Curaçao: Country and Foreign Investment
History, Population, Language and Culture
The native inhabitants, the Caquetíos, (an Arawak tribe), lived for millennia on Curaçao, growing cassava, fishing and hunting small game. The Spanish arrived on the island in 1499 and proceeded to enslave almost all the peaceable natives and transport them to Hispaniola. The Spanish settled in Curaçao in 1527 and introduced livestock, which took well to the land, and crops, which did not. The island was of little economic importance at this time.
In 1634 Curaçao fell to the Dutch West India Company and became an important base for their expeditions against the Spanish. During the 18th century Curaçao became a trading port for pirates, American rebels, Dutch merchants, Spaniards and Creoles from the mainland. It was also a major centre for the slave trade and managed to undercut the other participants in this infamous enterprise.
After the Dutch West India Company filed for bankruptcy, Curaçao formally become a Dutch colony. From 1845 the Dutch West Indies were organised into Suriname and Curaçao and dependencies. In 1914, oil was discovered in neighbouring Venezuela, leading to the Dutch company Shell establishing an oil refinery on Curaçao, greatly improving the island’s economic prospects.
In 1948 Curaçao and the other Dutch-owned Caribbean islands (St. Maarten, Saba, St. Eustatius, Bonaire and Aruba) were consolidated into one territory, the Netherlands Antilles. The capital was Willemstad on Curaçao, which dominated the jurisdiction. Dissatisfaction with this arrangement led to Aruba’s secession in 1986.
The situation did not imporve, and in 2004 a constitutional crisis erupted due to irreconcilable differences between the constituent islands. A joint commission appointed by the Netherlands and the local government concluded that the jurisdiction should be broken up, with the islands of Curaçao and St Maarten becoming autonomous countries alongside the Netherlands and Aruba, while the remaining three islands - Saba, Bonaire and St. Eustatius - should be brought under the direct control of the Dutch government in The Hague. The remaining parts of the Netherlands Antilles were dissolved on 10 October 2010 and the territory of Curaçao came into being.
The population is estimated to be 162,700 in August 2019; this indicates an 11.5% increase on the population in 2012. There are three official languages: Dutch, English and Papiamentu, an Iberian-based creole with Dutch influences that is spoken by 90% of the local population. Spanish is also widely spoken, particularly in Willemstad. Ethnically, the population is 85% mixed black, the balance being indigenous Carib, white and East Asian. More than 90% of the population is Christian (73% Roman Catholic and 17% Protestant.) There are small Jewish and Muslim communities, with no religious tensions present.