Saba in the Past and in the Present

In both its past and present, Saba's existence has been fairly quiet

Photo credit: © Ramunas Bruzas |

Although Christopher Columbus spotted Saba during his second voyage to the Americas around 1493, no one officially landed on the island until 1632 when a group of Englishmen were shipwrecked on Saba's shores. Saba never became a major sugar-dynasty of the Caribbean, and as a result, its history followed a very different course than that of many of its sister islands in the region.


Early European explorers avoided landing on Saba because of its dangerously rocky and beachless coastline. When the shipwrecked Englishmen came to the island, they believed it to be uninhabited, but in recent years, archaeologists have discovered remains from either Arawak or Carib Indians, indicating they may have inhabited the island thousands of years ago. Both the French and Spanish laid claim to the little island, and ownership changed hands several times, as was the trend of the era. But in 1816, Holland ultimately took possession of Saba.


The island has remained a small, quiet, and undisturbed ecological sanctuary, with only about 1,200 people living on Saba. The islanders are people with both European and African ancestries, and the population is about half black and half white, which is very different from the populations on most other Caribbean islands. Saba's government is run by the Dutch, and though you will find some Dutch influences, British culture has shaped Saban life most significantly.


...elegant hand-stitched lace...


Because Saba was not a major sugar producer and the island's plantations were very small, it became a refuge for pirates from Jamaica and elsewhere in the Caribbean, who were fleeing colonists on other islands. The pirates' legacy influenced the economic structure of the Saban people. The men on the island turned to legitimate shipping and became well-known sailors who were requested by many overseas merchants. The women on the island also made great contributions to the island's economy by making elegant hand-stitched lace and selling it to people in America.

The tourism industry is relatively new to Saba, but the island has been rapidly growing in popularity, especially among eco-tourists and travelers looking for peace and quiet. The island's economy has been greatly improved by tourism, but it also receives income from the agricultural industry.


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