Curaçao By the Numbers

Background

Curaçao is located in the Southern Caribbean Sea together with its sister islands, Aruba and Bonaire. On October 10, 2010, Curaçao joined the Kingdom of the Netherlands as a constituent nation following a referendum and constitutional amendment. The largest of the six Caribbean islands that together make up the Caribbean region of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is Curaçao. As an independent state, it now has complete control over its own internal affairs, with the Kingdom still handling certain matters like extradition, defense, and international relations.

There is a ton of information on Curacao in this post, including facts that will impress anyone regarding its history, people, culture, languages, economy, travel, and tourism. Additionally, it has some fascinating facts and numerical data regarding Curacao. Let’s start with its rich heritage.

History of Curaçao

Caquetio, the natives of northwestern Venezuela, once lived on the lovely island in the southern Caribbean Sea. The earliest artifacts found on Curaçao date from 2900 to 2300 BC. The discovered relics include trash, mounds of shells, animal bones, and stones. The items were created for a variety of uses, including hunting. The Rooi Rincon natural well, which is close to the airport, is where the earliest signs of human habitation on Curaçao may be located [1].

The Spanish Discovery

On July 26, 1499, a Spanish navigator named Alonso de Ojeda reported the discovery of Curaçao. Caquetio used to reside on our Caribbean island around the year 2000, when the Spanish first arrived. The Arawak Indians were the ancestors of the Caquetio. The Spanish enslaved the majority of the Caquetio population in 1515, and they were transported to Hispaniola, another island in the Caribbean Sea, to labor as slaves.

Curaçao was colonized by the Spanish twelve years later, in 1527. From Europe, they also brought horses, sheep, goats, and cattle. Along with bringing in several animals, the Spanish also planted a variety of exotic trees and vegetation on the island. Not all imported trees and plants made it through the heat but the animals were more valuable. The few remaining Caquetios and the Spanish themselves herded the cattle.

With regards to agriculture, the Spanish were unsuccessful. The food production was unsatisfactory. There were no valuable metals or other materials on the island that the Spanish could use or sell, and even the salt pans did not produce enough. Curacao was referred to as “Isla Inutil” by the Spanish because they saw the island as being “useless.” Over time, there were fewer Spanish farmers on the island. As a result, Curaçao’s Indian population regained because the Spaniards left the island because for them, it was “useless”. The Caquetio were dispersed around the island [1].

The Dutch West India Company

Dutch West India Company Flag

Curaçao was taken over by the Dutch West India Company (DWIC) in 1634. The Dutch captured the Spanish on the island, took them to Venezuela, and set them onshore there. Curaçao’s position was ideal for the DWIC, which was seeking a base for privateering and trade. Additionally, Curaçao had and continues to have the region’s top harbor. The DWIC was likewise searching for a reliable salt supplier. On Bonaire and the nearby Venezuelan coast, there were good salt pans to be found.

The iconic fort on the island, Fort Amsterdam, where the Curaçao government is now housed, was constructed by the DWIC. Admiral Johan van Walbeek oversaw the Dutch when they began construction on Fort Amsterdam in 1634. Although the fortification was expensive, the profits were not as high as anticipated. Curaçao gradually established its worth to the DWIC [1].

Slave trade and free port

The slave trade on Curaçao was the Dutch West India Company’s first initiative in 1655. The slaves were transported to Curaçao from West Africa and brought onshore. Slaves were sold in the Zuurzak and Asiento plantations. The DWIC competed with the English, French, and Portuguese dealers by offering slaves at extremely low costs. Merchants purchased the slaves, who were then transported to a number of locations in Central and South America.

Only few of the Africans remained in Curaçao and ended up working on one of the island’s plantations. Some of the slaves were purchased by traders and craftspeople who resided close to Willemstad. Willemstad was created near Punda, outside of Fort Amsterdam, in the latter half of the 17th century.

After becoming a free port in 1674, Curaçao assumed a significant role in the network of global trade. Curaçao became one of the Caribbean’s most prosperous islands in part as a result of this development [1].

Dutch Colony

Following the bankruptcy of the DWIC in 1791, Curaçao became an actual Dutch colony. In Curaçao, slaves revolted in 1795. Tula, a clever slave who was essential in Curaçao’s slave revolution, served as the uprising’s leader. Tula and his men struggle to defend their territory, but Dutch strategy and weaponry ultimately triumph over them. Tula and the other rebel leaders were arrested, brutally interrogated, and killed.

