Curaçao, island in the Caribbean Sea and a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is situated some 37 miles (60 km) north of the coast of Venezuela. Although physiographically part of the South American continental shelf, Curaçao and neighbouring islands off the northern coast of South America are usually considered to constitute the southwestern arc of the Lesser Antilles. The capital is Willemstad.
Bonaire and Curaƈao.
Boats on a beach, Curaçao.
Island, New Caledonia.
Islands and Archipelagos What are the islands of the Maldives made of? What is the world’s largest archipelago? Sort out the facts about islands across the globe. Curaçao was settled by Arawak people from the South American mainland. It was first visited by Europeans in 1499 and was settled by the Spanish and, later, by the Dutch, who established it as a major centre of trade for the Dutch West India Company. The Spanish deported the entire indigenous population as slaves to Hispaniola in 1515. Curaçao is the home of the oldest continuously inhabited Jewish community in the Western Hemisphere, originally formed by Sephardic Jews who emigrated from Portugal in the 1500s. Curaçao: Ethnic composition . Curaçao: Religious affiliation
The island provided one special advantage for the Dutch—one of the finest natural harbours in the West Indies. At the southeastern end of the island, a channel, Sint Anna Bay, passes through reefs to a large, deep, virtually enclosed bay called Schottegat, the site of the capital town, Willemstad. The need for salt to preserve herring initially drove the Dutch to the Caribbean. During the period 1660 to 1700, the Dutch West India Company flourished; the slave trade boomed, and the port of Curaçao was opened to all countries both to receive the incoming food supplies and to dispose of products from the plantations of South America. The island was subjected to frequent invasions from competing privateers and suffered during the wars between the English and Dutch. It has remained continuously in Dutch hands since 1816.
Colourful houses of Punda, Willemstad, Curaçao.
In 1845 Curaçao was one of the six Dutch dependencies in the West Indies that were brought under collective administration. Those dependencies were reorganized as the Netherlands Antilles in 1954 and granted autonomy in internal affairs. In 2006 the people of Curaçao, along with those of the other islands and the Dutch government, agreed to dissolve the Netherlands Antilles. On October 10, 2010, Curaçao and Sint Maarten became—like Aruba, which had separated from the Netherlands Antilles in 1986—countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
The head of state is the Dutch monarch, represented by a governor, and the head of government is the prime minister. A Council of Ministers, presided over by the prime minister, forms government policy. A minister plenipotentiary from Curaçao resides in the Netherlands and represents the country there at meetings of the Netherlands Council of Ministers. Curaçao has a unicameral Parliament (Staten), with 21 members elected on the basis of proportional representation for a term of no more than five years. Voting is open to all residents of Curaçao with Dutch nationality who are at least 18 years old. Curaçao is independent in internal affairs, but the government of the Netherlands is responsible for defense, foreign relations, and similar matters. The judiciary consists of a Court of First Instance and a Common Court of Justice of Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten and Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba. Both courts handle civil and criminal cases. The Supreme Court of the Netherlands is the court of final appeal.
In spite of having scant rainfall or little fertile soil, the island developed a major sugarcane-plantation economy under Dutch colonial rule. It now produces oranges, the dried peel of which is the base for the famous Curaçao liqueur that is distilled there. Aloes, which had originally been imported from Africa, do not require irrigation and are still exported for pharmaceutical uses. All fresh water used on the island is distilled from seawater.
Curaçao: Major export destinations
The economy of Curaçao depends heavily on petroleum refining, using crude oil imported from Venezuela. The harbour can accommodate large tankers, and the island is located at the junction of trade routes that pass through the Panama Canal. The Dutch found oil in Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela, but, because the lake was too shallow for oceangoing ships, the oil was transported in smaller vessels to Curaçao for refining and transshipment. Curaçao developed large modern dry-docking and bunkering facilities and became one of the largest ports in the world in terms of total tonnage handled. Curaçao: Major import sources In spite of the government’s attempts to diversify the economy by encouraging light industry, there are only a few manufacturing firms, and all consumer goods and food must be imported. The decline of phosphate mining and automation in the oil industry aggravated problems of unemployment. The expanding tourist sector is key to the island’s economy. In addition, Willemstad is an important Caribbean banking centre. The currency is the Netherlands Antillean guilder or florin.
Curaçao: Urban-rural Curaçao: Age breakdown This article was most recently revised and updated by Adam Augustyn, Managing Editor, Reference Content. Netherlands Antilles Netherlands Antilles: Curaçao The first Europeans to sight Curaçao were Alonso de Ojeda and Amerigo Vespucci in 1499, and the area was settled in 1527 by the Spanish, who used it mainly for livestock raising. In 1634 Johannes van Walbeeck of the Dutch West India Company occupied… Netherlands Antilles The southern group comprises Curaçao and Bonaire, which lie less than 50 miles (80 km) off the Venezuelan coast. The northern group is made up of Sint Eustatius, Saba, and Sint Maarten (the southern part of the island of Saint Martin;… Papiamentu …on the Caribbean islands of Curaçao, Aruba, and Bonaire. It is an official language of Curaçao and Aruba.… newsletter icon HISTORY AT YOUR FINGERTIPS . Learn More! Curaçao ISLAND, WEST INDIES Curaçao flag of Curacao OFFICIAL NAME Land Curaçao (Dutch); Pais Kòrsou (Papiamentu); Curaçao (English) POLITICAL STATUS autonomous state of the Netherlands with one legislative house (Staten/Parlamento di Kòrsou, or Parliament of Curaçao )1 HEAD OF STATE Dutch Monarch: King Willem-Alexander, represented by Governor: Lucille George-Wout HEAD OF GOVERNMENT Prime Minister: Eugene Rhuggenaath CAPITAL Willemstad OFFICIAL LANGUAGES Dutch; Papiamentu; English OFFICIAL RELIGION none MONETARY UNIT Netherlands Antillean guilder (NAf.)2 POPULATION (2020 est.) 155,000 TOTAL AREA (SQ MI) 171 TOTAL AREA (SQ KM) 444 URBAN-RURAL POPULATION Urban: (2018) 89.1% Rural: (2018) 10.9% 1Per the national reorganization plan promulgated on October 10, 2010; the former Netherlands Antilles was dissolved on this date. 2The Netherlands Antillean guilder will be the joint transitional currency for both Curaçao and Sint Maarten until replaced by the Caribbean guilder; no specific date has been given.
