Curaçao (formerly Netherlands Antilles) News and Links ( Dutch Antilles News )

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    The Netherlands Antilles... "was an autonomous Caribbean country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Although the country has now been dissolved, all of its constituent islands remain part of the kingdom under a different legal status and the term is still used to refer to these Dutch Caribbean islands."

The New York Times, August 15, 1880, p. 10:

THE CITY OF CORAL ROCK

A 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.

  Curaçao News



    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

In 2006, Curaçao and Sint Maarten were granted autonomy from the Netherlands.


Area of the Former Netherlands Antilles: 960 sq km
more than 5x the size of Wash., DC

Population of the Former Netherlands Antilles: 223,652
July 2007 estimate

Languages of the Former Netherlands Antilles:
Dutch official
Papiamento majority dialect mixing
    Spanish-Portuguese-Dutch-English
English widely spoken, Spanish

Curaçao Capital: Willemstad


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  Netherlands Antilles Reference Articles & Links

Wikipedia: Netherlands Antilles
    History of Netherlands Antilles
BBC Area Profile: Netherlands Antilles
US State Dept: Netherlands Antilles Profile

Dutch Embassy, Washington D.C.
Governments on the WWW links

WikiTravel: Netherlands Antilles
US State Dept Netherlands Antilles Travel
Curaçao Tourist Board
Saba Tourist Bureau
St. Eustatius Tourist Office
Info Bionaire

  Netherlands Antilles News Websites

La Prensa in Papiamento
Antillen in Dutch
Amigoe in Dutch
Amigoe in English
Daily Herald St. Maarten in English

ABYZ: Netherlands Antilles News Links

  Netherlands Antilles Internet Directories

Yahoo!: Netherlands Antilles directory
    With the exception of two or three scanty wells of fresh water in the interior, the Island of Curaçao—which is said to have 24,000 inhabitants—is entirely dependent upon the rain caught and stored in cisterns, here a most precarious source of supply. From 1873 to 1878 they had practically no rain, and water had to be brought over in barrels from the mainland of Venezuela and sold at a high price. Trees and plants died for want of water, and thousands of sheep, goats, and cattle perished miserably in that long protracted drought... it is said that such a thing has never been known as rain that extended at once over the whole island, which is only 62 miles long...
    While slavery existed on the island there were numbers of large plantations, each having from 250 to 350 blacks, who were constantly employed in carrying water from great cisterns and pouring it at the roots of orange, mispel, and other trees, groves of which were maintained by their rich owners. But the work was very hard, under the tropical sun which blazes here, and when slavery was abolished in 1863 the blacks dropped irrigation and sought easier employment. To a stranger it seems as if they had all become ferry-boatmen in the harbor. So the plantations are no longer what they were before emancipation was proclaimed, though some of them, by lavish expenditure of money and the unremitting personal attention of their proprietors, are still maintained in very beautiful condition...

    There are no dug wells upon the island, strange to say, notwithstanding the existence of two or three natural wells of sweet water would seem to encourage their construction. Not long since an Englishman proposed to the Colonial Government to sink some wells, but as he loaded his application with a demand for a monopoly of the right to lay pipes in all Government ground, permission was refused him. Then he proposed to abandon that claim and go on with the wells if he were granted a monopoly of the introduction of well-digging machinery, but that was also refused. Now some other parties have before the Colonial Council a proposition to sink wells without asking for any monopolies, and it is probable that permission to do so will be accorded them.

    All this and much more we learned in the course of our evening's chat at the club, and then the brilliant moonlight tempts us out for a stroll. It is the pleasantest time to see the town. Refreshing breezes sweep in from the ocean through the narrow streets; where the moon's rays fall the light is almost as clear as that of day, while the shadows cast are nearly as black as those cast by objects interposed in the electric light; all sounds of traffic are hushed, and on every side there rises a hum of chattering voices, of merry laughter, and of music.
    The streets are very narrow, scarcely wide enough—with a single exception in the east and another in the west town—for a carriage to pass through without squeezing pedestrians against the walls. The pavements are level, smooth, and clean as floors in the houses, only in the very narrow ways, where they slope toward the centre and are cumbered with a mass of rubbish composed of sprawling children, sleeping negroes, and drowsy dogs. Both men and women lie at full length on the cool stones or sit cross-legged, propped against door-posts, open-mouthed, and snoring. But from balconies and windows overhead come lively tones of conversation, song, and the jangling of pianos execrably out of tune, with, here and there, the soft tinkle of a guitar or the plaintive "tootle-toot" of a flute.

    The buildings seem like forts, so strong they are, with massive walls which the deep doorways show to be from two to three feet in thickness, and their architecture is a strange mixture of Moorish and Dutch. Lofty balconies, fronted with balustrades and graceful columns; broad corridors behind high-springing arches; gables that rise by queer curves, alternately convex and concave, to a round top high above the red-tiled roofs—these are the most prominent characteristics that attract the strangers notice.
    All the houses are built of coral rock, of which all this part of the island seems to be composed, and are covered with a very white and smooth plaster—almost as enduring as the rock itself—made from lime from the same rock burned.

