|Country of Curaçao|
Land Curaçao (Dutch)
Pais Kòrsou (Papiamento)
|Anthem: "Himno di Kòrsou"|
(English: "Anthem of Curaçao")
Location of Curaçao (circled in red)
|Sovereign state||Kingdom of the Netherlands|
|Before separation||Netherlands Antilles|
|Country status||10 October 2010|
and largest city
|Ethnic groups |
|Government||Parliamentary representative democracy within a constitutional monarchy|
|Legislature||Estates of Curaçao|
|444 km2 (171 sq mi)|
|Highest elevation||375 m (1,230 ft)|
o 1 January 2019 estimate
|358/km2 (927.2/sq mi)|
|GDP (PPP)||2012 estimate|
|US$4.2 billion (184th)|
o Per capita
|GDP (nominal)||2019 estimate|
|US$3.2 billion (149th)|
o Per capita
|Currency||Netherlands Antillean guilder (ANG)|
|Time zone||UTC-4:00 (AST)|
|Mains electricity||127 V-50 Hz|
|ISO 3166 code|
Curaçao ( KEWR-?ss-oh, -ow, -OH, -OW;Dutch: [kyra:'s?u, kur-] ;Papiamento: Kòrsou, ['k?rs?u?]) is a Lesser Antilles island country in the southern Caribbean Sea and the Dutch Caribbean region, about 65 km (40 mi) north of the Venezuelan coast. It is a constituent country (Dutch: land) of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Together with Aruba and Bonaire it forms the ABC islands. Collectively, Curaçao, Aruba and other Dutch islands in the Caribbean are often called the Dutch Caribbean.
The country was formerly part of the Curaçao and Dependencies colony from 1815 to 1954 and later the Netherlands Antilles from 1954 to 2010, as "Island Territory of Curaçao" (Dutch: Eilandgebied Curaçao, Papiamento: Teritorio Insular di Kòrsou) and is now formally called the Country of Curaçao (Dutch: Land Curaçao, Papiamento: Pais Kòrsou). It includes the main island of Curaçao and the much smaller, uninhabited island of Klein Curaçao ("Little Curaçao"). Curaçao has a population of 158,665 (January 2019 est.) and an area of 444 km2 (171 sq mi); its capital is Willemstad.
One explanation is that Curaçao was the name by which the indigenous peoples of the island identified themselves, their autonym. Early Spanish accounts support this theory, as they refer to the indigenous peoples as Indios Curaçaos.
From 1525, the island was featured on Spanish maps as Curaçote, Curasaote, Curasaore and even Curacaute. By the 17th century, it appeared on most maps as Curaçao or Curazao. On a map created by Hieronymus Cock in 1562 in Antwerp, the island was called Qúracao.
A persistent but undocumented story says that in the 16th and 17th centuries--the early years of European exploration--sailors on long voyages often got scurvy from lack of vitamin C. According to some accounts, either Portuguese or Spanish sailors who were ill were left on the island now known as Curaçao. When their ship returned, some had recovered, likely cured from scurvy after eating fruit with vitamin C. From then on, supposedly, the Portuguese referred to this as Ilha da Curação (Island of Healing) or the Spanish as Isla de la Curación. Another explanation is that it is derived from the Portuguese word for heart (coração), referring to the island as a centre in trade.
The original inhabitants of Curaçao were the Arawak and Caquetio Amerindians. Their ancestors had migrated to the island from the mainland of South America, likely hundreds of years before Europeans arrived. They were believed to have migrated from the Amazon Basin.
The first Europeans recorded as seeing the island were members of a Spanish expedition under the leadership of Alonso de Ojeda in 1499. The Spaniards enslaved most of the Arawak for forced labour but paid little attention to the island itself.
Spanish rule lasted throughout the 16th century, during which time its original inhabitants were transferred to the colony on the island of Hispaniola. It served as a bridge for the Spanish exploration and conquest of territories in northern South America. The island was gradually abandoned as the colonization of the continent progressed. Spain colonized Curaçao since 1499 for a period of approximately one century as an insular part of the province of Venezuela. Likewise, one of the oldest references to the name of the island is found in the archive of the Main Public Registry of the city of Caracas (Venezuela). A document dated December 9, 1595 specifies that Francisco Montesinos, priest and vicar of "the Yslas de Curasao, Aruba and Bonaire" conferred a power of attorney to Pedro Gutiérrez de Lugo, resident in Caracas, to collect from the Royal Treasury of Philip II the salary that corresponded to him for his office as priest and vicar of the islands.
