Sint Eustatius, also known affectionately to the locals as Statia , is an island in the Caribbean. It is a special municipality (officially “public body”) of the Netherlands.
The island lies in the northern Leeward Islands portion of the West Indies, southeast of the Virgin Islands. Sint Eustatius is immediately to the northwest of Saint Kitts, and to the southeast of Saba. The regional capital is Oranjestad.
The island has an area of 21 km2. In the 2001 census, the population was recorded as 3,543 inhabitants, with a population density of 169 inhabitants per square kilometre. , the population was officially estimated at 3,877. The official language is Dutch, but English is the "language of everyday life" on the island and education is solely in English. A local English-based creole is also spoken informally. Travellers to the island by air arrive through F.D. Roosevelt Airport.
Formerly part of the Netherlands Antilles, Sint Eustatius became a special municipality within the Netherlands on 10 October 2010.
The name of the island, “Sint Eustatius”, is the Dutch name for Saint Eustace (also spelled Eustachius or Eustathius), a legendary Christian martyr, known in Spanish as San Eustaquio and in Portuguese as Santo Eustáquio or Santo Eustácio.
The island was seen by Christopher Columbus in 1493 and claimed by many different nations. From the first European settlement, in the 17th century until the early 19th century, St. Eustatius changed hands twenty-one times.
In 1636, the chamber of Zeeland of the Dutch West India Company took possession of the island that was then reported to be uninhabited. As of 1678, the islands of St. Eustatius, Sint Maarten and Saba fell under direct command of the Dutch West India Company, with a commander stationed on St. Eustatius to govern all three. At the time, the island was of some importance for the cultivation of tobacco and sugar.
In the 18th century, St. Eustatius' geographical placement in the middle of Danish (Virgin Islands), British (Jamaica, St. Kitts, Barbados, Antigua), French (St. Domingue, Ste. Lucie, Martinique, Guadeloupe) and Spanish (Cuba, Santo Domingo, Puerto Rico) territories—its large harborage, neutrality and status from 1756 as a free port with no customs duties were all factors in it becoming a major point of transhipment of goods, and a locus for trade in contraband. Its economy developed by ignoring the monopolistic trade restrictions of the British, French and Spanish islands. St. Eustatius's economy, under the Dutch, flourished. The island became known as The Golden Rock. Edmund Burke said of the island in 1781: It has no produce, no fortifications for its defense, nor martial spirit nor military regulations ... Its utility was its defense. The universality of its use, the neutrality of its nature was its security and its safeguard. Its proprietors had, in the spirit of commerce, made it an emporium for all the world. ... Its wealth was prodigious, arising from its industry and the nature of its commerce.