Originally inhabited by the Arawak people, the Spanish were the first Europeans to get to the islands, and enslaved most of the Arawak as their labour forces, sometimes forcibly relocating survivors to other colonies where workers were needed. After The Eighty Years' War and the Netherlands achieved independence from Spain in 1634, Dutch colonists started to occupy the island, and the Dutch West India Company founded the capital of Willemstad on the banks of an inlet called the Schottegat. The natural harbour of Willemstad proved to be an good place for a trading post, and commerce, shipping and piracy became Curacao's most important economic activities. It also acted as a center for the Atlantic slave trade in 1662, with slavers often bringing slaves here from Africa for sale elsewhere in the Caribbean as well as for sale in South America. The island switched between British, Dutch and French control in the 18th and 19th centuries, but the Dutch got back permanent control of the territory in 1815 after the end of The Napoleonic Wars.
The island is noted for it's colonial architecture, with many of their buildings being a mix of Dutch and Spanish styles, and the capital, Willemstad, being designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to it's wide range of historic buildings. Landhouses and West African style kas di pal'i maishi (former slave dwellings) are also scattered all over the island, with some being restored and able to be visited. The culture of the island also has a noticeable Jewish influence, due to Sephardic Jews with ancestors from the Iberian Peninsula settling there with the Dutch, having the oldest active Jewish congregation in the Americas dating to 1651 and having the oldest synagogue of the Americas in continuous use, the Curacao synagogue, which was completed in 1732.
Curacao in fiction:
- Narcos: Episode 6 of Season 3 has DEA Agent Javier Peña and Wilhemsted police apprehend a banker of the Cali Cartel in Curacao. This is notably the first appearance of the island in media.
The Curacaoan flag