Following the lead of France in 1848 and England in 1834, the Dutch government abolished slavery in 1863. Following their protest, the Dutch authorities offered to pay the slave owners for the loss of their property with ANG 200, or around $111. Trade, agriculture, and fishing were the cornerstones of Curaçao’s economy up to the turn of the 20th century. When Venezuela’s significant oil deposits were found in 1914, the economy got better. Isla, a Shell oil refinery, was built on Curaçao. Curaçao was crucial in providing fuel to the allied troops during the Second World War. Curaçao attained political independence in 1953 [1].

Curaçao Arts and Culture

Baluwaya Dance

Similar to other countries, Curacao too hosts celebrations. Just a few days after the start of the year, Curaçao Carnival begins and lasts until the evening before Ash Wednesday, which is celebrated on a different day every year. The final ten days of the Curaçao Carnival are when the major parades take place. Events like the Curaçao International Film Festival Rotterdam and King’s Day take place in April, the Curaçao North Sea Jazz Festival takes place over the last weekend in August, and Christmas, pagaras, New Year’s Eve, and Fuik Day are all celebrated in late December or early January.

Their practices are best characterized as being international because they are so close to South America and significantly impacted by North America and Europe. One shouldn’t have any trouble integrating into Curaçao’s society because its residents are friendly, accepting, and easygoing. One local custom, particularly for visitors from North America, might be unsettling. In Curaçao, Sinterklaas is celebrated from mid-November until early December. The Dutch custom, which originated there, is comparable to the modern Christmas holiday in that it involves an older father figure (Sinterklaas) who brings gifts for the kids along with his helpers (Petes). People of all races, including the Petes, blacken their faces as part of their costume. American tourists should be aware that this doesn’t have the same connotations in Curaçao as it does in the US because it resembles the old American theater tradition of blackface quite a bit [2].

Willemstad, a town in Curaçao, is well-known for more than just its hip architecture; it also has some amazing street art. You may discover why these areas are known for their artwork by taking a stroll around the streets of Punda and the communities of Pietermaai and Otrobanda. The artwork on the walls, known as murals, uses social commentary to portray the stories of Curaçao. Additionally, Punda features stores selling regional handicrafts and sculptures in a wide variety of hues and forms.

In the widely spoken Papiamento language of Curaçao, Chichi signifies “the older sister.” There are dolls by this name, and these dolls are intended to represent the older sister who, in Caribbean culture, is seen as the family member who is responsible and compassionate. The dolls are sold in a range of sizes and are handmade and hand-painted. They’ll be easy to spot because to their radiant, colorful gowns and curvaceous bodies. These dolls are manufactured by artisans at Serena’s Art Factory in Willemstad, Curaçao, under the direction of Berlin artist Serena Janet Israel [9].

Languages

People in Pontoon Bridge

Curacaons are linguistic masters by nature and circumstance. The majority of people can also speak in certain minority languages in addition to the four official languages. In Curaçao, it is quite unlikely that you will encounter a language barrier because the majority of residents are fluent in at least two of the languages listed below.

Papiamentu

A Creole combination of African, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, French, English, and Arawak Indian, Papiamentu is the native tongue of Curaçao. Papiamentu, which is derived from the Portuguese term “papear” (to speak or converse), is thought to have started in the 17th century as a form of communication between slaves from different parts of Africa and their Portuguese owners. In contrast to other Creole languages, Papiamentu is spoken at every social level and has grown to be a significant aspect of the island’s identity [2].

Dutch

Curaçao is a self-governing constituent country (land) of the Dutch Kingdom and a part of the Caribbean Netherlands. Beginning in the early 19th century, the region was exposed to the Dutch language and culture. The Dutch began engaging with people of different origins after landing in the Lesser Antilles, primarily through the slave trade. Due to the fact that 8% of people speak Dutch as their mother tongue, the Dutch influence is still very strong. It is also the terminology utilized in the legal and administrative processes [3].

Spanish

Spanish is very widely spoken in Curaçao. The usage of Spanish dates back to the 18th century, when it served as the primary language for business dealings with the former Spanish possessions of Venezuela and Colombia. In Curaçao, a sizable portion of the population speaks Spanish well, so if Spanish is your native language, you’ll feel quite at home [3].

English

There is nothing to worry about if you visit Curaçao without knowing any other languages besides English. You’ll be pleased to learn that English, which is extensively spoken in the tourism industry, is one of the island’s official languages. It is taught in local schools to the 2% or so of immigrants who live there [3].

