The Netherlands Antilles, also referred to informally as the Dutch Antilles, was an autonomous Caribbean country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Although the country has now been dissolved, all of its constituent islands remain part of the kingdom under a different legal status and the term is still used to refer to these Dutch Caribbean islands.
The Netherlands Antilles consisted of two distinct island groups. The ABC Islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao are located in the southern Caribbean Sea, just off the Venezuelan coast. The SSS islands of Sint Maarten (actually a territory covering a bit less than half an island), Saba, and Sint Eustatius are in the Leeward Islands southeast of the Virgin Islands near the northern end of the Lesser Antilles, approximately 800–900 kilometers (500–560 miles) northeast of the ABC Islands. The Dutch colonized the various islands in the 17th century and united them in the new constituent state of the Netherlands Antilles in 1954.
Aruba became a separate state within the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1986. The Kingdom of the Netherlands dissolved the Netherlands Antilles on 10 October 2010, reconstituting Curaçao and Sint Maarten as new constituent countries and Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba (the "BES Islands") as special municipalities within the Netherlands. [more]