role as a crossroads for visitors to the New World. Dutch, French
and British traders brought European traditions, while Afro-Caribbean
people brought the language and culture of West Africa. Today
the range of influences is reflected in the number of languages
spoken. Dutch is the official language, but English is taught
in schools and spoken everywhere, while other common languages
are Spanish and Papiamento, the dialect of the Netherlands Antilles.
St. Maarten's premier cultural event is its annual Carnival,
which includes parades, calypso competitions, reggae shows, and
an endless array of stands serving traditional island food.