The island of Curaçao is located in the Caribbean Sea just 37 miles north of the coast of Venezuela. Today it’s a member of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, but the Spanish first colonized it in 1499, occupying it until the Dutch took over, establishing it as a trade hub for the Dutch East India Company.
Curaçao, like most Caribbean islands, has a dark past of slavery and the generational abuse and misery which accompanies it. That history often seems uncomfortably ignored as visitors come to enjoy the sunshine and sparkling blue beaches.
The Arawak people settled here first, coming from nearby South America. When the Spaniards arrived, they deported the indigenous population as slaves to Hispaniola. With the arrival of the Dutch, the situation worsened. The island became a stop on the slave trade between Africa and the Americas, between 1662 and 1669 reaching an all-time high of around 24,000 men and women moving through the port of Willemstad.
One of the remnants of that time in Curaçao’s is the local language Papiamento, a creole language spoken on the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao) and now the official language next to Dutch. There are different theories about its origins. It has similarities with Spanish and Portuguese, but linguists think it is more likely to have originated in West Africa. But so many cultures transited through the island over the centuries it is naturally a mixed bag.