Monday, April 1, 2013

A to Z: A is for Antilles

Welcome to the searing energy of the A to Z Blogging Challenge! This year Quiet Laughter has picked an A-to-Z of FAQs to unveil for you, beloved audience, the secrets of the island life.

Where--and what--the heck is Curaçao?

Because we've got to start somewhere, let's go with where.

Click on the image to enlarge it. Pretty cool map.
The Antilles (ant-EE-lees in English, antees in French) is just a fancy name for the Caribbean islands. You know, that archipelago that creates a curve from the tip of the Yucatan peninsula to Venezuela, and which encloses the Caribbean sea.

At the top you've got the Greater Antilles--that's to say, the big islands: Cuba, Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti), Puerto Rico, and Jamaica. The Cayman Islands are also included, although they're anything but big.

(Which, once again, proves that size has nothing to do with anything.)


Then, making up the real "curve" on the right and stretching all the way down along the coast of Venezuela (look closely--yep, there's little dots of land there, too), I present to you--taaah-daaaah!--the Lesser Antilles. The tiny ones, the secluded ones, the names you hear every now and then in the news (usually during hurricane season) and couldn't place on a map to save your life: Barbuda, Dominica, Saba, Guadeloupe. Names full of sun and palm fronds waving in a warm sea breeze, margaritas and cold beer, sexy women of long legs and full lips, water so turquoise it puts Photoshop to shame.



The Lesser Antilles have 20 island-states, and some of those are comprised of more than one island. Antigua and Barbuda, a single state, is made up of not one, not two, but three islands. Guadeloupe, same thing. St. Martin is one island but two states: St. Martin (French) and Sint Maarten (Dutch).

Which is why someone thought, "Let's make this part of the world even more confusing," and came up with three further subdivisions:

The Leeward Islands are the northernmost of the Caribbean curve. The Windward Islands, the larger of the Lesser Antilles, make up the southernmost part of the curve. And the Leeward Antilles, where Curaçao--finally--is, make up the line along the Venezuelan coast.

No, that's not Barcelona, Spain.
Funky bit of trivia, courtesy of Wikipedia: the name Antilles comes from an old medieval term, Antilia, a mythical group of islands far to the west of the Iberian peninsula that a certain Zuane Pizzigano "discovered." One assumes he did, since he included them in his 1424 nautical chart, for the first time in history and long before Columbus set the record straight. The fact that he was a cartographer, not a sailor, obviously didn't raise any red flags, because from there on out, every reputable chart included Antilia.

No idea is truly novel.
Legend had it that, at the time of the Muslim conquest of Spain (711-788 AC), a bunch of bishops escaped the invading horde and set sail to the west, where they found these islands--Antilia, Satanazes, Royllo, and Tanmar--and founded seven settlements.

Kinda makes one think of the Puritan separatists fleeing England in the 17th century.

In any case, I think the name is quite apropos. The Caribbean is, after all, the land where magic realism is reality. That the name comes from a mythical place in fifteenth-century charts is pure serendipity.

Isla Margarita. Just add alcohol.
Photo credit: viajeros.com
I digress.

So Curaçao, and its sister islands of Bonaire (more on that tomorrow) and Aruba (the Holloway drama made the Friendly Island infamous worldwide), are part of the Leeward Antilles. The other islands in this group all belong to Venezuela, and include Isla Margarita, Venezuela's South Padre Island.

Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao make up the ABC Islands, which used to be part of the country known as Netherlands Antilles, together with Saba, St. Eustatius, and Sint Maarten in the northern Leeward Islands. Yep, used to. Because, you see, I happen to live in a country that has ceased to exist.

But you'll have to wait until G day to find out about that little--or not so little--drama.

In the meantime, now you know exactly where in the world Quiet Laughter resides. You may now sleep at night.

Remember to visit the other A-to-Z bloggers--some pretty awesome people out there!

35 comments :

  1. Fun and very informative, Guile. I need to brush up on my geography.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Bob! Geography was never my strong suit, either :)

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  2. Wow! We didn't do any of this in Geography class (just weather, rock formations and population changes) so I'm looking forward to learning more about your part of the world. :-)

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    1. Haha--I remember the rock formations class(es?) too... The strata and magma and--yeech, whatever. One non-yeech, rock-related, and totally random fact that I just remembered now--and really should've mentioned in this post, but maybe I'll fit it in later--is that Curaçao's bedrock matches that of the Pacific coasts, *not* the Atlantic. Which means Curaçao, at one point in time, was on the other side of the American continent. Bizarre, isn't it?

