The New York Times, August 15, 1880, p. 10:|
THE CITY OF CORAL ROCKA DAY AND A NIGHT IN THE ISLAND OF CURAÇAO.
THE REFUGE OF VENEZUELAN CONSPIRATORS—
A POPULATION WHICH DEPENDS FOR WATER
WHOLLY ON RAIN—
THE SALT BOILERS AND THEIR WORK—
A SPECIMEN CITY OF THE DUTCH WEST INDIES.
CURAÇAO, July 27.—According to local tradition, upon some far away wave that floated down the river of time the events of two centuries agone, was carried as fresh the melancholy story of a luckless padre who fell into the hands of some peculiarly and exceptionally wicked pirates, who roasted him on this island, somewhere about where this quaint old town now stands. And the incident was commemorated in the name given to the place, of cura asado.
When the Dutch came in here and laid their sturdy hands upon the six islands which still constitute their possessions in this quarter of the ocean, they corrupted the old Spanish "roasted priest" to cura-asao, which in time became Curasao, and finally Curacao, which it still remains...
The wanderer from the North who, with hope and appetite whetting his imagination, after a protracted voyage on that floating horror, the steamer Augustus, looks forward to beholding in Curaçao the glories of sung and storied tropical isles, is going to suffer a grievous disappointment. The foul smells of the Augustus may suggest to his mind the relief of balmy, perfumed breezes from tropical flowers—but there are none to be smelled at Curaçao. The scant and abominable food on the Augustus may incite his fancy to the expectation of finding here groves of luscious tropical fruits—but none grow within sight of the sea.
Approaching the island from the north, and skirting down along its western and southern side two-thirds of the way to its eastern extremity, where the City of Curaçao is situated, one sees only bleak, barren, rugged hills, with abrupt ravines between them. Scrubby bushes and stunted cacti but scantily hide the nakedness, here and there, of the rocky, parched, inhospitable earth.
At long distances apart houses are to be seen—large and solidly-built structures—where live the recluses who make a business of boiling salt out of the sea-water, with which they flood inland ponds in the ravines. The sun does most of their work for them, evaporating the water and depositing the salt, until, by successive fillings of the ponds, brine is made strong enough for boiling down profitably.
All along the coast an angry surf breaks, roaring and foaming against and over coral reefs that in the outward swash of the billows show their hungry teeth, as if warning to keep aloof. Suddenly, as the steamer rounds a little cape, a new feature appears in the landscape—a mass of vivid red roofs and flashing white walls, with two little forts in the foreground and between them a very narrow strip of blue water.
Beyond this small entrance to the harbor we see the masts of numerous sailing vessels and the smoke-stacks of two steamers, the splendid Vandalia, of the Hamburg Line, and one of the "Red D" Line. Long we lie waiting for the pilot, who comes at his leisure in a small row-boat propelled by four languid darkies. Had we been 15 minutes later he would not come until to-morrow, for after 6 o'clock in the evening he does not trouble himself, and there is no other pilot allowed to bring a vessel in, nor is a Captain permitted to be his own pilot.
Mynheer Van Osenbruggen, the pilot, and by courtesy styled Harbor-master, is a stout, round-eyed, kindly Dutchman, once an officer in the Holland Navy, who holds his post by Government appointment, has held it for seven years, and looks forward to retiring to Rotterdam—where he "can get good beef once again"—after six years more, when he will have a life pension.
The harbor into which he directs our course seems a mere cleft in the coral mass of the island, say an eighth of a mile long and 200 yards wide at most, but still further inland runs what they call the lagoon, where many large vessels might ride safely together in from 6 to 10 fathoms of water. In the harbor itself the water is from 9 to 14 fathoms deep, so deep that it is as blue as the ocean outside, and so abrupt are its walls that great steamers lie close against the wharves.
When the steamer is made fast the pilot extends a courteous invitation to the gentlemen passengers to visit the club, that we may be registered, presented by him, and made free of the conveniences there procurable during our stay. Accepting his invitation we are carried across the harbor in a queer broad ferry-boat—hundreds of which seem to by plying to and fro. Each boat is propelled by a darky who stands upon a board near the stern and uses a huge oar as a scull, lazily swinging his body back and forth upon it.