Population

The estimated population of Curacao as of 1 January 2022 was 165,642. Estimations based on real-time data, here are some highlights for the population per age group [12]:

  • ages of 15 and 64 – 109,498 people
  • under the age of 15 – 31,656 people
  • above 64 years old – 24,489 people

As of September 2022, there were 373.1 persons per square kilometer (966.2/mi2) on Curacao. The population density in Curacao is calculated as the number of people who live there permanently divided by the nation’s total area. Total area is the total of all land and marine areas that are located within Curacao’s international borders and coasts. According to the United Nations Statistics Division, Curacao has a total area of 444 km2 (171 mi2) [12].

EconomyCuracao Product Exports in 2019

The economy of Curacao is open and diverse. Trade and shipping, logistics and dry dock services, international financial services, oil refining, and tourism are some of the key pillars of the local economy. Curaçao is able to gain from solid economic links within these regions thanks to its strategic geographic location in relation to the United States of America and South America as well as its unique position within the Kingdom of the Netherlands [4].

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for Curacao in the year 2012 amounted to 3.02 Billion US$, gradually increased in 2014 with 3.05 Billion US$. By 2018, it had a decline and went back to 3.02 Billion US$, as shown in the table below [15].

YEAR GDP (US $)
2011 2.93 Billion
2012 3.02 Billion
2013 3.04 Billion
2014 3.05 Billion
2015 3.04 Billion
2016 3.01 Billion
2017 3.01 Billion
2018 3.02 Billion
2019 3 Billion
2020 2.5 Billion

In 2019, majority of the product exported from Curacao were composed of 45.56% precious metals. Next are mineral products with 19.86%. Chemical products are third in line with 6.87%. Fourth are animal products at 6.42%. Fifth on the list are machines, which is at 2.65%. Other products exported also includes Instruments, Metals, Textiles, Plastics and Rubbers, Foodstuffs, Paper Goods, Transportation, Footwear and Headwear, Animal and Vegetable Bi-Products, Vegetable Products, Animal Hides, Miscellaneous, Stone and Glass, Arts and Antiques, Wood Products, and Weapons [5].

Here are some data on Curacao’s GDP per capita per year since 2011 until 2020 [13]:

YEAR GDP per capita (US $) Annual Growth Rate (%)
2020 $16,110 -15.32%
2019 $19,024 0.36%
2018 $18,956 0.89%
2017 $18,789 -0.49%
2016 $18,882 -1.96%
2015 $19,260 -1.50%
2014 $19,553 -1.06%
2013 $19,763 -0.62%
2012 $19,887 2.26%
2011 $19,446 2.26%

Services account for 83.8% of Curacao’s GDP. The average GDP per capita is $15,000.00. A total of 73,010 people are employed with 13.0% unemployment rate and a 2.6% inflation rate [6].

Oil Refining

Isla Oil Refinery in Port of Willemstad

Oil refining is Curaçao’s major industry. It began with the exploitation of Venezuelan oil reserves in 1914 and the establishment of an oil refinery on Curaçao in 1918. The principal exports of Curaçao are petroleum and petroleum products, which are refined and exported in large quantities from Venezuelan territory. Additionally notable is the entrepôt trade in Curaçao’s free ports. Venezuela, the United States, the Netherlands, and various Central American and Caribbean nations account for the majority of Curaçao’s exports [4].

Mining

John Godding, an Englishman, began mining phosphate on Curaçao’s Tafelberg (Table Mountain) in 1874. This premium phosphate was sent to Europe and the US where it was largely used as a component of fertilizers and livestock feed. Limestone extraction also happens later in 1958. Limestone has developed into a significant industrial product with its own port for export due to its qualities, such as hardness and purity, which make it a main raw material for the concrete, asphalt, and glass industries. Due to a shortage of high-quality raw materials, phosphate mining was stopped in 1979, but limestone quarrying was booming [7].

Fishing

Deep sea fish from Curaçao seas are renowned for their flavor. Year-round fishing is possible for a variety of Atlantic game species in the temperate waters near Curaçao. There are lots of fish, including Sailfish, White and Blue Marlin, Wahoo, Barracuda, Amberjack, Kingfish, Bonito, and Tuna [8].

Agriculture

In the Dutch Caribbean, agriculture is not only a significant source of food and animals, but also of economic development and riches for the local populations. The agricultural and agro-processing industries in the area, however, still have a lot of space for growth. Agtech, an acronym for agricultural technology that primarily refers to sustainable farming methods, has gained popularity in the Dutch Caribbean in recent years [9].

