Cities in CURACAO
|Jan thiel baai||Piscadera bay||Willemstad|
Geography and Landscape
Curaçao is the largest island of the Netherlands Antilles, the middle of the Leeward Islands. It covers an area of 472 km2, with 152,000 inhabitants. It is located 60 kilometers from the South American mainland in the southern part of the Caribbean Sea. Klein-Curaçao, a small uninhabited island, is located southeast of Curaçao.
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Curaçao originated under the sea about 100 million years ago. The oldest rock formations consist mainly of volcanic rocks. These ancient rocks were raised above sea level 60 million years ago and then surrounded by coral limestone.
The landscape is mainly flat with some hills here and there, especially in the northwest. The highest point on Curaçao is the St. Christoffelberg (372 m). The north coast is steep and rocky, and therefore not accessible to shipping. The south coast is characterized by many bays and shallow inlets. The main inland bay is the Schottegat. There are no permanent rivers, but beds that only fill up when it has rained very hard. There are many small coral sand beaches on the southwest coast. Curaçao does not have miles of white sandy beaches.
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Climate and Weather
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The island has a semi-arid tropical climate that is moderated by the northeast trade wind which has a pleasant cooling effect. This means a lot of sun and little rain. The average annual temperature is 27.5°C and the difference between summer and winter is only 2.5 degrees. The difference between day and night is also only small, namely 5.6 degrees. The sea water temperature is very warm with an average of 26.8°C. On average, there is between 50 and 75 cm of rain per year. It usually rains in the morning in the form of short, heavy showers that spread across the island. Most rain falls in the months of October, November and December. The hottest months are August, September and October. The "coolest" (29°C!) Months are January and February.
Plants and Animals
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In the dry climate of Curaçao there are about 500 species of plants and trees. Compared to the South American mainland, this is not much. Trees are almost non-existent, cacti, on the other hand, are very common, and large areas are hardly overgrown. Due to groundwater extraction, large areas have become withered and saline. An example of this is the entire coastal strip in the north. Most of the vegetation is found in those places where the water-retaining limestone is covered with a layer of basalt dust that is rich in minerals. Different types of mangroves are found on the shores of the bays. These trees stand with their roots in the water and "breathe" through air roots that hang down from the branches. The most famous tree of the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao) is the divi-divi or fan tree. Characteristic of Curaçao are the cacti that sometimes form entire forests. Palm trees are also found on Curaçao, but are probably imported by the Spaniards and can be seen especially at the hotels and beaches.
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The animal world is a little better, but even here, compared to Venezuela, it lags far behind. Unique to Curaçao is the Curaçao deer or white-tailed deer, which only occurs on the west coast of the island. The locals call the animal "bina". They have been legally protected since 1931 and the current number is estimated at 400.
Curaçao also has about sixteen species of lizards (including whip-tail lizards). Iguanas (yuana) are also common. Goats are abundant and donkeys to a lesser extent. The goats often roam freely and cause great damage to the plant world on Curaçao. Most birds that occur on Curaçao just hibernate or are on their way to a breeding ground.
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Beautiful birds are the West Indian parakeets (the yellow prikichi is unique to Curaçao), red and green hummingbirds and the bright orange sugar thief. The Caribbean flamingo also comes by now and then, especially in the breeding season in search of food. The breeding ground for this bird is on Bonaire. The Christoffelpark is a true bird watcher paradise. The national yellow-breasted groupial is common here.
In the sea around Curaçao there are beautiful coral reefs and the number of fish species is very varied. Some special fish are the barracuda, a pike that can reach a length of two meters, and the moray eel, an eel that can also reach a length of two meters. Sharks are also quite common. However, the water is so nutrient-rich that they pose no danger to humans.
Photo:John Gabriel Stedman in the public domain
Little is known about the original inhabitants. Excavations indicate that Curaçao must have been inhabited for hundreds of years. The Indians, Arawaks, came from mainland South America. Evidence for this is the fact that they used the same objects and worked and lived in the same way as the Indians on the South American mainland. They were primitive, Stone Age Indians who thrived on fishing and vegetable food.
Historians disagree on who discovered Curaçao. It is known that it was discovered in 1499, either by Alonso de Ojeda or by Amerigo Vespucci, after whom the American continent is named. Vespucci is known to have visited Curaçao. No written evidence is known of a visit to Curaçao by Alonso de Ojeda. The Spanish called the islands "Islas de los Gigantes" (Islands of the giants) because the Native American population stood head and shoulders above the Spaniards. In 1513, the Spanish declared the ABC islands "Islas Inutiles" (useless islands) because of the lack of gold and natural resources. The Indians were then taken as slaves to the island of Hispaniola.
