Chapter 12: Islanders, immigrants and millionaires: the dynamics of upper-class segregation in St Barts, French West Indies
A French island of 21 km2 located in the northern part of the Lesser Antilles, Saint-Barthélemy (St Barts) is one of the world’s most exclusive vacationing localities. In 2007, this municipality, which used to belong to the département of Guadeloupe, acquired the more autonomous status of Overseas Collectivity (COM, for Collectivité d’Outre-Mer). Most of its 8600 permanent inhabitants act as a local service class to the international economic elites patronizing the island as seasonal residents, amateur sailors or vacationers (IEDOM 2009). St Barts’ specialization as a resort for the super-rich and the upper class began as early as in the 1950s. It has resulted in a distinctive set of relations between the three main groups – predominantly white – cohabitating on the island: (1) the Saint-Barths, descendants of the French settlers who populated the island from the 17th century on; (2) the immigrants, who for the most part come from Metropolitan France (and Europe) to work there; finally (3) a well-to-do clientele shared with other seaside localities such as the Hamptons, Cape Cod and its islands (Higley 1995), Saint-Tropez and the French Riviera, Portofino, and the Costa Smeralda. This chapter describes how the three populations combine to maintain the existing class exclusivity of the site, which is its explicit model of development, and one of its main sources of attractiveness to the superrich (Cousin and Chauvin 2012).
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