At that time there were about 2000 Caquetios living on the island. In 1515 almost all the Caquetios were transported to Hispaniola as slaves. The Spanish settled on the island in 1527. However, the island was governed from one of the Spanish-Venezuelan cities. The Spanish imported many exotic animals to Curaçao. Horses, sheep, goats, pigs and cattle were introduced to the island from Europe or one of the Spanish colonies. The Spanish also planted various exotic trees and plants.
It was often a matter of trial and error. Thus, they also learned to use Caquetio crops and agricultural methods. Parallel sources are known from other Caribbean islands. Not all imported exotics were equally successful. In general, the cattle fared well; the Spaniards let them roam freely in the kunuku and savannas. Cattle were herded by Caquetio and Spaniards. Sheep, goats and cattle did relatively well. According to historical sources, there were thousands of people on the island. Agriculture, on the other hand, fared significantly worse. Since Curaçao's agricultural yields were disappointing, the salt mines did not yield much and precious metals were not to be found, the Spanish called the region the "useless island".
Over time, the number of Spaniards living on Curaçao decreased. In contrast, the number of aboriginal inhabitants stabilized. Presumably, through natural growth, return and colonization, the population of the Caquetios increased. In the last decades of the Spanish occupation, Curaçao was used as a large cattle ranch. The Spaniards then lived around Santa Barbara, Santa Ana and in the villages in the western part of the island. As far as is known, the Caquetios lived scattered around the island.
In 1634, after the Netherlands achieved independence from Spain following the Eighty Years' War, the Dutch West India Company under Admiral Johann van Walbeeck invaded the island and the Spaniards there surrendered in San Juan in August. The approximately 30 Spaniards and many of the indigenous were deported to Santa Ana de Coro in Venezuela. About 30 Taíno families were allowed to live on the island. Dutch colonists started to occupy it. The WIC founded the capital of Willemstad on the banks of an inlet called the Schottegat; this natural harbour proved an ideal place for trade. Commerce and shipping--and piracy--became Curaçao's most important economic activities. Later, salt mining became a major industry, the mineral being a lucrative export at the time. From 1662 the Dutch West India Company made Curaçao a centre for the Atlantic slave trade, often bringing slaves from West Africa there for sale elsewhere in the Caribbean and on Spanish Main.
Sephardic Jews fleeing from Spain and Portugal to Dutch Brazil and the Dutch Republic seeking a safe haven from persecution settled in Curaçao and have had a significant contribution to its civil society cultural development and economic prosperity.
In the Franco-Dutch War of 1672-78, Count Jean II d'Estrées planned to attack Curaçao. His fleet--12 men of war, three fireships, two transports, a hospital ship, and 12 privateers--met with disaster, losing seven men-of-war and two other ships when they struck reefs off the Las Aves archipelago. They had made a serious navigational error, hitting the reefs on 11 May 1678, a week after setting sail from Saint Kitts. Curaçao marked the events by a day of thanksgiving, celebrated for decades into the 18th century, to commemorate the island's escape.
Many Dutch colonists grew affluent from the slave trade, building impressive colonial buildings in the capital of Willemstad; the city is now designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Landhouses (former plantation estates) and West African style kas di pal'i maishi (former slave dwellings) are scattered all over the island.
In 1795, a major slave revolt took place under the leaders Tula Rigaud, Louis Mercier, Bastian Karpata, and Pedro Wakao. Up to 4,000 slaves in northwest Curaçao revolted, with more than 1,000 taking part in extended gunfights. After a month, the slave owners suppressed the revolt.
Curaçao's proximity to South America resulted in interaction with cultures of the coastal areas more than a century after independence of Netherlands from Spain. Architectural similarities can be seen between the 19th-century parts of Willemstad and the nearby Venezuelan city of Coro in Falcón State. The latter has also been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Netherlands established economic ties with Viceroyalty of New Granada, which included the present-day countries of Colombia and Venezuela. In the 19th century, Curaçaoans such as Manuel Piar and Luis Brión were prominently engaged in the wars of independence of Venezuela and Colombia. Political refugees from the mainland (such as Simon Bolivar) regrouped in Curaçao. Children from affluent Venezuelan families were educated there.
The Dutch abolished slavery in 1863, bringing a change in the economy with the shift to wage labor. Some inhabitants of Curaçao emigrated to other islands, such as Cuba, to work in sugarcane plantations. Other former slaves had nowhere to go and remained working for the plantation owner in the tenant farmer system. This was an instituted order in which a former slave leased land from his former master in exchange for promising to give up for rent most of his harvest. This system lasted until the beginning of the 20th century.