There are two clubs, the Gezelligheid and the Union. It is to the former, the recognized first-class one, of which his Excellency, Hendrik Bernadus Kip, Colonial Governor, is the "Master of Honor," that we go. Fine and spacious rooms the Gezelligheid has on the second and third floors of a great building overlooking the harbor and the eastern fort and the Governor's fine house above the fort. There are reading rooms and chess, parlors and facilities for fluid refreshment, and old style billiard tables almost as big as fields, with sectional rails to fit the pocket-jaws, against which balls stop dead in the most bewitched sort of way; and there is more room everywhere than the club knows what to do with and for it all the rent is $60 per month—from which one understands that real estate is cheap here—and members dues are only $12 per annum, which is surely not too much for anybody to pay for the pleasure of belonging to a semi-private society to which belong all the foreign Consuls and the merchants, and all the rest of the best people in Curaçao.
Everybody who is worth knowing comes to the club, even the high and mighty Hendrik Bernardus Kip himself, who has an army of 150 soldiers at his command, and sways the destinies of the Islands of Curaçao, Aruba, Bonaire, St. Martin, Saba, and St. Eustatius.
On every side one hears a strange language. There are just enough familiar words in it to delude the foreigner from any land into the hallucination that he can understand it if he tries—but he can't. It is a mixture of local compounding from Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, English, French and Indian, the name of which is papiamento, or "Talk Mixture." All the natives speak it, and everybody else who would be understood must also learn it. The priests have fought against it, ruled it out of their schools, formally cursed it, I believe, and most Europeans and Americans who have been here have done so informally, but still it flourishes. Books have been written and printed in it, and there is even a weekly newspaper, the Union, which appears in papiamento.
And it is no wonder that it holds its own. Out of the 8,000 inhabitants in the town, about 7,600 are either Indian, negro, or of some of the variously shaded results of the mixture of those races, or of the more lightly graduated tints that demonstrate accidental Caucasian influence. They are all adherents of papiamento. How can the trifling minority of 400, who have merely respectability, wealth, and white blood on their side, hope to make headway against the habits of such a majority in a land where respectability is a secondary consideration, wealth a modest sufficiency of the daily mango, and white blood far from fashionable?
Curaçao has a constantly floating population quite disproportionate to her size. A large portion of it, of course, belongs to the commercial interest, for this is a free port, and carries on a very extensive trade, both legitimate and illicit, with Venezuela and Colombia. But is also swarms with Venezuelan political refugees. There are always in Venezuela two parties—one which has kicked out those formerly in power, and another which is plotting to kick out the existing authorities. When one of the would-be kickers-out discovers, or imagines, that his intentions have attracted the notice of the Government, he stands not on the order of his going, but goes at once. If in the eastern part of Venezuela, he skips over to Port-au-Spain, Trinidad, and, if in the western part, he flees to Curaçao. If he does neither, the chances are that he will suddenly find himself in a dungeon under some Government fort, and those dungeons are said to be very bad places to get out of.
So in Curaçao there is constantly going on plotting against the Venezuelan Government. No matter which party is in power, the other is sure to be conspiring here. When Blue is in Caracas, Yellow is in Curaçao, and when Yellow's turn comse to go to Caracas, Blue comes here to buy arms, (on credit,) and plot to regain power by another revolution. The merchants of Curaçao look on indifferently enough, and care little which wins so long as they are paid for the munitions of war they supply.
see also: Venezuela News - Colombia - Panama - Netherlands|
All of Netherlands Antilles
is one time zone at GMT-4,
with no Daylight Savings time.
Once the center of the Caribbean slave trade, the island of Curacao was hard hit by the abolition of slavery in 1863. Its prosperity (and that of neighboring Aruba) was restored in the early 20th century with the construction of oil refineries to service the newly discovered Venezuelan oil fields.
The island of Saint Martin is shared with France; its southern portion is named Sint Maarten and is part of the Netherlands Antilles; its northern portion is called Saint-Martin and is part of Guadeloupe.
CIA World Factbook: Netherlands Antilles
Area of Netherlands Antilles:
960 sq km
more than 5x the size of Wash., DC
Population of Netherlands Antilles:
July 2007 estimate
Languages of Netherlands Antilles:
Papiamento majority dialect mixing
English widely spoken, Spanish
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