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Willemstad,Curacao UNESCO World heritage site
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. The urban structure and architecture of this area are both authentic examples of colonial town planning and architecture of the period of Dutch expansion. Its cultural and historical significance stems not only from its town planning and architectural qualities as a historic port town, but is also manifest beyond the local level.
Willemstad stands out for the diversity in the historical morphology of its four historic districts (Punda, Otrobanda, Pietermaai and Scharloo), separated by the open waters of a natural harbour. Each district has its own distinct urban morphology resulting from successive planning concepts, but they share a unique 'tropicalized' historical architecture of Dutch origin. This area consists of a core area of Sint Anna Bay and part of the Caribbean Sea, Punda and most of Otrobanda, and two transmission areas, consisting of the urban districts of Pietermaai, Scharloo and Kortijn.
In the core area the entrance to Sint Anna Bay is protected by fortifications on both sides - the Water Fort on the Punda side and the Rif Fort on the Otrobanda side. These defensive works are important and relatively well-preserved examples of contemporary fortifications, especially when taken with other surviving defensive works that lie outside the area.
The city's historical architecture is of a strikingly genuine and colourful European origin set in a tropical environment. Nothing like it can be found elsewhere in the Dutch West or East Indies. Punda represents a dense and compact historical urban structure, reflecting its origin as a fortified town surrounded by ramparts. Pietermaai and Scharloo enjoy the relative freedom of space resulting in an open layout of streets lined by detached and often quite luxurious dwellings, whereas Otrobanda features both an open compound layout and a dense alley structure.
The island society on Curaçao owes its origin to the expansion of Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries. After Spain had encroached upon the island in 1499 at the expense of its indigenous inhabitants, the Arawak Indians, the Dutch took possession of it in 1634, in the period of Dutch domination of trade and the seas, and the settlement was created by the Dutch West India Company. The development of Punda began with the construction of Fort Amsterdam, designed according to the old Dutch fortification system. The fort with its five bastions was a self-contained settlement, with its own church and water supply as well as the residence of the governor and barracks for the garrison. Within each of the settlements flanking the bay there is a waterfront square, and they are linked by the famous pontoon bridge erected in 1888, officially known as the Queen Emma Bridge but better known to the inhabitants as the 'Swinging Old Lady'. Apart from two brief British occupations, the island remained Dutch colonial territory until 1955, when the Netherlands Antilles acquired self-government within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Willemstad is a typical port town, but one without a hinterland, which focused on the neighbouring Spanish, English and French colonies on the mainland of South America and in the Caribbean. Frequent trade with South America led to an exchange of goods and the reciprocal adoption of cultural elements. Curaçao therefore has an Iberian tinge as a result of the settlement of Sephardic Jews from Spain and Portugal in the 17th century. By 1730 the Jewish community represented 50% of the white population of Curaçao. African influences also entered the island, as Curaçao was a centre of the slave trade at one time. Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC Historical Description
The island society on Curaçao (which covers some 450km2) owes its origin to the expansion of Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries. After Spain had encroached upon the island in 1499 at the expense of its indigenous inhabitants, the Arawak Indians, the Dutch took possession of it in 1634, in the period of Dutch domination of trade and the seas, and the settlement was created by the Dutch West India Company (West-lndische Compagnie - WlC). Apart from two brief British occupations (1800-3 and 1807- 16), the island remained Dutch colonial territory until 1955, when the Netherlands Antilles acquired self-government within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Willemstad is a typical port town, but one without a hinterland, which focused on the neighbouring Spanish, English, and French colonies on the mainland of South America and in the Caribbean. Frequent trade with South America (the Spanish Main) led not only to an exchange of goods but also the reciprocal adoption of cultural elements. Curaçao therefore has an Iberian tinge, not least as a result of the settlement of Sephardic Jews from Spain and Portugal, who came there in the 17th century by way of Amsterdam. By 1730 the Jewish community represented 50% of the white population of Curaçao. African influences also entered the island, since Curaçao was a centre of the slave trade at one period.
The city developed on both banks of Sint Anna Bay, which forms the narrow entrance to the sheltered inland bay of Schottegat; both are excellent deepwater harbours. Settlement started on the eastern side, known as Punda, in the 17th century. Otrobanda, on the western side, developed at the beginning of the 18th century and a little later around Waaigat, the inner bay behind an elongated peninsula facing the Caribbean.
There was some decline in the condition of the historic city in the second half of the 20th century, with the departure of many of the more prosperous members of the community, but this has now been halted and is being reversed. Source: Advisory Body Evaluation
Curacao Marine Park
The Curacao Marine Park, known as the Curacao Underwater Park was was established in 1983. It stretches from Breezes Hotel (previously named Princess Beach Hotel) to the eastern tip of the island and includes some of Curacao's finest reefs. The seaward boundary is the 60-meter depth contour and on the shore side the boundary is high-water mark. The Park covers a total surface area of 600 hectares (1482 acres) of reef and 436 hectares (1077.4 acres) of inner bays.