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  3. Splendid start to the challenge! When can I visit you? ;)

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    1. Glad you liked it, Vero! Haha--you're welcome anytime :D

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  4. I'm REALLY going to enjoy this month. When I was in college, I took a Russian history class to fulfill my history requirement because I was so tired of learning the same old American History. To read history from someone who writes as beautifully as you do will be a real treat. :)

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    1. Aw, Cindy--thank you! So glad I can bring a bit of fun to your month. Barely fair exchange, since your posts make me laugh so much :)

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  5. It's going to be a real pleasure visiting fellow A-Z bloggers and an education. I am def. sticking around until I find out about the country that ceased to exist (good novel title?) and beyond...

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    1. Heeeeeeey... "The Country That Ceased To Exist"--I agree, excellent title! Will have to start working on that :D Thanks for the visit, Bridget, and I'm looking forward to getting to know you during April!

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  6. I'm not doing the challenge this year but will check in to see what's what with the Antilles. Great subject/theme! I know about them because my parents sailed them for a number of years and, of course, I live (relatively) close by. BTW I'm reading Isabelle Allende's _Island Beneath the Sea_ right now. She did an incredible amount of research on Hispaniola to write that wonderful book.
    Blog on, Sistah.

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    1. Sarah, I *loved* Island Beneath The Sea! I love most of Isabel Allende's stuff, but this one I thought was really well researched (like her Chilean history one, Inés Del Alma Mía--another *great* book). Glad you're enjoying it :) So sorry you're not participating in A-Z this year; I'll miss your posts.

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  7. Oh I'd love to go to Curaçao someday. I lived in Hawaii for a while, but I think the Caribbean islands would be more fun to visit. Bring on the drinks! Visiting via A-Z Challenge.

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    1. Oooooh, Hawaii! Definitely on my to-travel list :) I dunno about it being more fun over here... At least in terms of vegetation, and especially in Curaçao, there's no point of comparison (more on that for L day), but they do have a certain charm. It doesn't work on everyone, mind you--but it certainly did for me :)

      Thanks for the visit, and look forward to reading your A-Z posts!

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  8. I love learning about new places...lovely post. Good luck with the challenge! I participated last year and had a blast!

    Donna L Martin
    www.donasdays.blogspot.com

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    1. Thanks for the visit, Donna! Yep, 2012 was my first year and indeed--it's a blast :)

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  9. Fun, I loved your map and descriptions. Far away land from Colorado, USA
    cheryl@weblessyourheart.com

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    1. Haha--yep, we're more than a stone's throw away, aren't we? I envy you your weather, though--constant unrelenting heat sounds good when it's been cold and dreary for a couple of months, but believe me--it has its drawbacks :) Thanks for sharing the adventure of the A-Z!

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  10. I love learning about new places. Great post!


    Cynthia from The Sock Zone

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    1. Thanks, Cynthia! Hope you'll be back for more Curaçao :)

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  11. Wonderful post! Great descriptions and I learned a lot.

    I've always been terrible at geography, which gives me a great excuse to travel, because once I live or visit a place, it is forever on my mental map.

    I found you via Twitter, so now you are on my blogosphere map and I look forward to learning from all your A to Z posts this month!

    ~Tui
    p.s. I used to live on a little island, too, way up in the San Juan archipelago off Washington state. Very beautiful, but not nearly as warm as where you hail from!

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    1. Tui, so glad you found me--loved your blog, and I'm looking forward to staying in touch. Wow--yep, the San Juan islands do sound very different, but I'm curious whether you'll find similarities in the basic island way of life. I've no point of comparison, since Curaçao is the first island I live in. Hope to see you around here during April for your input :) Thanks for the visit!

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  12. Hey Guilie!
    Great post which pinpoints your exact location. Thanks for the history lesson as well! Very, very interesting!
    Hope you well...

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    1. Hey Michelle! Thanks for stopping by, sweetie :) Glad to hear from you--off to catch up on your blog now :)

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  13. Nice to meet you! Gorgeous post...turquoise is my favorite color! It was great to visit-nice A post~ :D

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    1. Thanks, Ella--glad you found me :) Lots of turquoise here this month ;) Look forward to staying in touch!

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  14. There are a fair few places in the world I haven't yet visited, and this is one of them! Looks and sounds amazing. :)

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    1. Thanks, Trisha :) Hope you make it to Curaçao one day!

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  15. I do so want to spend some time in that part of the world. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. A pleasure, Susan! Thanks for the visit :)

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  16. I'm way over here in Malaysia and I'm not sure I will survive the journey to Curaçao! Thanks for sharing - look forward to seeing more of this wondrous place!

    www.eachparent.com

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  17. Love this! My knowledge of geography is rather poor. This will give me so many ideas of things outside of my own comfort zone.

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  18. I've never expected to visit the Caribbean but I can see that your posts might very well change my expectations.

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