Travel and Tourism

Curacao Lagoon

In terms of absolute numbers, Curacao ranked 87th in the world in 2019 with a total of 1 million tourists. The outcome is a much more comparable image when the number of tourists is compared to the population of Curacao: with 8.5 tourists per resident, Curacao was placed 9th in the globe. It came in sixth in the Caribbean. Curacao generated roughly 282 million US Dollar in the tourism sector alone. This is equivalent to 11.30 % of its GDP and about 4% of all revenue from international travel to the Caribbean [14].

Stunning Beaches

Curacao Beach Resorts

There are more than 30 beaches on Curaçao, each of which offers a distinctive experience. Three of the most well-liked beaches are Kenepa Beach, Playa Porto Mari, and Mambo Beach, and as a result, they are regularly crowded. Playa Kalki is comfortable and ideal for snorkeling and other water sports. Contrarily, Cas Abao is a popular destination for scuba diving that charges a nominal entrance fee and is well-liked by both visitors and locals. The latter consists of parking, showers, and restrooms [10].

coral reef at scuba dive around Curaçao

Some of the Top Dive Sites in the World 

Some of the world’s top dive locations may be found in Curaçao. Both novice divers making their first dive and experienced divers who are accustomed to navigating the underwater environment can use several of these sites. Booby Trap in the south is a good place for beginners to start. A variety of corals and sponges of every kind can be found on this reef’s slope. Booby Trap can only be reached by boat and is situated not far from Fuik Baai. Another location with simple beach access is Porto Mari. Both novice and expert divers can use it. Divers in Porto Mari can anticipate seeing numerous fish, turtles, and, on a lucky day, one or two rays [10].

Willemstad

Colorful historic part of Willemstad

Willemstad, the capital of Curaçao, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site distinguished for its magnificent architecture, waterways, lush landscape, and sidewalk cafes. This bustling city core is a favorite among tourists, and Willemstad tours are in high demand. When visiting Willemstad, you’ll see that the city is divided in two and connected by the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge [10].

Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge

Queen Emma Bridge at Night

This bridge connects Punda and Otrobanda in Willemstad and spans St. Anna Bay. It is supported by two motors and 16 pontoon boats. You can watch the “Swinging Old Lady” open her gates to let ships enter and go if you arrive in time. Water taxis are also available for you to use to travel back and forth across the seas as you choose. The Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge is such a magnificent sight at night, especially if you’re seeing it in action from nearby [10].

Colorful Handelskade

Colorful Handelskade

Punda’s Handelskade is a waterfront area dotted with colorful homes and structures reminiscent of the 18th century. A popular tourist destination, Handelskade is known for its outdoor cafes. Cool views of the ships passing across the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge are available from this vantage point. A stroll down this pier on a bright day is ideal for getting some exercise and snapping a few shots with the lovely Curaçao city background. Additionally stunning at night, when the lights animate the bay and brighten Handelskade [10].

Shete Boka National Park

Caribbean Waves, Shete Boka

A national park called Shete Boka, which translates to “seven inlets,” is located in northern Curaçao and begins at the Boka Tabla cavern. Visitors frequently watch in awe as nature displays her prowess as waves beat rhythmically against the caves. At this park, tourists can take a walk along the caves and take in the breathtaking scenery of the rocky countryside in addition to witnessing this powerful display of strength. The wildlife enhances the beauty as well, and if you visit at the correct time, you might see one of the three species of turtles that routinely nest there or one of the numerous iguanas that inhabit this area [10].

Christoffel National Park

Christoffel Mountain

The Savonet, Zorgvlied, and Zeevenbergen plantations were originally located on the 2,300 acres of property that makes up the Christoffel National Park. Visitors can stop at the Savonet Museum to learn more about the background of slavery and plantation life in Curaçao before enjoying this park. If one enjoys hiking, might as well consider ascending Christoffel Mountain but start their journey before 10 in the morning because the heat index increases hourly after that [10].