    A short stroll brings us out upon a sort of plaza, on the opposite of which, very imposing and handsome in the moonlight, stand the State-house, a large edifice devoted to the uses of one of the principal Masonic lodges, and a fine Jewish synagogue, three of the best public buildings in town. Beyond these a little distance we come to the wreck made by the hurricane of 1877, which somehow crops up constantly in conversation here as an event to fix dates by and as the most conspicuous point in Curaçao memories.
    On that occasion a tremendous tidal wave swept up from the sea, through the east town and over into the harbor. The houses that it first struck, though of rock, with enormously thick walls, were knocked to pieces, hurled in fragments across the street, and telescoped into other houses, and so they still lie, a jumbled mass of ruins that appears to have been the result of a fire followed by an earthquake.
    Before that hurricane there was not a barometer on the island, without, perhaps, John Gomard had one in his miscellaneous stock, which comprises almost everything. But after that event the rumor got wind that there was a strange instrument called a barometer, which would foretell the coming of a storm, and straightaway everybody wanted one. People who didn't know the difference between a barometer, a steam-gauge, and an eight-day clock, were made to have a barometer, and now there is probably no equal extent of territory on the globe that is so liberally supplied with those instruments...

The Federal Reserve Bank's estimated consumer price index shows that $1 in 1880 was equivalent to $21.30 in 2007.

The New York Times, August 6, 1908, p. 4:

THE ISLAND OF CURAÇAO.

    While the Dutch are preparing to call Castro to account there comes to us the suggestion that the Netherlands might be willing to cede the Island of Curaçao to the United States if approached in a proper manner and that, if some quid pro quo for the gift were insisted on, an arrangement could be entered into favorable to Dutch interests in the Far East which would be of mutual benefit.
    Although in the popular mind the name of the island is identified with a certain kind of cordial supposed to be fabricated there, and with the dismantling of American ships at the beginning of the last century, which gave rise to French spoilation claims, Curaçao undoubtedly might play an important rôle in the future history of this hemisphere.

    It is an island less than fifty miles off the Paraguayan peninsula, and within less than a day's voyage of some of the principal ports of Venezuela—Maracaibo, Porto Cabello, and La Guayra. It is less than 600 miles from the Caribbean entrance of the Panama Canal. A direct line drawn to it from Portsmouth, New York, and Norfolk traverses Haiti and Santo Domingo.
    It contains 210 square miles and possesses in the Schottegat, or St. Ann's Bay, a harbor having an area of over twenty-five square miles and a remarkable average depth of 150 feet, entrance to which is only obtained through a channel less than 300 feet wide.

    Curaçao has about 30,000 inhabitants, 4,000 of whom are whites. While the color line in society and industry is strictly observed, the blacks are of a superior quality, both on account of their origin and because education on the island is compulsory. The thirty schools have an annual attendance of over 5,000 pupils, or one-sixth of the entire population.
    Curaçao is also one of the most healthful places in the world. The thermometer fluctuates between 70 degrees and 85 degrees. There are cool winds day and night from the sea. The atmosphere is dry and lung diseases are unknown there. Little rain falls on the island, but large quantities of water are preserved in cisterns.
    There is no fire department on the island. None is necessary. The buildings are all stone or brick.

    The chief wealth of the island is due to its function as a sort of clearing house for commodities between North and South America. Its products, maize, beans, pulse, and cattle, are comparatively unimportant, although has a growing industry in sea salt and phosphate of lime, which is capable of large development with proper financial aid. But, strive as it may, there is always a large difference between revenues and expenditures, amounting annually to several hundred thousand dollars, which must be made up by the mother country.
    When revolutions are rife in the neighboring republics, or industry is stagnant there, this deficit is a serious burden for The Hague Government to bear. Naturally, on account of its strategic postion, revolutionists have again and again sought to make Curaçao their base of operations and supplies, but, in spite of the most tempting offers, which might have increased the wealth of the island, the Dutch Government has always maintained the strictest neutrality.

    The argument is made that Curaçao, as a naval base, overlooking the West Indies and the most unstable of the Central and South American republics, within easy distance of the Panama Canal, and in line with all Australian, West African, and East South American commerce which must eventually pass through the canal, would form a most valuable possession for the United States. It is equally evident why it is and must always remain a burden to its present possessors. Their interests in Dutch Guiana play little part in its existence.
    But would certain European Powers permit the little Dutch Republic to make such a valuable concession to the United Statess, particularly when attended by a strengthening of the position of the Netherlands in the East Indies through the friendly influence of the great North American Republic?

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