The Dutch came into the picture towards the end of the 16th century. They needed a lot of salt for herring fishing and because of the Eighty Years' War (1568-1648) the Spaniards and the Portuguese decided to stop supplying salt to the Dutch. Their eye then fell on the richly-filled salt pans of the Caribbean and an attempt was made to establish a military base in the Caribbean. In 1633 the West India Company (WIC) founded a support center on Sint Maarten and in 1634 Curaçao was conquered. This went quite easily because the Spaniards hardly defended the island.
The island was therefore used as a port of departure, but due to the natural harbor, the Schottegat, it quickly developed into an important trade center. It became a depot of textiles, furniture and colonial products for the ships that were in transit to America and Europe. From 1673 to 1800, Curaçao was attacked several times by the French. However, the French did not succeed in conquering Curaçao. In 1804, 1805 and 1807, the English attacked Curaçao. The resistance in 1807 was very limited and the English took the island. In 1814 Curaçao was returned to the Netherlands during the London Convention. By the end of the nineteenth century, Curaçao was in deep crisis. Trade declined sharply and crops failed.
In 1914, Shell began with the exploitation of petroleum in Venezuela and that would be a major event for Curaçao. The oil was refined (purified) in Curaçao, and business and employment increased explosively. Another consequence was that the refinery and other companies that were going to establish themselves in Curaçao attracted thousands of foreign workers. Dependence on the refinery also posed a great risk. In 1929, for example, the supply and the price of oil fell sharply, with the result that of the 11,000 people who worked in the oil industry, only 3,400 remained. During the Second World War, Curaçao was occupied first by the English and later by the Americans to defend the island against the Germans. The refinery provided a large share of the fuel supply for the Allied armies and was therefore of great strategic value. However, the damage was very limited. Major changes brought about the "Statute for the Kingdom of the Netherlands" in 1954. This was a treaty in which the Netherlands, Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles gave almost complete independence of government. That meant autonomy in all areas except defense and foreign affairs. On November 25, 1975 this statute was amended; Suriname became a completely independent republic. This changed again on 1 January. Aruba received the "Status Aparte" and since that date the Netherlands Antilles consist of Curaçao, Bonaire, Sint-Maarten, Sint-Eustatius and Saba. In November 1993, a referendum took place on Curaçao in which those entitled to vote could give their opinion on the relationship with the Netherlands or full independence. An overwhelming majority voted in favor of maintaining the relationship with the Netherlands. In 1994 it was also decided that the five islands would continue to work together within one constitutional context. As a result, the future for the islands and therefore also for Curaçao looks a lot more certain.
Parliament decided in mid-2000 that the Dutch may settle freely in the Netherlands Antilles (National Ordinance Admission and Deportation = LTU). The only conditions that are set are that the Dutch have a certificate of good conduct and can prove that they have accommodation and sufficient means of support.
By opening the borders, the Antillean government wanted to stimulate the economy. The relaxation of the national ordinance also makes it easier for companies to acquire additional knowledge. This also has a favorable effect on the competitive position, because the economy could be revived, partly due to the influx of economically active persons.
In the island council elections of May 2003, the controversial workers' party Frente Obrero (FOL) of Anthony Goddett won the large majority in Curaçao. The party took eight of the 21 seats, doubling compared to 1999. The ruling party PAR retained five seats and Errol Cova's Trade Union Party gained three seats. The National People's Party PNP fell from five to two seats, the social party MAN retained two seats and newcomer LNPA (No Step Backwards) gained one seat. Godett was released from prison shortly before the election, where he was held on suspicion of taking a bribe.
At the beginning of April 2004, the Antillean cabinet fell. Ersilia de Lannooy's National People's Party (PNP) withdrew its support for the coalition. As a result, it lost the majority in the 22 seats of Parliament (parliament). The Curaçao trade union party PLKP and the Democratic Party of Bonaire (PDB) also withdrew their support for the fallen cabinet.
Independent or not
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A referendum was held on April 8, 2005, in which the people of Curaçao could express their opinion on the desired political future of the island. The result of the referendum, per option, was as follows:
68% Option A: Autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands
5% Option B: Preserve the current Netherlands Antilles
4% Option C: Total independence
24% Option D: Province of the Netherlands
With the choice for option A, the population has followed the wishes of the majority of the politicians on the island.
