Two Caribbean islands, Curaçao (190.000 inhabitants) and Sint Maarten (37.000), became on Saturday night independent countries as the Dutch Antilles dissolved. The Dutch Antilles was an autonomous territorial entity under the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which consisted of 6 islands. They decided to dissolve after referendums were held in 2005. During the ceremony of independence carried out in Willemstad, the capital of Curaçao, the islands took down the Dutch Antillean flag, sang the Dutch national anthem for the last time before prince William and his wife Maxima, and raised their own flags.
Curaçao's Prime Minister, Gerrit Schott, declared in his speech of independence that "a new country provides more freedom, now we can all make decisions, but also means more responsibility".
From now on, the Dutch government's task in the two islands will be restricted to defense and foreign affairs. It will also have a say in financial matters, but only for a short period of time.
Both Curaçao and Sint Maarten are popular tourists destinations in the Caribbean Sea. Tourism authorities from Curaçao -an island 25 miles off Venezuela's coastline- point out that independence from the Netherlands will allow them to have more resources to build new harbors and hotels and that chances to attract tourists from the US will increase.
The six islands the Dutch Antilles was made of (Curaçao, Aruba, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, Saba and Sint Maarten) officially ceased to be colonies in 1954 and became states within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Aruba decided to secede in 1986 through a referendum, a path followed by Curaçao and Sint Maarten in 2005. Saba, Bonaire and Sint Eustatius opted for keeping the ties with the kingdom and therefore will become special municipalities.
In colonial times, Dutch was the official language of the islands. Today English is widely spoken in Sint Estatius, Saba and Sint Maarten, while Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire have Papiamento as their official language, a mixture of Portuguese and Spanish with English, Dutch and French.
Government of Curaçao website