The history of Curaçao
You’ve probably heard of Curaçao because of the world-famous Blue Curaçao Liqueur, a proud icon of our island and the reason why The Blue Curaçao Experience exists. But what else do you know about Curaçao? If you’re curious about our paradisiac island, then you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll take a ride through Curaçao's history, all the way from its first inhabitants and how they were described, to the first conquest by the Spaniards, and the island's evolution to one of the most desired places to visit on the Caribbean.
The first conquest of curaçao
Curaçao was conquered by the Spaniard Alonso de Ojeda in 1499 as he traveled from the island of Trinidad along the South American continental coast in search of a new passage towards India. After days of navigation along the coast, De Ojeda and his men sighted the island of Curaçao, which was initially named “Isla de Los Gigantes” (Giant’s Island) as the indigenous people that were seen on the coast were thought to be giants. Later, however, the Spanish changed the name to “Corazón” (heart), which was then translated to “Curaçao” by the famous Portuguese mapmakers of the time. The reason why the Spanish decided to call it “Corazón” is still unknown.
The Dutch Conquest
Curaçao remained under Spanish rule until the Dutch conquest of 1634. It was in this period that one of Curaçao’s most prominent figures emerged, Peter Stuyvesant. Regarded a pirate by the world, and a hero by the Dutch, Peter Stuyvesant became director of Curaçao and the driving the force behind Curaçao’s role in the slave trade.
By the year 1662, the capital city of Willemstad had become the central point of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade under the direction of the mighty Dutch West India Company, who would bring thousands of slaves from Africa, to sell them to wealthy plantation owners all over the Americas.
Curaçao's popularity rises
Given Curaçao’s popularity and strategic location, the island became a desired hotspot in the eyes of British and French colonizers, who battled with the Dutch from the end of the 17th century to the beginning of the 19th century to take possession of Curaçao.
In this bloody period, a local hero by the name Tula rose against foreign colonizers. Tula was an African slave who liberated himself from his master and became the leader of the Curaçao Slave Revolt of 1795, a movement that lasted over a month and ended with Tula’s terrible execution by torture.
By the year 1815, the Dutch had warded off all enemies and seized all slave revolt attempts, thereby regaining control of Curaçao and establishing themselves as the sole rulers. The Dutch saw Curaçao’s perfect weather conditions as an opportunity to give the island a new source of income through agriculture.
In this period, around 100 small plantations were established and Curaçao’s iconic plantation mansions, known as “Landhuizen” were built. In the present day, there are over 55 Landhuizen. One of the most well-preserved and beautiful landhuizen on the island is the home of our Curaçao Liqueur; Landhuis Chobolobo.
The Netherlands Antilles
The Dutch Kingdom maintained its rule until 1954 when the six Dutch Caribbean islands (Curaçao, Aruba, Bonaire St. Maarten, St. Eustatius, and Saba) became autonomous within the Kingdom and formed the Netherlands Antilles. The Netherlands Antilles was dissolved in 2010, and Curaçao – together with the Netherlands, Aruba and Sint Maarten - became an autonomous country within the Dutch Kingdom.
As from the beginning of its history, Curaçao’s exceptional beauty and mystic continue to attract people from all over the world. Curaçao’s main sources of income are now tourism, petroleum refining, and Financial Services. Everyone speaks at least 4 languages; Papiamento, Dutch, Spanish and English and even though the current population is only about 150,000, and the island is just 39 miles long (62 km), there’s so much to do and see that you’ll want to come back many times over. There are over 38 astonishing beaches, and beautiful landscapes filled with a colorful nature and an exceptional architecture.
The capital city Willemstad has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the most photographed capitals in the world. It is also where The Blue Curaçao Experience is located, one of the most exciting activities on the island and one of the best places to have cocktails and enjoy a bite while you contemplate on the island’s rich history. The story goes on and we look forward to having you here and letting you see everything Curaçao has to offer by yourself. “Bon Bini” in advance and see you soon!