Historically, Dutch was not widely spoken on the island outside of colonial administration; its use increased in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Students on Curaçao, Aruba, and Bonaire were taught predominantly in Spanish until the late 17th century, when the British took Curaçao, Aruba, and Bonaire. Teaching of Spanish was restored when Dutch rule resumed in 1815. Also, efforts were made to introduce bilingual popular education in Dutch and Papiamentu in the late 19th century.
When oil was discovered in the Venezuelan Maracaibo Basin town of Mene Grande in 1914, Curaçao's economy dramatically altered. In the early years, both Shell and Exxon held drilling concessions in Venezuela, which ensured a constant supply of crude oil to the refineries in Aruba and Curaçao. Crude oil production in Venezuela was inexpensive. The integrated companies Shell and Exxon controlled the entire industry, from pumping, transporting, and refining to marketing. The refineries on Aruba and Curaçao operated in global markets and were profitable partly because of the margin between the production costs of crude oil and the revenues realized on products. This provided a safety net for losses incurred through inefficiency or excessive operating costs at the refineries.
In 1929 Curaçao was attacked by Venezuelan rebel commander Rafael Simón Urbina, who kidnapped the governor Leonardus Albertus Fruytier. In response, the Dutch increased their military presence on the island.
In 1954 Curaçao was joined with the other Dutch colonies in the Caribbean into the Netherlands Antilles. Discontent with Curaçao's seemingly subordinate relationship to the Netherlands and ongoing racial discrimination and a rise in unemployment owing to layoffs in the oil industry led to an outbreak of rioting in 1969. The riots resulted in two deaths, many injuries and severe damage to Willemstad. In response, the Dutch government introduced far-reaching reforms, allowing Afro-Curaçaoans greater influence in the islands's political and economic life, and raising the prestige of the local language Papiamento.
Curaçao experienced an economic downturn in the early 1980s. Shell's refinery there operated with significant losses from 1975 to 1979, and again from 1982 to 1985. Persistent losses, global overproduction, stronger competition, and low market expectations threatened the refinery's future. In 1985, after 70 years, Royal Dutch Shell decided to end its activities on Curaçao. This came at a crucial moment. Curaçao's fragile economy had been stagnant for some time. Several revenue-generating endeavours suffered even more during this period: tourism from Venezuela collapsed after the devaluation of the bolivar, the transport industry deteriorated with deleterious effects on the Antillean Airline Company, and the Curaçao Dry Dock Company experienced major setbacks. The offshore industry (financial services) also experienced a downturn because of new U.S. tax laws.
In the mid-1980s, Shell sold the refinery for the symbolic amount of one Antillean guilder to a local government consortium. The aging refinery has been the subject of lawsuits in recent years, which charge that its emissions, including sulfur dioxide and particulate matter, far exceed safety standards. The government consortium leases the refinery to the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA.
Continuing economic hardship in the late 1990s and early 2000s resulted in much emigration to the Netherlands.
On 1 July 2007, Curaçao was due to become a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. On 28 November 2006, this was delayed when the island council rejected a clarification memorandum on the process. A new island council ratified this agreement on 9 July 2007. On 15 December 2008, Curaçao was scheduled to become a separate country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands (as Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles were). A non-binding referendum on this plan took place in Curaçao on 15 May 2009, in which 52% of the voters supported it.
The dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles came into effect on 10 October 2010. Curaçao became a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, with the Kingdom retaining responsibility for defence and foreign policy. The kingdom is also to oversee the island's finances under a debt-relief arrangement agreed between the two. Curaçao's first prime minister was Gerrit Schotte. He was succeeded in 2012 by Stanley Betrian, ad interim. After elections in 2012 Daniel Hodge became the third prime minister on 31 December 2012. He led a demissionary cabinet until 7 June 2013, when a new cabinet under the leadership of Ivar Asjes was sworn in.
Although Curaçao is autonomous, the Netherlands has interfered when necessary to ensure that parliamentary elections were held and to assist in finalizing an accurate budget. In July 2017, Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath said he wanted Curaçao to take full responsibility, but asked for more cooperation and assistance from the Netherlands with suggestions for more innovative approaches to help Curaçao succeed, increasing the standard of living. The Dutch government reminded Curaçao that it has provided assistance with oil refinery negotiations with the Chinese "on numerous occasions".
