The first inhabitants of Curacao were the Arawak Amerindians from Venezuela. Archeologists have found remnants of their settlements dating back to 950 AD.
In 1499 the Europeans arrived when the Spanish explorer Alonso de Ojeda led an expedition to the island.
The Spanish eventually decided that Curacao, as well as Aruba and Bonaire were without much value, so in 1515 they forcibly deported the natives to work as slaves in the copper mines on the island of Hispaniola.
In 1526, Juan de Ampies was appointed Spanish commander of the ABC Islands, Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. He quickly brought back some of the original Caquetios Indian inhabitants to Bonaire and Curacao as laborers.
Most of Spanish occupiers left Curacao for South America (in search of gold) and Curacao was consequently attacked in 1633, then occupied in 1636 by the Dutch West India Company and used as military outpost and trade base; the same was true for the neighboring islands of Aruba and Bonaire.
The Dutch founded the capital of Willemstad, and its deep, natural harbor proved ideal for regional trade.
The Dutch then established the island as a center for the slave trade, and merchants brought slaves from Africa into Curacao where they were sold and shipped to various destinations in the Caribbean and South America.
That trade brought riches to Curacao; stylish colonial buildings were constructed and great plantations spread across the island.
Like other islands in the Caribbean, Curacao experienced its share of slave revolts, and a major one occurred here in 1795. After heavy fighting and hundreds of deaths, the Dutch crushed the rebellion.
During the late 18th century, and on through the 19th, the island changed hands among the British, French and Dutch several times. The Dutch regained control in 1815, and incorporated it into the Dutch colony of Curacao.
Across the Caribbean the British officially abolished slavery in 1834; the Dutch followed suit in 1863. The end of slavery caused economic hardship on Curacao, as many of the plantation slaves (to survive) left for other islands.
African slaves that remained continued to work, but because of their so-called legal relationships with former slave masters, most were forced to give of the majority of their harvest, so in the end, slavery continued into the early 20th century.
In 1914, oil was discovered in nearby Venezuela, and because of Royal Dutch Shell's existing oil refinery on the island, and the abundant supply of labor, the economy of Curacao changed almost overnight.
New prosperity typically brings social unrest and Curacao was no exception. That unrest sparked a social movement that resulted in the local Afro-Caribbean population attaining more input in the operation of local government.
Dutch colonial rule ended after the conclusion of the Second World War as Queen Wilhelmina had promised in a 1942 speech to offer autonomy to the overseas territories of the Netherlands, including Curacao.
In May 1948, a new constitution for the Dutch overseas territories was crafted, allowing the largest amount of autonomy allowed under the Dutch constitution. Among others, universal suffrage was introduced, and the territory was renamed the "Netherlands Antilles."
In 1984, desiring more freedom and individual expression, the Island Council of Curacao inaugurated a new National Flag and the official anthem of the island.
On November 3, 2006, Curacao was finally granted autonomy by the Dutch government, however that status was first rejected, then finally accepted in 2007. Today Curacao is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
In-the-know travelers return again and again to this wonderful island to chill-out on a perfect beach on a typically perfect day. They also come for the colorful Dutch colonial architecture, the rich history, local hospitality, shopping, water sports and wildlife.