December 30th, 2011
Photo credit: Lodewijk van den Broek
The original inhabitants of Curaçao were Arawak Amerindians. The first Europeans to see the island were members of a Spanish expedition under the leadership of Alonso de Ojeda in 1499. The Spaniards enslaved most of the indigenous population and forcibly relocated the survivors to other colonies where workers were needed. The island was occupied by the Dutch in 1634. The Dutch West India Company founded the capital of Willemstad on the banks of an inlet called the ‘Schottegat’.
The slave trade made the island affluent, and led to the construction of impressive colonial buildings. Curaçao features architecture that blends Dutch and Spanish colonial styles. The wide range of historic buildings in and around Willemstad earned the capital a place on UNESCO’s world heritage list. Landhouses (former plantation estates) and West African style “kas di pal’i maishi” (former slave dwellings) are scattered all over the island and some of them have been restored and can be visited.
In attempts to rid their souls of anger and outrage, the slaves made objects that represented their captors then spiked the objects with nails. The above statue can be found at the Museum Kurà Hulanda, which demonstrates how the African and diverse cultural heritage has influenced Curaçaoan and Caribbean societies until today.
To learn more about undiscovered Curaçao, read our article here.
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