History of Curacao

Curaçao has a turbulent history of which elements are still visible.

Curaçao "was discovered" in 1499 by the Spaniards discoverer Alonso the Ojeda. At that moment approximately 2000 Taínos Indians lived on the island. In 1515 nearly all Taíno Indians were carried away as slaves to Hispaniola. The Spaniards established themselves on the island in 1527. The island however was controlled from one of theSpanish-Venezuelan cities. The Spaniards imported many exotic species to Curaçao. Horses, sheep, ewes, pigs and cattle were introduced from Europe or from the Spanish colonies on the island. Also several exotic trees and plants were planted by the Spaniards.

In time the number of Spaniards living on Curaçao declined. The number of Taínos Indians on the other hand stabilized and might have increased. In the last decades of the Spanish occupation Curaçao was used as a large cattle breeding. The West Indische Companie (WIC) signed the dispossession with the Spaniards in August 1634 at San Juan. The approximately 30 Spaniards still present on the island and a large part of the Taíno Indians were brought to Venezuela by the Dutch. Approximately 30 Taíno-families could continue to live on the island.

After the conquest the WIC consolidated their claims, by building fortifications. In 1634-35 a fort was built at the water source on the North East side of the Annabaai, since water was of vital importance. Around the fort foot stings were scattered. In 1635-36 the construction of fort Amsterdam on Punda was started.

In the first three years the living conditions for the WIC members were bad. For food and construction material they were mainly dependent on imports from Europe. That supply was very irregular; more than one half year could pass without the arrival of any supplies. Consequence was that much cattle was caught and was slaughtered. Other food was rationed. Water had be brought from the source to Punda. The Spaniards forged plans to reconquer Curaçao on the Dutch. Information on troop strength, fortifications, outposts, food stock and ammunition was collected in three manners. Indians who lived on Curaçao were kidnapped and were interrogated. WIC members that came to the coast of Venezuela to collect salt were caught taken and interrogated. Finally Spaniards sent spies to Curaçao. They had two landing places: Piscaderabayand Spanish water. The Schottegat was too well defended. The Spaniards carried out their plans and departed to Curacao with a number of ships. A storm drifted the ships away from Curacao, and they have never reached Curacao.

The Heeren XIX in Amsterdam were ever since 1634 divided about the future of Curaçao. The fortificaties and troops had cost much money and the turnovers were thin. Still Curaçao was apprehended, supposedly as a result of indecision then of a reasoned decision.

The WIC turned Curaçao into a safe harbor and obtained it because of the key position it took in international trade networks. Because of this in the 17th century Curaçao became one of the most prosperous islands in the Caribbean area. In the 18th century Curaçao tried to consolidate its trade position, but after the bankruptcy of the WIC in 1719, Curaçao became a real Dutch colony. Until the beginning of the 20th century Curaçao lived of trade, agriculture and fishery. This changed in 1914 when large oil reserves were discovered in Venezuela. Shell immediately established a refinery on the island. During the second world war the island played an important role in the provisioning of fuel for the allied troops.

In 1954, Curaçao got political autonomy. In 1980s Shell left Curaçao and the oil refinery was sold to a Venezuelan oil company.

On Curaçao many vestiges of the colonial past are still existing. Most visible in the particular architecture of the 17e till early 20th century buildings in Willemstad. Because of the nature and compactness of the buildings, a part of the inner-city of Willemstad was placed on the world heritage list of UNESCO. Also former plantation houses have been declared monuments.

(source: wikipedia)

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