A copacetic smugglers paradise
But the island isn't some tropical hellhole dominated by international drug lords. It began as a cotton and sugar plantation island, owned by a Frenchman known only as Mr. Pierre. He later split the island among a series of families, including some freed slaves. Through generations of property handed down, land ownership and transfer on PM is an unpleasantly complicated process, and as such the influx of cash hasn't turned it into Monaco West.
Nor is it an island run by outlaws. The 900 or so inhabitants come mostly from families that have been here for generations, and the community remains closely knit and peaceful, regardless of its income sources. "It's just a copacetic, safe, normal Caribbean island," said Rundlett.
A couple of restaurants and a handful of guest houses are about the only businesses catering to tourists -- but it's not tough to get to, at least by the standards of remote smugglers paradises. There are nonstop flights to Grenada from Miami, New York, and Atlanta every day, and from there it's just a couple hours' ferry ride on the Osprey ferry to Petite Martinique. If you want to check out the neighboring island of Carriacou, short flights are available from Grenada, and the Osprey ferry stops there too.
Grenada's official line, of course, is that fishing and shipbuilding drive PM's economy. But even the legitimate businesses know their clientele. For example, locals still practice the shipbuilding craft handed down by Scottish and Irish shipwrights who moved here in the 1700s. But today instead of big wooden sloops, the island is best known for production of speedboats -- the sort you see in Miami Vice. Many locals also work as housekeepers, landscapers, and service staff on the posh resort island of Petite St. Vincent, a few minutes’ dinghy ride away. But no place develops one of the highest per-capita incomes in the Caribbean without a side hustle. PM's just happens to be contraband.
In the few grocery stores on Petite Martinique, you'll find rum, cigarettes, and other alcohol considerably cheaper than you will on Grenada. Think of it as a big, tropical, volcanic duty-free shop, with a few shipbuilding operations dotting the shoreline. And while it's not exactly the pirates haven of out-and-out lawlessness one might expect on a Caribbean island funded by movement of contraband, it's a fascinating little dot of self-rule in a region typically beholden to bigger countries.
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