|Its all about ships
Curacao is multi-dimensional. Its capital city and port
Willemstad is cultured and historic. At first glance, it looks
European but is actually a blend of European, African, South
American and Caribbean cultures. The area outside of
Willemstad has small tranquil picturesque beaches and areas of
crashing surf. It has wild undeveloped expanses with cactus,
aloe and exotic vegetation.
Geographically, Curaco is located 35 miles from Venezuela and
some 40 miles from Aruba. It is the largest of the ABC Islands -
- Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao.
The island lies outside of the huricane belt but is occasionally
affected by huricanes and tropical storms. Its "wet season" is
from October to Dcemeber. Otherwise, the climate is
Politically, Curaco is a constituent country of the Kingdom of
the Netherlands. Until 2010 when the Netherlands Antilles was
disolved, it was the capital of that group of Dutch Caribbean
Curacao has one of the highest standards of living in the
Caribbean. Tourism is important to the island's economy but it is
also supported by oil refining and by financial services.
Papiamentu, a blend of European and African langauges, is the
island's official language. However, Dutch, English and
Spanish are widely spoken.
Curacao is a popular stop on Southern Caribbean cruises and
Panama Canal cruises. Itineraries also typically include the
island's neighbors Aruba and, less frequently, Bonaire.
OVERVIEW AND HISTORY..........................................................Page One
CRUISE PORT; SHOPPING; GETTING
PLACES OF INTEREST (Willemstad)............................................Page Three
PLACES OF INTEREST (Countryside)...........................................Page Four
While there is a dispute as to which explorer (Alonso de
Ojeda or Amerigo Vespucci). first came upon Curacao, by
1499 the island had been claimed by Spain. The coming of the
Europeans was not good news for the Caiquetios, a branch of
the Arawak Indians who had been living on the island for
hundreds of years. Most were enslaved and forced to work on
plantations started by the Spaniards and then when the soil
proved too poor to sustain crops, they were deported to work
as slaves in other Spanish colonies.
One of the crops that the Spanish attempted to grow on
Curacao was Valencia oranges. However, the poor soil
caused the fruit to have a bitter taste and so the attempt to
cultivate this crop was dropped. Many years later, however,
another use was found for the fruit - - to make the liqueur that
bears the name of the island.
In 1634 the Dutch, under the command of Johan van
Walbeeck, conquered Curaçao from the Spaniards. The
Netherlands was interested in the island because of its strategic
location off the coast of Venezuela. The herring industry was
important to the Dutch economy and it needed salt to preserve
the fish. One source of salt was Venezuela and owning
Curacao gave the Dutch a base near that source.
The Dutch built plantations on Curacao and found to their
delight that the island was also a source of salt as was nearby
Bonaire, which they also colonized.
To protect their new possession, the Dutch built a fort at
Saint Anna Bay. The town of Willemstad sprung up around the
fort and later spread to the other side of the narrow bay.
What made Curacao valuable was not anything on the island
or grown on the island but rather the excellent port at
Willemstad. The town soon became a prosperous center for
trade with the other Caribbean islands and the mainland of
Unfortunately, an important part of this trade was in African
slaves. Slaves captured in Africa were brought to Curacao and
sold in Willemstad to traders who took them on to their final
During the Napoleon Wars, the Netherlands was conquered
by the French and a member of the Bonaparte family was
placed on the throne. Great Britain, which was Napoleon’s
arch enemy throughout this period, seized some of the colonial
possessions of the French satellite countries to prevent them
from contributing to the French empire. One of these colonies
was Curacao but it was restored to the Netherlands following
Napoleon’s defeat in 1815.
The years following the Napoleonic Wars saw revolutions
in many South American countries seeking independence from
Spain. Because of its location, Curacao had many ties to the
South American mainland. As a result, people from Curacao
such as Luis Brion fought in the Venezuelan and Columbian
Wars of Indpendence.
When the Dutch finally outlawed slavery in 1863, Curacaos
economy crashed. The former slaves found that they had little
choice but to continue to work on the plantations, surrendering
most of the harvest that they produced to the plantation owners.
In 1914, oil was discovered in the Maraciabo Basin of
Venezuela. The fact that nearby Curacao had a deep water
harbor that could be used by oil tankers led Royal Dutch Shell
and the Dutch government to build an oil refinery on Curacao.
This caused a turnaround in the island’s economy as
Europeans, South Americans and people from the other
Caribbean islands came to Curacao to work in the oil industry.
Following World War II, the desire for self-government
grew throughout the Caribbean. In 1954, Curacao became a
self-governing territory within the Netherlands Antilles, which
originally included Aruba, Bonaire, St. Maarten, Saba, St.
Eustatius and Curacao. This arrangement did not win popular
support in part because the islands have very little in common.
After Aruba seceded in 1986 and became a separate country
within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, pressure grew for the
other islands to follow suit.
Eventually, in 2010, the Netherlands Antilles was dissolved
and Curacao became a constituent country within the Kingdom
of the Netherlands.
Above: A statue of the Antilles lady outside the
Governor's Palace in Willemstad.
Above: The capital city of Willemstad is divided by the Sint Annabaai (Saint Anna Bay) into Ortobanda (above left) and Punda
(above right). The two sides are connected by a pontoon bridge, Queen Emma Bridge, that swings out of the way for ships and by
the Queen Juliana Bridge (automobiles), which was built high above the bay so that ships could pass under the bridge.
Below: Curacao outside of Willemstad is largely undeveloped. There is a wild beauty to its northern coast (below left) while the
interior presents an arid landscape.
Cruise destination guide - - photo tour - - Curacao - - page 1
Above: Some of the historic Dutch buildings in Curacao.
Note the date 1707 near the top of the blue building on the
left side of the photograph.
Above: A field piece at Fort Amsterdam.
Right: According to locals, the world's smallest church.
* This photo tour and the accompanying commentary should only be viewed as a general guide that is based upon one writer's research
and experiences. Accordingly, readers should do their own research prior to their journey. Beyondships is not affiliated with any of the
entities depicted or mentioned herein and assumes no responsibility for their actions and for the products and/or services they provide.
Nor is inclusion in this photo tour a recommendation of the entity shown, its products, services or facilities.
Above: The Rif Fort was built by the Dutch to protect the
entrance to At. Anna Bay.
Above: A statue of Dr. Moises Frumencio da Costa Gomez
who was the first Prime Minister of the Netherlands Antilles.