Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A to Z: C is for Curaçao

Ah, finally: dushi Kòrsou. (More tomorrow on Dushi, for D day.)


The most popular question about Curaçao (besides where is it, which, if you read the A post, you're already among the elite 3%* of the world's population who can answer that) is about its name.


Aside from grey and drab vs. bright and fun,
you do see the similarities, right?
What does it mean? Where does it come from? Is it Portuguese? Spanish? Dutch? No, couldn't be Dutch. But Portuguese... The word for heart in the language of samba and cachaça is coração--that's pretty close, isn't it?

But there's another theory: the island's first inhabitants were Arawak indians that may or may not have called themselves Curacoa or, perhaps, Curaçao.

The thing about Curaçao is that there's simply too many possibilities. Not just for explaining the name.

Think about it: it's a Caribbean island that belongs to the Kingdom of The Netherlands (more on that for G day), thus has a definite European influence.

Lots of Dutch people move here when they retire. Lots vacation here regularly, even own second homes or businesses here. On finishing high school, most Curaçao kids go to Holland for college. That shapes them in ways those of us that grew up in a single country can't even begin to fathom.

UN in the Caribbean. From left to right:
Venezuela, Curaçao, Italy, hand of unknown nationality,
Denmark, Mexico. 
But Curaçao is firmly rooted in Latin America, too. Just off the coast of Venezuela (on clear days you can see the mountain range of Caracas), but with European-style government and a thriving finance industry, it's only logical that this island be a magnet for immigrants. Colombian and Venezuelan, certainly, but also from other parts in the Caribbean: Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago. From further south, too: Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil.

(No, not a lot of Mexicans. A river's easier to cross than the Caribbean.)

And then there's the local Antillean population, another sincretism: descended from African slaves brought here by slave traders in the 1700's and 1800's, mixed with the Dutch and Portuguese settlers, later with Latin and Asian immigrants. So rich, so much tradition to choose from.

Curaçao is the original melting pot of culture. And contrast.

Tourists, locals, Latin, European... Impossible to tell apart.

European / Latin. 
Black / white. 
Laid-back attitude / 12-hour working days. 
Dry, semi-desertic landscape / the bluest ocean you'll ever see. 
Red earth baked into powder by a sun so strong its heat pushes you down / white beaches of coral pounded into sand by eons of tides. 
Friendly faces / surly service. 
Luxury villas / hovels and homeless.




In ten years, I've barely scratched the surface of what this island--its history, its inhabitants, its future--has to offer.

Go on, take a hop over to the other A-Z Bloggers. Share the love!

*Yeah, totally made up that figure.

30 comments :

  1. Very interesting post, and the impact of Dutch colonialism is interesting in a way that British colonialism doesn't seem so odd to me...but perhaps that's because we're so far away;-)

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    1. You're right, Pauleen--Dutch colonialism had (still has) a huge impact. I wonder why?

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  2. Can I take you up on that offer of the guest bedroom? I've been to Phillipsburg in St. Maarten and loved it (even if it is a tourist trap). I'd enjoy a couple weeks of the sand & surf & sun after a long Michigan winter!

    Random Ramblings
    The Life of Lisa
    Maple Grove Cemetery

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    1. Totally! Guest bedroom is yours :) I know what you mean about Phillipsburg--it's beautiful, but it *is* a tourist trap :) There's very little of that here, mainly because the service mentality here is a bit... hmmm, shall we say "alternative"? But the old colonial architecture is there, and there's lots more history to see here. Yes, I think you'd like it :)

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  3. I'm going to love your posts! I lived in Holland for 3 years and loved it. Been To Cuba but nowhere else in the Caribbean, yet. Your photos wil help with that. See you soon.

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    1. You did?!?! I'd love to talk to you some day about your experiences in NL, Nancy. Culture clashes fascinate me :) This island is very Dutch in some ways--but not according to the immigrant Dutch, haha :D I'm glad I can bring this remote rock closer to you this month :) See you soon!

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  4. Love the pictures...sounds like somewhere I need to visit!