During a mini-round table conference in The Hague on 11 October 2006, it was agreed with the Netherlands that Curaçao would receive the so-called separate status. Curaçao would thus become an autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. As part of this agreement, the Dutch government has offered to restructure or take over a large part of the national debt. The agreements are summarized in a final statement, which has subsequently become the subject of much discussion in Curaçao. In the opinion of the opposition parties, of which the FOL was the most important, and the smallest coalition parties, the agreements did not go far enough. The largest coalition parties, PAR and PNP, defended the agreement. Ultimately, the agreement was rejected by a majority in the island council of Curaçao, after which the executive council fell apart and a new coalition was formed under the leadership of the FOL that had to complete the time until the new elections on April 20, 2007.
The rejection of the agreements created a lot of uncertainty for the economic and political future of Curaçao. Both in politics and among the population, supporters and opponents came up against each other. Opponents argued for renegotiations, but both the Balkenende III cabinet and the new Balkenende IV cabinet indicated that they did not support this, almost unanimously supported by the House of Representatives. Polls in Curaçao showed that the continuing political unrest significantly reduced support for the separate status, in favor of integration in the Netherlands (option D). This is probably partly due to the realization of this option: at the time of the referendum in April 2005 it was not yet known what this option might look like and was therefore not a realistic consideration for many. It was not until October 2006 that the Netherlands and the small islands of Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius agreed that this status would be based on the Dutch Municipalities Act.
The island council elections were therefore crucial and revolved entirely around the theme of final declaration. If the opponents were to achieve a majority, there was a danger of an impasse. In the extreme case, the exit of the other islands from the Netherlands Antilles would leave Curaçao as the only island of the Netherlands Antilles, with de facto autonomous status, but also with the sky-high national debt of the Netherlands Antilles.
Ultimately, neither the supporters nor the opponents achieved a clear majority in the island council elections. However, the two parties advocating the final statement, PAR and PNP, managed to reach an agreement with big loser FOL on the formation of a new coalition. It was agreed to vote again on the final statement. After a long meeting, the Curaçao Island Council voted in the night of 6 to 7 July 2007 under certain conditions with the final statement: PAR, PNP, FOL and DP now voted in favor (12 of the 21 seats). On August 28, an agreement was signed with the Netherlands on the constitutional process, after which the Island Council ratified this agreement a day later with 13 votes (PAR, PNP, FOL, DP and FK). The intention was to obtain the autonomous status of "land within the Kingdom" on December 15, 2008. In May 2008, Sint Maarten, Curaçao and the Netherlands in Curaçao definitively determined in the Steering Group that the target date of 15 December as the implementation date for the new constitutional relations is not feasible. However, it is possible to have all the necessary legislation ready by that date so that it can be submitted to the Dutch Parliament, the Parliament of the Netherlands Antilles and the Island Councils of Curaçao and Sint Maarten. Therefore, a round table conference will be organized on December 15, 2008 to assess the total package of legislation against the previously agreed criteria from the final declaration.
Looking at the planning, the parties have decided to request advice from the Council of State of the Kingdom on how to accelerate the autonomous status. This is desirable because Netherlands Antilles is actually increasingly dismantling.
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The Netherlands Antilles no longer exist since October 10, 2010. Aruba was already an independent country, Curaçao and Sint Maarten became so from that date. Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius became special Dutch municipalities of the Netherlands.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands now consists of four countries with their own governments: Aruba, the Netherlands, Curaçao and Sint Maarten. Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius have a separate status within the Netherlands and are called the Caribbean Netherlands, together with Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten they form the Caribbean part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Between 12 and 21 November 2013, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima visited the six islands in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. On November 18 and 19 it was Curaçao's turn. In April 2017 elections were held in Curaçao which were won by the liberal PAR of Eugene Rhuggenaath. He will be the new prime minister and will strive for good relations with the Netherlands. Former Prime Minister Schotte is sentenced in July 2017 to 3 years in prison for corruption and money laundering, but he is also not allowed to hold political office for 5 years. In January 2018, Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao will face an export ban and a sea, air and land blockade of the islands by Venezuela. In 2020 there is a disagreement between Curacao and the Netherlands about the conditions for a Corona loan from the Netherlands to Curacao.