10 Interesting Facts about Curaçao

Map Pointer with Curacao Flag

The island of Curacao is indeed known for being a multicultural and linguistic mix. But that does not just stop there. Here are some interesting facts about Curacao to guide you more if you’re planning for a trip here [11]:

  1. The ABC islands, which are all adjacent to one another and are part of the Netherlands, include Curacao. Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao are referred to as the ABC islands.
  2. There are two islands that make up Curacao, with about 160,000 people living on the larger of the two. There are no people living on Klein Curacao, the smaller island.
  3. Bugs appear when it’s warm outside. The traditional Curacaoan homes have red walls with white dots in the kitchens to combat pest issues. Given that flies and mosquitoes seem to dislike white polka dots on red walls because it gives them dizziness.
  4. Over the past three decades, there have been 16 Major League Baseball (MLB) players with Curacao as their hometown.
  5. There is no need to worry about getting your money changed if you are an American heading to Curacao because that country accepts US currency.
  6. Desalination is utilized in Curacao to produce clean water that is also used for drinking.
  7. The term “coracao,” which means “heart” in Portuguese, is how the island received its name. This can be the case because Curacao used to be the hub or center of trade.
  8. With a wide variety of traditional Dutch street foods and sweet delights like pumpkin pancakes and cashew cake, the cuisine is also a mash-up of the various ethnicities.
  9. The “stoba yoana” is an adventurous stew made with iguana. This dish helps to control the rampant population increase of this reptile. The taste of this strange meat has been compared to chicken.
  10. An alcoholic beverage known as “Orange Liqueur” from Curaçao is created with the dried orange peels of the island’s bitter Laraha orange. Another name for this fruit is “Golden Orange of Curaçao” [10].

Conclusion

It is genuinely fascinating to learn about Curacao. Even though it is a small nation, you can travel there to some of the most breathtaking places on earth. It also has some of the most distinctive cultural elements, and given that Curaçao is still becoming more and more well-known as a vacation destination, it is enough to entice travelers. We hope this article has given you more information about Curacao.

References:

[1] Discover Curacao Today. (n.d). The History of Curacao. Retrieved September 06, 2022 from https://discovercuracao.today/history/geschiedenis?language=en/

[2] Curacao Tourist Board. (n.d). FAQS – Culture. Retrieved September 06, 2022 from https://www.curacao.com/en/questions/culture/

[3] Jan Thiel Beach Resort Curacao. (2019, February 07). Which Languages Are Spoken in Curacao? Retrieved September 06, 2022 from https://www.janthielresort.com/which-languages-are-spoken-in-curacao/

[4] The Netherlands and You. (n.d). About Curacao. Retrieved September 06, 2022 from https://www.netherlandsandyou.nl/your-country-and-the-netherlands/united-states/about-us/curacao-and-you/about-curacao/

[5] Datawheel (2021, July 15). Curacao. Retrieved September 06, 2022 from https://oec.world/en/profile/country/cuw?yearSelector1=exportGrowthYear10

[6] Country Reports. (n.d). Curacao Economy. Retrieved September 06, 2022 from https://www.countryreports.org/country/NetherlandsAntilles/economy.htm/

[7] Mijnmaatchappij Curacao. (n.d). History. Retrieved September 06, 2022 from https://miningcompanycuracao.com/company-profile-2/history/

[8] Curacao Travel & Vacation Guide. (n.d). Curaçao Deep Sea Fishing. Retrieved September 06, 2022 from https://www.curacao-travelguide.com/discover/activities/deep-sea-fishing/

[9] Future Islands. (2022, January 20). A bright future for agricultural technology in Curaçao. Retrieved September 06, 2022 from https://www.future-islands.org/projects/20220120-a-bright-future-for-agricultural-technology-in-curacao/

[10] Morrow, K. (2021, April 14). An Island Paradise Awaits: 18 Things Curaçao Is Known For! Retrieved September 06, 2022 from https://www.sandals.com/blog/things-curacao-is-known-for/

[11] Kidadl Team. (2022, February 10). 26 Curacao Facts About The Lesser Known Caribbean Country. Retrieved September 06, 2022 from https://kidadl.com/facts/curacao-facts-about-the-lesser-known-caribbean-country/

[12] Country Meters. (n.d). Curacao Population. Retrieved September 08, 2022 from https://countrymeters.info/en/Curacao#facts

[13] Mactrotrends. (n.d). Curacao GDP Per Capita 2011-2022. Retrieved September 08, 2022 from https://www.macrotrends.net/countries/CUW/curacao/gdp-per-capita

[14] World Data. (n.d). Tourism in Curacao. Retrieved September 08, 2022 from https://www.worlddata.info/america/curacao/tourism.php

[15] Data Bank. (n.d). GDP (current US$) – Curacao. Retrieved September 14, 2022 from https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.CD?locations=CW