The last 500 Years
The origin of Curacao, an island in the Dutch Caribbean, dates back to the time of Columbus, who practically put the Caribbean on the map. As the Spanish soldier and explorer Alonso de Ojeda, joined by the Italian Amerigo Vespucci, set sail to explore the American coast they came across Curacao. Soon after, large numbers of Spanish settlers came to inhabit the island.
However, after realizing the lack of fresh water and gold, abandonment seemed to be the best option. After the Spanish left the island, the claim went to the Dutch West India Company in 1634. Soon there after the company installed a governor, Peter Stuyvesent, who in turn established plantations on the island.
These Plantations served as the foundation for the islands farming industry in the production of salt, dried from the islands saline ponds. The islands economy was developing and with its deep port and protected shores, and the establishment of several large forts, the West India Company found a safe place for commerce.
Slave trade became extremely popular and spread to the other islands of the Dutch West Indies and the Spanish main. Papiamentu, the native language of Curacao, began to form when the slaves began to communicate with their captors. The language is a mixture of Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, and African dialects.
Also during this time, Jewish families from Amsterdam established settlements on Curacao and attracted others from Europe and South America, fleeing from the remnants of the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions. By the early 18th century, the Jewish population in Curacao had reached 2,000.
In 1732, the community established the Mikve Israel Emanuel Synagogue in Willemstad, a structure that stands today. It is one of the oldest synagogues in the Western Hemisphere still in use.
During the early 18th century, the island's deep port and strategic position attracted the British and French. However, The 1815 Treaty of Paris settled a lot of disputes in the Caribbean, and it gave Curacao back to the Dutch West India Company.
Soon after the Dutch retook the island, it languished for a century. Slavery disappeared, and social and economic conditions were harsh.
After languishing for over a century, in 1920, oil was found off the coast of Venezuela, which gave way for distilling crude oil that was imported. This new found industry would provide a stable economy and produced Curacao's Royal Dutch Shell Refinery, which became the island's biggest business and employer.
During World War II, the Allies judged Curacao and its refinery to be important enough, and strategic enough, to establish an American military base at Waterfort Arches, near Willemstad.
When the War ended, Curacao, along with the rest of the Caribbean, expressed its interest, in a loud clamor, for independence. As a result, Curacao became an entity within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Curacao, along with Aruba, Bonaire, Saba, Sint Eustatius, and Sint Maarten, became the Netherlands Antilles, with the administrative center in Willemstad, where it remains today.
Copyright © 2003 Odenz