The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic resulted in austerity measures. Curaçao had to impose spending cuts to qualify for additional aid from the Netherlands. As part of the austerity package, the Government of Curaçao announced a 12.5% cut on benefits for civil servants. On 24 June 2020, a group of civil servants together with waste collectors from Selikor marched to Fort Amsterdam and demanded to speak with Rhuggenaath. The demonstration turned into a riot during which police cleared the square in front of Fort Amsterdam with tear gas. The city centre of Willemstad was later plundered. 48 people were arrested, the city districts of Punda and Otrobanda were placed under lockdown for the night, and a general curfew was announced from 20:30 to 06:00.
Curaçao, as well as the rest of the ABC islands and Trinidad and Tobago, lies on the continental shelf of South America. It is a thin island with a generally hilly topography; the highest point is Mount Christoffelberg 372 m (1,220 ft) in the northwest. The coastline's bays, inlets and hot springs offer an on-site source of natural mineral, thermal, or seawater used in hydrotherapy and mesotherapy, making this island one of many balneoclimateric areas in the region. Off the southeast coast lies the small, flat island of Klein Curaçao.
Curaçao's flora differ from typical tropical island vegetation. Guajira-Barranquilla xeric scrub is the most notable, with various forms of cacti, thorny shrubs, evergreen, and the watapana tree, Latin name:Libidibia coriaria; called divi-divi on Aruba, characteristic for the ABC islands and the national symbol of Aruba. Brassavola nodosa is a drought tolerant species of Brassavola, one of the few species of Orchis present in the ABC islands. Cacti include Melocactus and Opuntia species like Opuntia stricta.
Curaçao is semiarid, and as such has not supported the numerous tropical species of mammals, birds, and lizards most often associated with rainforests. Dozens of species of hummingbirds, bananaquits, orioles, and the larger terns, herons, egrets, and even flamingos make their homes near ponds or in coastal areas. The trupial, a black bird with a bright orange underbelly and white swatches on its wings, is common to the island and to Curaçao. The Mockingbird, called Chuchubi in Papiamentu, resembles the North American mockingbird, with a long white-gray tail and a gray back. Near the shore, note the big-billed brown pelicans that dive, straight down like dead weight, into the ocean after fish. Other seabirds include several types of gulls and large cormorants.
Of mammals, other than some field mice, small rabbits, and cave bats, Curaçao's most notable animal is the white-tailed deer. This deer is related to the American white-tailed deer, or Virginia deer, found in spots from North America through Central America and the Caribbean, and as far south as Bolivia. It can be a large deer, some reaching six feet (2 m) in length and three feet (0.9 m) in height, and weighing as much as 300 pounds (140 kg). It has a long tail with a white underside, and is the only type of deer on the island. It is a protected species (since 1926), and an estimated 200 live on Curaçao. They're found in many parts of the island, but most notably at the west end's Christoffel Park, where about 70% of the herd resides. Archaeologists believe that the deer was brought from South America to Curaçao by its original inhabitants, the Arawaks.
There are several species of iguana, light green in color with shimmering shades of aqua along the belly and sides, lounging in the sun here and there. The iguanas found on Curaçao are not only nice to look at, but, unlike many islands that gave up the practice years ago, remain fodder for the dinner table. Along the west end of the island's north shore are several inlets that have become home to breeding sea turtles. These turtles are protected by the park system in Shete Boka Park, and can be visited accompanied by park rangers.
Curaçao has a hot semi-arid climate (Köppen climate classification BSh) with a dry season from January to September and a wet season from October to December. The temperatures are relatively constant with small differences throughout the year. The trade winds bring cooling during the day and the same trade winds bring warming during the night. The coolest month is January with an average temperature of 26.6 °C (80 °F) and the warmest month is September with an average temperature of 29.1 °C (84 °F). The year's average maximum temperature is 31.4 °C (89 °F). The year's average minimum temperature is 25.7 °C (78 °F). The seawater around Curaçao averages around 27 °C (81 °F) and is coldest (avg. 25.9 °C [78.6 °F]) around February to March and warmest (avg. 28.2 °C [82.8 °F]) around September to October.
Curaçao lies outside the hurricane belt, but is still occasionally affected by hurricanes, as for example Hazel in 1954, Anna in 1961, Felix in 2007, and Omar in 2008. A landfall of a hurricane in Curaçao has not occurred since the United States National Hurricane Center started tracking hurricanes. Curaçao has, however, been directly affected by pre-hurricane tropical storms several times; the latest which to do so were Tomas in 2010, Cesar in 1996, Joan-Miriam in 1988, Cora and Greta in 1978, Edith and Irene in 1971, and Francelia in 1969. Tomas brushed Curaçao as a tropical storm, dropping as much as 265 mm (10.4 in) of precipitation on the territory, nearly half of the annual precipitation in one day. This made Tomas one of the wettest events in the island's history, as well as one of the most devastating; its flooding killed two people and caused over NA?60 million (US$28 million) in damage.