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    1. Thanks! So glad you liked them :) Yes, definitely--Curaçao is waiting for you :D

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  5. After your posts and pics, I want to be there! Great to see you doing the challenge, Guilie :)

    Damyanti @Daily(w)rite
    Co-host, A to Z Challenge 2013

    Twitter: @AprilA2Z
    #atozchallenge

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    1. Glad to hear it, Damyanti! I do hope you make it to my side of the world someday--would love to show you around. Oh, and I wouldn't miss the challenge for the world! You created a monster when you introduced me to this, you know ;)

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  6. Thanks for the lesson! :-)

    Blogging A to Z Challenge http://www.shellygoodmanwright.com/apps/blog/show/25344959-commit-to-do-it-

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    1. My pleasure :) And thanks for the visit!

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  7. Oooh I feel myself being stretched in that direction:)

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    1. Haha--glad to hear it, Laeli :) Thanks for the visit!

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  8. You've thought of so many things to share about your island. Each facet is fascinating. What a mixture of culture and nationalities.

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    1. Thanks, Francene! I'm glad I'm able to get that mixture across--there's really so much, at so many levels, that it's hard to make it into an orderly comparison :)

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  9. Hi Guilie. Yay, I made it to your blog and what great articles here. Thought I had subscribed, but don't see anything in my inbox.
    A place of culture and contrast, not to mention beauty. The images are astonishing. I can just imagine what it looks like in person on a clear day, nothing but blue skies ... Lovely.
    The only island I've ever been on is one called Catalina, off the SoCal coast. Beautiful there, too, but cold sometimes. Looks like that would never a be a problem in Curacao.

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    1. Silvia, so glad you found me--and now I've found your blog (and added it to my reader) too! Haha--you're right, cold is rarely a problem in Curaçao. I think the lowest temperature ever registered was something like 18C (which is--what? like 66F?). We've been in Perú for 2 weeks, and the temperatures in Cusco (below zero at night) totally killed us :D

      Thanks for the visit, and I look forward to staying in touch via blogs :)

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  10. What a potpourri! A rich and vibrant mixture of cultures/nationalities... with the possibility of Indians being the first inhabitants? Interesting.
    Great info here!

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    1. Glad you liked it, Michelle! It's very much a potpourri indeed--similar to where you're at, I imagine, although different in some ways?

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  11. I like the poem you wrote at the very end. Thanks for sharing another neat place to visit.

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    1. Thanks, Cynthia--glad you enjoyed it :) It wasn't really meant as a poem, but I'm happy it sounded that way :D Who knows, maybe I'm a poet at heart? ;) Thanks for stopping by!

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  12. The poverty in the Caribbean seems sadder to me than here at home. Now that you mentioned it, I think it is from the contrast, but also from being a tourist. I've felt bad knowing that the amount I spent on a week's vacation would have meant a world of difference to one of those families I passed on the way back to the airport.

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    1. I know exactly what you mean, Cindy. It feels so unfair that, in a resort area that everyone considers the reward for a year of hard work, there should be people who could never afford to spend that much money, or even half. It's kind of like sitting in an overpriced restaurant over a decadent five-course meal and having beggar children at the window staring at you.

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  13. Such an interesting subject. Thank you for sharing, love that there is so much to learn, via the A to Z challenge, and wonderful new folks to meet!

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    1. Hi Yolanda! Thanks for the visit, and I'm happy you enjoyed the post :) I, sadly, had to drop out of A2Z this year--been on vacation 2 weeks, and I didn't write enough posts in advance, *sigh*. But I'll catch up with your blog right now :)

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  14. Your posts are great! Most of what I know about Curaçao is, indeed, the drink ;)

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    1. Haha--you're not the only one, Trisha. We've been in Perú for 2 weeks on vacation, and whenever someone asks where we live and we say Curaçao, we get these vague looks :D I certainly didn't know where (or what) Curaçao was before coming to live there.

      Thanks for stopping by, and so sorry it took me this long to reply. Won't happen again, I promise :)

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  15. I'd like to see these 12- hour working days you refer to....In my experience no one starts til 9, break from 12-2 and leave between 4 and 5

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    1. Hey there, priddymama! I'm assuming you live, or have lived, in Curaçao? That's super cool! Too bad the link to your profile and blog doesn't seem to lead anywhere--I would've loved to connect with a fellow island blogger :) For those 12-hour days, just go to any of the financial services companies. Locals do tend to keep to the schedule you mention (good for them!) but us expats, especially the Latins, work some pretty long hours. My partner, a Dutch guy, works in fund administration, and around the NAV report due dates, a fourteen-hour work day (from 7:30 or 8 am to 10 or 11 pm) is normal. Good we have the beach a stone throw away to relax in, huh? :) Thanks for the visit!

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