For those who don’t know, Curaçao is a small island in the South Caribbean Sea, 50 miles north of Venezuela. It is the main island of the former Netherlands Antilles under the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Its source of income consists of the tourism industry and Venezuelan oil refining. Curacao also serves as a transit country for shipment and financial trade. Most tourists come from the USA (on cruise ships and by air), from Europe and some South American countries.
What makes the island attractive are its sandy beaches, its crystal clear sea, its architecture and its friendly people. Of course, the tropical climate indulges you all year long. The one thing I like to highlight in this article are the architectural styles that are unique for this part of the world. I am talking about 17th, 18th and 19th century buildings that stood the test of time. Together they form a World Heritage site.
When the Dutch on behalf of the West Indian Company settled in Curaçao (1634) the first structure they built was a fortification at the entrance of the harbor bay. For that purpose Peter Stuyvesant organized a group of Dutch workers together with 40 slaves imported from Brazil. It took about three years to build Fort Amsterdam, including a church. It became a safe haven for the Lutheran company staff. Later the government made it his headquarters, including a governors’ home.
During that century the island was opened up for persecuted Jews from Spain, Portugal and Holland to settle as farmers. On hilltops in the most fertile parts of the island they built country houses to supervise their slaves doing the digging, planting and harvesting the products to keep the inhabitants alive.
At the beginning of the 18th century (1732) they started building a synagogue in the heart of the little city, the first synagogue (Snoa) in the Americas. This is still a touristic attraction.
During the next century there was a breakaway in the Jewish community which led to the Temple Emanuel, built near the seaside of the city (1867).
Not all Jews had a feeling for agriculture and many of them moved to the city to focus on trade and banking. Their wealth was partially used to build merchant houses that resembled those in Amsterdam, now with classical Greek influences.
This neo-classical residence, built in 1916, now houses the National Archives.
One of the many country houses: this is Habaai, built around 1750, not far from the city.
Come and visit the island whenever you want.