6. Where Is Curacao? -
Curacao is an island nation located in the southern Caribbean Sea. It is about 40 miles north of the South American country of Venezuela. Two islands make up the country, although one is uninhabited. Together, they comprise approximately 171 square miles.
5. History -
The Arawak indigenous people were the first settlers on the island. Researchers believe that they migrated from the Amazon rainforest of South America. The first Europeans to see and make contact with the islanders were the Spanish beginning in 1499. They captured many of the Arawak and forced them into slavery, taking them to other colonies throughout the area. Dutch colonists began arriving in 1634 after the Netherlands won their independence from Spain. They established the Dutch West India Company which made the island the center of the Atlantic slave trade. The biggest export was salt, which made the island important in international trade.
Between the 18th and 19th centuries, the colonial powers changed from Dutch to British to French and back various times. The Dutch, once more in control, ended slavery in 1863 and the former slaves participated in tenant farming; in other words, they grew crops on their former owners’ lands, giving most of the harvest every year for rent. After a major oil discovery, the Dutch Shell company established an oil refinery in 1915 which brought immigrants from many nearby countries. The island became self-governing in 1954, and the Dutch government sold the oil refinery to the local government for 1 Antillean guilder in the mid-80’s. In 2010, Curacao became a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, with the Netherlands responsible for their defense and foreign policy.
4. Demographics -
Curacao currently has a population of over 150,000. Its history has left diverse ethnicities living on the island. The people here are mainly of Afro-Caribbean descent. The biggest minorities are Dutch, Latin American, French, and Asian. Approximately 72.8% of the population practices Catholicism. Additionally, this island is home to the oldest, active Jewish population in the Americas beginning in 1651. Dutch, English, and Papiamentu are the official languages of the country. Dutch is used in business and Papiamentu, a Portuguese Creole language, is the principal spoken language. English became an important language during the brief British rule and Spanish is also spoken here due to the commercial history of Curacao and Venezuela.
3. Climate, Habitat, And Biodiversity -
The climate of Curacao is that of a tropical savannah. The dry season is from January to September. The temperature ranges from 78° to 88° all year; this weather has influenced the habitats found throughout the island. Unlike other Caribbean islands, Curacao is covered in Xeric shrublands. These shrublands are home to cacti, shrubs, evergreens, and the watapana tree. Large animals are not very common here, which is the case for most islands. It is, however, home to various rodent species including Hummelinck vesper mouse, Gorgas’ rice rat, and the oryzomys (a semi-aquatic rodent).
2. Economy -
Many of the residents of Curacao enjoy a high standard of living thanks to a well-developed economy. Some of the biggest industries on the island include oil refining and storage, shipping services, international financial services, and international trade. Its main trading partners are the US, Venezuela, and the European Union. Tourism is also a significant contributor to the economy although the reliance here is lower than in other Caribbean islands.
1. Tourism And Tourist Activities -
Curacao receives tourists mainly from the US, Latin America, the Netherlands, and other Caribbean islands. The market for cruises has grown substantially in recent years, and the country is now the leader of the Caribbean. Coral reefs off the coast are a big attraction and can be reached without boats. Tourists can scuba dive and snorkel in these areas in order to get a look at some of the marine life. This activity has led to some destruction of the reefs. The government has responded by installing artificial coral reef to restore fish habitat. Additionally, the center of the capital, Willemstad, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its unique architecture. The architectural styles found here are a mix between Dutch and Spanish colonial. Former plantation estates and slave homes have also been restored for interested visitors.
About the Author
Amber is a freelance writer, English as a foreign language teacher, and Spanish-English translator. She lives with her husband and 3 cats.
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