Extensive coral reef research by CARMABI indicated that serious reef degeneration was taking place as a result of pollution and coastal development. At the same time, spear fishing and poaching were taking their toll on reef fish populations and black coral respectively. This data demonstrated the need for coral reef management.
In answer to this need, CARMABI proposed establishment of an underwater park in the area in which the park now exists. This was a relatively untouched area valuable from both an aesthetic standpoint and its great biological variation.
The Marine Park is a “paper” park at the moment, not being officially stipulated as such by law. A new marine protection law is in the making at this moment, which will once and for all indicate an official Marine Park for Curacao with the same model as the Bonaire Marine Park.
Carmabi has managed the “paper” marine park since 1983 and still several activities are executed that benefit endeavors awareness for marine protection, marine research and monitoring and protection in itself. However the government is not paying for these endeavors. They are completely supported by donations and sponsoring.
Christoffel Park Curacao Marine Park Savonet Museum Research Station Carmabi Carmabi Education
The vegetation of the island is characterised by its adaptation to the dry and windy climatic conditions. Total vascular flora amounts to about 450 species. Species composition differs significantly between the different geological formations and Stoffers described a dozen different vegetation types for the island. Vegetation's of the Curaçao Lava Formation are characterised as largely deciduous vegetation's in which trees such as Bursera bonairiensis, Bourreria succulenta, Caesalpinia coriaria, Cordia alba, Hematoxylon brasiletto, Randia aculeata and Malpighia glabra are common.
The vegetation's of calcareous formations are largely characterised as evergreen formations with such trees as Bumelia obovata, Casearia tremulans, Coccoloba swartsii, Condalia henriquezii, Guayacum sanctum and Metopium brownei.
Columnar cacti (part. Stenocereus griseus, and Subpilocereus repandus) play a prominent role in both deciduous and evergreen formations.
The most common species of disturbed areas are the thorny tree Acacia tortuosa, the grass Aristida adscencionis, the shrub Croton flavens, the prickly pear Opuntia wentiana and the introduced rubber vine Cryptostegia grandiflora.
Recent work indicates that the impact of centuries of uncontrolled grazing by livestock on the species composition of the vegetation of the island, has been large.
Mammals A total of 11 native mammals are found on Curaçao. These are the Curaçao White-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus curassavicus, the mouse Baiomys hummelincki, the cotton-tail Silvilagus floridensis nigronuchalis and eight species of bats.
The deer, the cotton-tail and four species of bats are endemic to the Leeward Dutch Antilles at the subspecies level, while the mouse Baiomys is endemic at species level. The deer and all bats are endangered species. Recent work has shown the key role that nectivorous bats play in the terrestrial ecosystem as the only principal pollinators of columnar cacti which are a key food source for many species during dry periods.
Land snails A total of 26 land and freshwater molluscs have been reported, two of which are endemic to Curaçao (Guppya molengraaffi, Tudora rupis) and six of which are endemic to the Leeward Dutch Antilles and adjacent Venezuelan islands (Brachipodella raveni, Cerion uva, Cistulops raveni, Gastrocopta octonaria, Microceramus banairiensis, Tudora megacheilos).
Most species are associated with calcareous geological formations and several show significant morphological shell variation between different parts of the island.
Avifauna More than a 168 bird species have been recorded from Curaçao. At least 51 are breeding birds, 71 are migrants from North America, 19 are visitors from South America and 19 are seabirds.
Two subspecies of birds are restricted to Curaçao, namely, the Parakeet Aratinga pertinax pertinax and the Barn Owl, Tyto alba bargei. Fourteen other birds are endemic to the Leeward Dutch Antilles (and nearby Venezuelan islands) at subspecies level.
Endangered breeding birds include the Barn Owl, the Caracara, Polyborus plancus, the White-tailed Hawk, Buteo albicaudatus, the Scaly-naped Pigeon, Columba squamosa, and several species of tern (Sterna spp.).
Reptiles Nine species of native reptiles are found on Curaçao, two of which are snakes and seven of which are lizards. Of these latter, four are endemic to the Leeward Dutch Antilles at species level. These are Anolis lineatus, Cnemidophorus murinus, Gymnodactylus antillensis, and Phyllodactylus martini.
Four types of sea turtles are common in our waters: the Green Turtle, the Hawksbil turtle, the Loggerhead and the Leatherback turtle. The first three mentioned also make use of our beaches to lay their eggs. A few small beaches located at the protected area Shete Boka Park are regularly being used by turtles.