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Because the local Indian population was not suitable as labor power, the most important commodity became the slave trade, with which large profits were made. From the beginning of the seventeenth century, Negro slaves were transported from Africa to Curaçao. These were sold to the English, Portuguese and Spanish colonies where large numbers of labor were needed for the enormous agricultural plantations. By 1660, Curaçao had grown into the center of the Caribbean slave trade. A total of approximately 100,000 slaves are believed to have been shipped to Curaçao. From 1713 it went downhill with the slave trade, partly due to the English competition. In general, less and less slaves were needed in Curaçao due to the lack of large-scale agriculture. In 1795, under the leadership of the slave Tula, a revolt broke out among the slaves. The reason was the poor living and working conditions on the plantations, but it soon grew into a revolt against slavery. After two weeks, however, the insurgents were defeated and Tula was killed.
In general, however, opposition to human trafficking grew and in 1818 Holland concluded a treaty with England to combat the slave trade. Despite the fact that the slave trade continued until the mid-nineteenth century, the import of slaves into the colonies was already prohibited in 1821. Slavery was abolished in Holland in 1863, but slaves remained very dependent on their former masters and the old power relations remained virtually unchanged until well into the twentieth century.
How did Curaçao get its name
There are many theories, including the following:
-the island is named after a fruit that occurs on the island, the Corossol
- derived from the word Curacan which stands for elongated or mighty
- derived from the word Corauaçu, meaning big plantation or high mountain
- derived from the Spanish word Corazón or the Portuguese Coraçâo, which means heart.
The Dutch deported the Spaniards and most Indians in the 17th century. At the beginning of the 19th century, the last Indians had disappeared. Twenty years after the Dutch, Portuguese (Sephardic) Jews settled in Curaçao. This happened after the fall of the Dutch colony in Brazil in 1654. Another group that settled on the island after the abolition of slavery were descendants of African slaves. These three culturally very different population groups maintained a certain population pattern until the arrival of the refinery in the early 20th century. The establishment of the Shell refinery in the twenties of this century led to a population explosion due to immigration from the surrounding countries and islands, the Netherlands, Portugal and the Middle East. The population grew from 37,000 in 1915 to 91,000 in 1947. Of these, 25,000 were of non-Antillean descent. According to the 1992 census, Curaçao has 144,000 inhabitants. Including illegal residents, there are probably around 160,000 inhabitants. Eighty-five percent of them are of Dutch Antillean descent. Ten percent consists of Dutch and the rest consists of a multitude of nationalities, most of which are Portuguese, French and English, from other Caribbean islands. In 2017 Curacao had 149,648 inhabitants.
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Although Dutch is taught, Papiamento is the native language of most people. The name Papiamento probably originated from the Portuguese "papear" which means "talk". Papiamento is a typical mixed language with Portuguese and Spanish grammar and many words from English and Dutch. It probably originated in the seventeenth century to enable communication between slaves and masters and between slaves themselves. It is spoken by all social classes and has become part of their own identity. The founder of the first primary school where the language of instruction was Frank Martinus Arion, a well-known Curaçao writer. Most people in Curaçao speak fluent Spanish and English in addition to Dutch and Papiamento.
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The Dutch settlers in Curaçao were almost all Protestants. However, they hardly interfered with the local population and often left the missionary work to Catholic missionaries. As a result, the vast majority (87%) of the current population belongs to the Roman Catholic Church. Curaçao is characterized by a considerable community of Jews, descendants of the Portuguese (Sephardic) Jews who arrived from Brazil in 1654. Furthermore, various small groups such as Jehovah's Witnesses, Muslims, Methodists and Seventh Day Adventists.
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The Netherlands Antilles are an autonomous part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and have their own government. The Kingdom of the Netherlands is only responsible for defense and foreign affairs. The Netherlands Antilles have appointed a "minister plenipotentiary" who represents the islands in the Kingdom government in the Netherlands. The government of the Netherlands Antilles is located in the capital of the Netherlands Antilles and Curaçao, Willemstad and is formed by a council of ministers and a governor. The Antillean Council of Ministers is accountable to the parliament, the "States of the Netherlands Antilles". The Parliament of the Netherlands Antilles consists of 22 members (Curaçao 14, Bonaire 3, Sint Maarten 3, Saba 1 and Sint-Eustatius 1). Together with the governor, they form the legislative branch. The members of Parliament come from the island councils, which in turn form part of the administration of each island individually. For the current political situation, see chapter history.