|Climate data for Curaçao - Hato International airport (TNCC) (1981-2010)|
|Record high °C (°F)||33.3
|Average high °C (°F)||29.9
|Daily mean °C (°F)||26.6
|Average low °C (°F)||24.4
|Record low °C (°F)||21.5
|Average rainfall mm (inches)||46.0
|Average rainy days||8.5||5.5||2.5||2.4||2.2||3.3||6.4||4.6||4.7||8.1||10.9||11.4||70.5|
|Average relative humidity (%)||78.5||78.2||77.3||78.2||77.9||77.5||78.1||77.8||78.1||79.6||80.6||79.5||78.4|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||264.7||249.6||271.8||249.4||266.3||266.7||290.4||302.5||261.7||247.8||234.7||247.1||3,152.7|
|Source: METEOROLOGICAL DEPARTMENT CURACAO,|
The northern sea floor drops steeply within 60 m (200 ft) of the shore. This drop-off is known as the "blue edge".
On Curaçao, four major geological formations can be found: the lava formation, the Knip formation, the Mid-Curaçao formation and limestone formations.
Curaçao lies within the Caribbean large igneous province (CLIP) with key exposures of those lavas existing on the island consisting of the Curaçao Lava Formation (CLF). The CLF consists of 5 km of pillow lavas with some basalt intrusions. The ages of these rocks include 89 Ma for the lavas and 75 Ma for the poikilitic sills, though some sequences may have erupted as late as 62-66 Ma, placing them in the Cretaceous. Their composition includes picrite pillows at the base, followed by tholeiitic lavas, then hyaloclastites, then the poikilitic sills. The CLF was gradually uplifted until Eocene-Miocene limestone caps formed, before final exposure above sea level. Christoffelberg and the Zevenbergen (Seven Hills) portion of the island have exposures of the Knip Formation. This formation includes deepwater deposits of calcareous sands and fine clays, capped by siliceous chert containing radiolarians. Middle Curaçao contains alluvial soils from eroded CLF and limestone.
Curaçao has a large number of beaches. Most are on the south side of the island. The best known are:
In total Curaçao has 37 beaches.
The island has diverse architectural styles reflecting the influence of the various rulers of the region, including Spain, the Netherlands with more modern elements under Western influence mainly from the United States and other European countries. This ranges from colonial buildings, ruins to modern infrastructure.
When the Dutch arrived in 1634, they built forts at key points around the island to protect themselves from foreign powers, privateers, and pirates. Six of the best-preserved forts can still be seen today:
In 1957, the Hotel Van der Valk Plaza Curaçao was built on top of the Waterfort.
The Riffort contains restaurants and shops. It is located on the opposite side of the Waterfort across the entrance to the harbour in Otrobanda. In 2009, the Renaissance Curaçao Resort and Casino opened next to the Riffort.
Curaçao is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Its governance takes place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democracy. The King of the Netherlands is the head of state, represented locally by a Governor, with the Prime Minister of Curaçao being the head of government.Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and parliament.
Defence of the island is the responsibility of the Netherlands.
On the west side of Curaçao International Airport are hangars for the two Bombardier Dash 8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft and two AgustaWestland AW139 helicopters of the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard. This was until 2007 a naval airbase of the Royal Netherlands Navy, which operated the base for 55 years, with a wide variety of aircraft in the past years Fireflies, Avengers, Trackers, Neptunes, Fokker F-27s, P-3C Orions, Fokker F-60s and several helicopters. After the political decision to sell all Orions the airbase wasn't needed anymore.
The west end of the airport is a USAF Forward Operating Location (FOL). The base hosts Airborne Warning And Control System (AWACS), transport aircraft, aerial refueling planes ("tankers"), and reconnaissance aircraft. Until 1999 the USAF operated a small fleet of F-16 fighters from the FOL. The corporation PAE runs base operations at the FOL.
Suffisant Naval Base has facilities used for conscription in the Caribbean. There has not been military conscription since 1997, but a form of civil conscription has been in place. This type of conscription offers underprivileged Antillean young people the chance of undertaking professional training.
The politics of Curaçao reflect the tensions created by socio-economic inequalities as well as the racial hierarchies that are the legacies of colonialism and the Atlantic Slave trade[clarification needed]. Decolonization and the ongoing political relationship between Curaçao and the Netherlands have also been sites of tension. In 2010 Curaçao became an autonomous country as part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The island country in the Caribbean off the coast of Venezuela was part of the Netherlands Antilles. Sint Maarten island also became autonomous, while the less-populated islands of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba are municipalities governed by the Netherlands.