History of Curacao
History of Curacao share 2500 BC - First inhabitants arrive The first people set foot on Curacao. They were probably Indians from South America’s northern shores. These nomadic tribes were skilled fishermen and hunter/gatherers. The first round-shaped houses were built around 500 BC.
1499 - First Conquistadors arrive No one can say for certain which European ‘discovered’ Curacao. Was it Amerigo Vespucci from Florence or the Spanish conquistador Alonso de Ojeda? A letter dating from 1505 states that some of Vespucci's men were on Curacao and bumped into ‘giant Indians’, which was the reason the island was named Islas de los Gigantes.
1634 - Dutch presence On April 6, 1634 it was decided that the Dutch would attack the Spanish garrison on Curacao to gain control of the lucrative salt market. The strategic harbour at present-day Willemstad was another reason to conquer the island. Salt was needed to preserve herring, two of the world’s most coveted products at that time. On August 21 of that year the Dutch commander Johannes van Walbeeck attacked with only 200 men and quickly gained control of the whole island. The surviving Spanish soldiers and the native Indians were brought to the South American mainland. Only 75 Arawak Indians were allowed to stay in the village of Ascencion.
1636 - Fort Amsterdam After defeating the Spanish the Dutch began building the impressive Fort Amsterdam. It was a solid defence system as well as the headquarters of the Dutch Company (WIC), which financed the war. In total, eight forts were built, but none were as important or large as this one. Today the government of Curacao resides here.
1639 - Slavery is introduced After beating the Portuguese at Fort Elmina (Ghana) in 1636, the Dutch became one of the leading suppliers of slaves in the entire world. For many slaves the abominable journey across the ocean ended at Curacao. The Spanish, Portuguese, British, French, Danish and American plantation holders needed ever more slaves and were more than happy to buy these unfortunate souls. In total, around 100,000 slaves were sold before the revolting practise was abolished.
1651 - The first Jews Samuel Cohen was the first Jew to arrive on Curacao and from 1651 onwards more and more Jewish families from Amsterdam settled on the Caribbean island. Together they formed the Mikve Israel-Emmanuel community, which worships at the oldest functioning synagogue in North and South America. The Jewish community thrived and the native Papiamento language was enriched with Hebrew words.
1713 - Pesos & Ransom Jacques Cassard was a famous 18th-century French sailor who made heaps of money for his country by attacking English, Portuguese and Dutch possessions in the Caribbean. Between 1712 and 1714 he attacked the Dutch islands several times. When he received 115,000 pesos to stop his attack on Willemstad, he left in search of other islands to raid.
1795 - Tula & The Revolt In the early morning of August 17, 1795, 40 brave slaves began something what would later be known as The Revolt. They refused to go to work at the Knip plantation on the far west side of the island. Tula was appointed as their leader and an ‘army’ of slaves moved all the way to Willemstad to ask for their freedom from their Dutch masters. A month later Tula was captured, brutally tortured and killed with 29 other slaves. It would take another 68 years before these ‘seeds of freedom’ would finally take root when slavery was finally abolished by the Dutch.
1863 - Slavery abolished Although the Dutch signed a proclamation abolishing slavery as early as 1841, it took another 22 years before it was finally implemented. Plantation holders and other ‘legal owners of slaves’ were compensated by the state and received 330 guilders for each slave. To make things even worse, slaves were forced to work the next 10 years at the same plantations from which they were ‘freed’. In total around 550,000 Africans were kidnapped by the Dutch and forcibly moved to the Dutch Caribbean.
1888 - Swinging Old Lady One of the greatest landmarks of Curacao is the Koningin Emmabridge. It was opened in 1888 and connects the two major areas (Punda and Otrobanda) of Willemstad. This 168m-long bridge is the only 'swinging' wooden bridge in the world. Until 1934 a toll had to be paid to cross the Annabaai, unless of course you were barefoot, a sign that you belonged to the lower poverty-stricken class of society. Today 15,000 people cross the most photographed bridge in the Caribbean every day.
1969 - Trinta di Mei On May 30, 1969 a strike began at the Shell oil refinery and was later known as Trinta di Mei. The strikers not only demanded higher wages, but also racial equality among workers. The Dutch government responded with excessive force and its leader, Wilson ‘Papa’ Godet, and two of his men were killed on the spot leading to an island-wide revolt. Only after the Dutch flew in marines from the Netherlands was order was restored on Curacao. The brave actions of Papa Godet were later seen as a turning point in Dutch-Afro-Caribbean relations.
1997 - Old town makes the UNESCO list In 1997 Willemstad was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list with the following recommendation: “The Historic Area of Willemstad is a European colonial ensemble in the Caribbean of outstanding value and integrity, which illustrates the organic growth of a multicultural community over three centuries and preserves to a high degree significant elements of the many strands that came together to create it.”