Curacao in the Past and in the Present

Over time, Curacao has proven a major trade center in the Caribbean.

Photo credit: © cphoffman42

When European explorers first discovered Curaçao, the island was thought to be useless because of its lack of gold and fresh water. But as the years progressed, Dutch colonists found that Curaçao was the perfect location for commerce and trade. After many years of war, slavery, and mercantilism Curaçao blossomed into a rapidly growing tourist destination, with a unique and charming atmosphere that is sure to sweep you off your feet.


As with many islands in the Caribbean, the history of Curaçao starts with its indigenous people, the Arawak Indians. These peaceful people came to the island about 6,000 years ago.  They made their living as farmers and hunters living off the land. During the 15th century, Spanish explorers arrived on the island, following in the footsteps of the famous explorer Christopher Columbus, who was one of the first to map the Caribbean. Spanish explorer Alonso de Ojeda and his Italian comrade Amerigo Vespucci arrived on Curaçao during the early 16th century, paving the way for other Spanish explorers.

The Spanish colonists eventually abandoned Curaçao because the island contained very few riches and little fresh water. The Dutch West India Company took control over what would soon become the one of the largest centers of commerce in the Caribbean. Initially, Curaçao's economy survived on some agriculture, but mostly on the mining of salt found in the island's saline ponds. Eventually, the island's superb location, deep ports, and natural harbors gave the Dutch another use that would bring in much more money. Eventually, Curaçao's prime location in the Caribbean trade route caught the attention of the British, who managed to take control of the island twice before the Dutch secured their hold on it.


The island's population of 133,644 residents is made up of a variety of races and ethnic groups, including the Dutch, Jewish, and people of African descent, creating a melting pot of traditions and culture.  A prime example of the diverse heritages on the islands is language; although Dutch is the official language, many residents also speak English and Papiamentu. 


...great shopping and charming ambiance...


Curaçao's economy experienced many ups and downs, and it took years after the abolition of slavery to recover. With the discovery of oil off of the coast of Venezuela, Curaçao's economy began to prosper once more, and the island's oil refinery became the source of many jobs. The many immigrants who flocked to the island in search of jobs contributed significantly to Curaçao's already diverse culture.

Once a part of the Netherland Antilles, which was a series of islands in the Caribbean that were territories of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, today Curaçao is an independent nation.  Between 2000 and 2005, referendums were held on all of the islands of the Netherland Antilles to vote for the opportunity to each island to become and independent nation within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.  As a result of the referendums, as of October 10, 2010, the Netherland Antilles dissolved and Curaçao became an independent governance. 

Tourism is a growing industry and adds to Curaçao's economic income. Between 200 and 300 thousand tourists from all over the world come to the island each year during the on-season to experience the great shopping and charming ambiance of this unique Caribbean gem.


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