Curaçao has an open economy, with tourism, international trade, shipping services, oil refining, storage (oil and bunkering) and international financial services being the most important sectors. The Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA has a lease on the island's oil refinery expiring in 2019; the facility employs 1,000 people, refining oil from Venezuela for export to the US and Asia.Schlumberger, the world's largest oil field services company is incorporated in Curaçao. The Isla oil refinery is claimed to be responsible for Curaçao's position in the world's top five highest countries for CO2 emissions per capita.
Along with Sint Maarten, Curaçao uses the Netherlands Antillean guilder as its currency. Its economy is well developed, supporting a high standard of living, ranking 46th in the world in terms of GDP (PPP) per capita and 27th in the world in terms of nominal GDP per capita. Curaçao possesses a high income economy, as defined by the World Bank. Activities related to the port of Willemstad (like the Free Trade Zone) make a significant contribution to the economy. To achieve the government's aim to make its economy more diverse, efforts are being made to attract more foreign investment. This policy, called the "Open Arms" policy, features a heavy focus on information technology companies.
Reduced foreign demand due to ongoing unrest and political uncertainty in Venezuela has led to decreased exports along with increased public demands for services and goods which has resulted in economic stagnation since 2016. Expansion was recorded in the construction, financial intermediation, and utilities sectors while other aspects of the economy contracted.
While tourism plays a major role in Curaçao's economy, it is less reliant on tourism than other Caribbean countries. Most tourists originate from the Netherlands, the eastern United States, South America and other Caribbean Islands. It is a leader in the Caribbean in cruise tourism growth with 610,186 cruise passengers in 2013, a 41.4% increase over the prior year.Hato International Airport received 1,772,501 passengers in 2013 and recently announced capital investments totaling US$48 million aimed at transforming the airport into a regional hub by 2018.
The island's insular shelf has a sharp drop-off known as the "Blue Edge" which is often visited by scuba diving tourists. Coral reefs for snorkeling and scuba diving can be reached without a boat. The southern coast has calm waters as well as many small beaches, such as Jan Thiel and Cas Abou. The coastline of Curaçao features numerous bays and inlets which serve as popular mooring locations for boats.
In June 2017, the island was named the Top Cruise Destination in the Southern Caribbean by Cruise Critic, a major online forum. The winners of the Destination Awards were selected based on comments from cruise passengers who rated the downtown area of Willemstad as "amazing" and the food and shopping as "excellent". The historic centre of Willemstad is a World Heritage Site. Another attraction is the towns colourful street art. A sculpture garden with works from known Curaçao artists is situated in a nearby resort.
Some of the coral reefs are affected by tourism. Porto Marie Beach is experimenting with artificial coral reefs in order to improve the reef's condition. Hundreds of artificial coral blocks that have been placed are now home to a large array of tropical fish. It is now under investigation to see if the sewer waste of hotels is a partial cause of the dying of the coral reef.
Curaçao's history in financial services dates back to World War I. Prior to this period, the financial arms of local merchant houses functioned as informal lenders to the community. However, at the turn of the 20th century, Curaçao underwent industrialization, and a number of merchant houses established private commercial banks. As the economy grew, these banks began assuming additional functions eventually becoming full-fledged financial institutions.
The Dutch Caribbean Securities Exchange is located in the capital of Willemstad, as is the Central Bank of Curaçao and Sint Maarten; the latter of which dates to 1828. It is the oldest central bank in the Western Hemisphere. The island's legal system supports a variety of corporate structures and is a corporate haven. Though Curaçao is considered a tax haven, it adheres to the EU Code of Conduct against harmful tax practices. It holds a qualified intermediary status from the United States Internal Revenue Service. It is an accepted jurisdiction of the OECD and Caribbean Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering. The country enforces Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism funding compliance.
On 30 June 2014, Curaçao was deemed to have an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) with the United States of America with respect to the "Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act" of the United States of America. The Tax Information Exchange Agreement signed in Washington, D.C. on 17 April 2002 between the U.S. and the Kingdom of the Netherlands includes Curaçao, and was updated with respect to Curaco in 2014, taking effect in 2016.
Curaçao trades mainly with the United States, Venezuela, and the European Union. It has an Association Agreement with the European Union which allows companies which do business in and via Curaçao to export products to European markets, free of import duties and quotas. It is also a participant in the US Caribbean Basin Initiative allowing it to have preferential access to the US market.