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Catholic missionaries laid the foundation for today's education. The Dutch system with kindergarten, primary school and secondary education at different levels is still used. Besides the "normal" subjects, Papiamento is also taught. In addition, many schools teach English and Spanish in the upper classes. The language of instruction is Dutch, which causes problems for many children, especially in the first years of primary school. For the first years of their lives they hear almost only Papiamentu. A poverty study in 1999 shows that the number of children who do not finish school is increasing explosively. From 26% in the eighties, to 42% in the early nineties and more than half - over 55% - in 1999. Since 1979, Curaçao has its own university with a legal, technical and economic faculty. There is also a pedagogical academy and teacher training. Many students study in the Netherlands or the United States.
Compared to Latin American countries, Curaçao is rich and prosperous. Per capita income averages $ 15,000 per person per year (2014). Prosperity is also evident from the low infant mortality rate, high life expectancy and even the high number of cars, refrigerators and video equipment per inhabitant. Curaçao has the most different economic activities with the oil refinery, the docks and a large ship repair company, many banks and financial offshore companies. Trade, with extensive duty-free zones, also plays a major role.
Photo:We El in the public domain
The industry employs about fifteen percent of the working population. Ten percent of the population works for financial institutions and another ten percent works in the construction industry. There is also a very large civil service; Seventy percent of government revenue is spent on civil servants' salaries. According to the official authorities, ten percent of the population in Curaçao is unemployed and in some disadvantaged neighborhoods half of the young people are unemployed (2014). However, these figures must be taken with a large grain of salt because they are often outdated figures and in Curaçao many unemployed people regularly have casual jobs.
Holidays and Sightseeing
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Tourism is important in Curaçao, only much less than in Aruba or Sint Maarten. In 2007 a record number of Dutch people visited Curaçao, a total of 100,384. That was an increase of 17.8% compared to 2006. This increase is the result of the decrease in ticket prices at KLM, among others. In total, Curaçao received 299,730 tourists in 2007, also a record. The Dutch formed the largest group of visitors, followed by more than 65,000 Venezuelans. In addition, more than 340,000 cruise tourists visited Curaçao in 2007.
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Historical museum located in a former military hospital. In the museum garden you can find old street lamps, statues and old naval cannons. There are three period rooms with 19th-century Curaçao furniture and paintings by local and Dutch painters. There is also an archaeological-geological department.
This is the oldest surviving building on Curaçao. It now houses the States and the Council of Ministers of the Netherlands Antilles. The governor's residence is also located in the fort.
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This is a 3,500 hectare hilly nature reserve in the west of Curaçao. All wild animals that occur on Curaçao can be found here. Three car routes have been set out in the park. From the top of the Christoffelberg you have a magnificent view over Curaçao.
Curaçao Sea Aquarium
More than 400 species of Caribbean fish and shellfish can be seen in 46 aquariums and a number of outdoor pools. Snorkeling and diving equipment can be rented to view the fish, sharks and turtles underwater. It is also possible to view all the beauty through a glass bottom boat. There is also a sea lion show every day.
Caves of Hato
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The Caves of Hato cover an area of 4,900 m2 and you can see beautiful dripstone shapes and Indian murals. The caves can be visited accompanied by a guide.
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Willemstad is the capital and also the largest and most important city of the ABC island of Curacao. UNESCO believes that the entire city center of Willemstad is an important attraction and therefore placed it on its World Heritage List in 1997. This will protect the city center from destruction in the long term. You will soon notice that the city center is also very unique. The beautiful colored houses, which are sometimes built in the typical Amsterdam canal style, are definitely worth a visit. But Willemstad has more to offer. When you travel to the capital of Curacao you should definitely pay a visit to Fort Amsterdam. This fort is located southeast of the Sint Anna Bay and used to serve as a defense work, but also as the headquarters of the West India Company. This building was built in the 17th century by Johan van Walbeek.
Jan Thiel Bay
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The Jan Thiel Bay is one of the most famous tourist destinations on Curacao and is known worldwide as a diving hotspot. You don't have to search long for certified diving schools, because there are plenty of them. So both novice and experienced divers can enjoy the beautiful underwater world of the Caribbean Sea with its colorful coral and many exotic fish species.
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Bakker, J. / Nederlandse Antillen en Aruba
Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen
Erven Dorens, P. van / Curaçao
Bos & Co
Helm, R. van der / De Curaçao reisgids
CIA - World Factbook
BBC - Country Profiles
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