Prostitution in Curaçao is legal only for foreign women who get a temporary permit to work in the large open-air brothel called "Le Mirage" or "Campo Alegre". Using prostitution services is legal for men (locals included). The brothel has operated near the airport since the 1940s. Curaçao monitors, contains and regulates the industry. The government states that the workers in these establishments are thereby given a safe environment and access to medical practitioners. However this approach does exclude local women (or men) to legally make a living from prostitution and does lead to loss of local income, as the foreign prostitutes send or take most of their earnings home.
The U.S. State Department has cited anecdotal evidence claiming that, "Curaçao...[is a] destination island... for women trafficked for the sex trade from Peru, Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti, according to local observers. At least 500 foreign women reportedly are in prostitution throughout the five islands of the Antilles, some of whom have been trafficked." The US Department of State has said that the government of Curaçao frequently underestimates the extent of human trafficking problems.
Owing to the island's history of colonial times, the majority of the Curaçaoans are of African or partially African descent. There are also many people of Dutch, French, Latin American, South Asian, East Asian, and Levantine descent.
The religious breakdown of the population of Curaçao, according to a 2011 estimate:
This includes a shift towards the charismatic renewal or charismatic movement since the mid-1970s. Other denominations include the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Methodist Church. Alongside these Christian denominations, some inhabitants practice Montamentu and other diaspora African religions. As elsewhere in Latin America, Pentecostalism is on the rise. There are also practising Muslims and Hindus.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Willemstad encompasses all the territory of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the Caribbean which includes Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, and the islands of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. The diocese is also a member of the Antilles Episcopal Conference.
While small, Curaçao's Jewish community has had a significant impact on the island's history. Curaçao has the oldest active Jewish congregation in the Americas, dating to 1651. The Curaçao synagogue is the oldest synagogue of the Americas in continuous use, since its completion in 1732 on the site of a previous synagogue. Additionally, there are both Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jewish communities. As of the year 2000 there were approximately 300 Jewish people living on the island.
Curaçao is a polyglot society. The official languages are Dutch, Papiamentu and English. However, Dutch is the sole language for all administration and legal matters. Most of Curaçao's population is able to converse in at least two of the languages of Papiamentu, Dutch, English, and Spanish.
The most widely spoken language is Papiamentu, a Portuguese creole with African, Dutch and Spanish influences, spoken in all levels of society. Papiamentu was introduced as a language of primary school education in 1993, making Curaçao one of a handful of places where a creole language is used as a medium to acquire basic literacy. Spanish and English also have a long historical presence in Curaçao. Spanish became an important language in the 18th century due to the close economic ties with Spanish territories in what are now Venezuela and Colombia and several Venezuelan TV networks are received. Use of English dates to the early 19th century, when the British took Curaçao, Aruba and Bonaire. When Dutch rule resumed in 1815, officials already noted wide use of the language.
According to the 2001 census, Papiamentu is the first language of 81.2% of the population. Dutch is the first language of 8%, Spanish of 4%, and English of 2.9%. However, these numbers divide the population in terms of first language and do not account for the high rate of bilingualism in the population of Curaçao.
Curaçao was divided into five districts from 1863 to 1925, after which it was reduced to the two outer districts of Bandabou and Bandariba and the city district of Willemstad. Over the years, the capital, Willemstad, encompassed the entire area surrounding the large natural harbour, the Schottegat. As a result, many formerly isolated villages have grown together to form a large urbanised area. The city covers approximately one third of the entire island in the east. Willemstad's most famous neighbourhoods are:
Births and deaths
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Structure of the population
As of 1 July 2013:
Public education is based on the Dutch educational system and besides the public schools, private and parochial schools are also available. Since the introduction of a new public education law in 1992, compulsory primary education starts at age six and continues for six years; secondary lasts for another four.
The main institute of higher learning is the University of Curaçao (formerly University of The Netherlands Antilles), enrolling 2,100 students. The comprehensive model of education is influenced by both the Dutch and American education systems. Other higher education offerings on the island include offshore medical schools, language schools and academies for fine art, music, police, teacher and nurse-training.
Despite the island's relatively small population, the diversity of languages and cultural influences on Curaçao have generated a remarkable literary tradition, primarily in Dutch and Papiamentu. The oral traditions of the Arawak indigenous peoples are lost. West African slaves brought the tales of Anansi, thus forming the basis of Papiamentu literature. The first published work in Papiamentu was a poem by Joseph Sickman Corsen entitled Atardi, published in the La Cruz newspaper in 1905. Throughout Curaçaoan literature, narrative techniques and metaphors best characterized as magic realism tend to predominate. Novelists and poets from Curaçao have contributed to Caribbean and Dutch literature. Best known are Cola Debrot, Frank Martinus Arion, Pierre Lauffer, Elis Juliana, Guillermo Rosario, Boeli van Leeuwen and Tip Marugg.
Local food is called Krioyo (pronounced the same as criollo, the Spanish word for "Creole") and boasts a blend of flavours and techniques best compared to Caribbean cuisine and Latin American cuisine. Dishes common in Curaçao are found in Aruba and Bonaire as well. Popular dishes include: stobá (a stew made with various ingredients such as papaya, beef or goat), Guiambo (soup made from okra and seafood), kadushi (cactus soup), sopi mondongo (intestine soup), funchi (cornmeal paste similar to fufu, ugali and polenta) and a lot of fish and other seafood. The ubiquitous side dish is fried plantain. Local bread rolls are made according to a Portuguese recipe. All around the island, there are snèks which serve local dishes as well as alcoholic drinks in a manner akin to the English public house.
The ubiquitous breakfast dish is pastechi: fried pastry with fillings of cheese, tuna, ham, or ground meat. Around the holiday season special dishes are consumed, such as the hallaca and pekelé, made out of salt cod. At weddings and other special occasions a variety of kos dushi are served: kokada (coconut sweets), ko'i lechi (condensed milk and sugar sweet) and tentalaria (peanut sweets). The Curaçao liqueur was developed here, when a local experimented with the rinds of the local citrus fruit known as laraha. Surinamese, Chinese, Indonesian, Indian and Dutch culinary influences also abound. The island also has a number of Chinese restaurants that serve mainly Indonesian dishes such as satay, nasi goreng and lumpia (which are all Indonesian names for the dishes). Dutch specialties such as croquettes and oliebollen are widely served in homes and restaurants.
In 2004, the Little League Baseball team from Willemstad, Curaçao, won the world title in a game against the United States champion from Thousand Oaks, California. The Willemstad lineup included Jurickson Profar, the standout shortstop prospect who now plays for the San Diego Padres of Major League Baseball, and Jonathan Schoop.
The 2010 documentary film, Boys of Summer, details Curaçao's Pabao Little League All-Stars winning their country's eighth straight championship at the 2008 Little League World Series, then going on to defeat other teams, including Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, and earning a spot in Williamsport.
There is warm, clear water around the island. Scuba divers and snorkelers may have visibility up to 30 metres (98 feet) at the Curaçao Underwater Marine Park, which stretches along 20 kilometres (12 miles) of Curaçao's southern coastline.
Curaçao participated in the 2013 CARIFTA Games. Kevin Philbert stood third in the under-20 male Long Jump with a distance of 7.36 metres (24.15 feet). Vanessa Philbert stood second the under-17 female 1,500 metres (4,900 feet) with a time of 4:47.97.
The Curaçao national football team won the 2017 Caribbean Cup by defeating Jamaica in the final, qualifying for the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup. They then traveled to Thailand and participated in the 2019 King's Cup for the first time, eventually winning the tournament by beating Vietnam in the final.
Curaçao International Airport (also called Hato International Airport) is located on the northern coast of the island and offers connections to the Caribbean region, South America, North America and Europe. Curaçao Airport is a fairly large facility, with the third longest commercial runway in the Caribbean region after Rafael Hernández Airport in Puerto Rico and Pointe-à-Pitre International Airport in Guadeloupe. The airport served as a main base for Insel Air, and for Air ALM, the former national airlines of Curaçao.
The Queen Emma Bridge, a 168 metres (551 ft) long pontoon bridge, connects pedestrians between the Punda and Otrobanda districts. This swings open to allow the passage of ships to and from the port. The bridge was originally opened in 1888 and the current bridge was installed in 1939. It is best known and, more often than not, referred to by the locals as "Our Swinging Old Lady".
Aqualectra, a government-owned company and full member of CARILEC, delivers potable water and electricity to the island. Rates are controlled by the government. Water is produced by reverse osmosis or desalinization. It services 69,000 households and companies using 130,000 water and electric meters. The power generation company NuCuraçao opened wind farms in Tera Kora and Playa Kanoa in 2012, and expanded in Tera Kora in 2015. There is no natural gas distribution grid; gas is supplied to homes by pressurized containers.
Curbside trash pickup is provided by the company Selikor. There is no recycling pickup, but there are drop-off centers for certain recycled materials at the Malpais landfill, and various locations operated by Green Force; private haulers recycle construction waste, paper, and cardboard.
People from Curaçao include:
Players in Major League Baseball: