It’s official: My flight to Curaçao is booked and I’m heading there for the first time from November 25th-30th (Thanksgiving weekend)! I am thrilled. While I grew up in the Enchanted Island of Puerto Rico, the Caribbean never gets old. There is something about its palm-fringed coasts, ocean breeze, sand between my toes, and year-long sunshine that I just can never get enough! Most of my excitement, however, stems from the fact that Curaçao is so culturally diverse from the Caribbean I’m “used” to.
Located in the deep south of the Caribbean, Curacao is about 60 km off Venezuelan coasts. For this reason, it is considered a “transcontinental country,” meaning that it is part of both North and South America, as the division of Caribbean islands between the two continents is deemed complex. In addition to its ambiguous geographical location, its cultural background is just as broad. While the first conquistadors to see the island were Spaniards, the territory was invaded by the Dutch in 1634. Then, 28 years later, Curacao became the center of the Atlantic slave trade, bringing a heavy influx of African slaves into the island. From there, they were shipped to several colonies in the Caribbean and South America.
The island became prosperous, and since the Dutch made a contract with the Spaniards for slave trade, the island’s development and architecture was influenced by a mix of both Spanish and Dutch styles. Naturally, as with many Caribbean islands, Curacao’s strategic location and wealth caught the eye of other colonial powers. Consequently, Curacao was occupied by the French, the British, and the Dutch interchangeably between the 18th and 19th centuries. Then, in 1815 (post-Napoleonic wars), the Dutch regained control of the island.
It is easy to see why I am so excited about visiting this culturally-rich haven. Not only is it off-the-beaten path in comparison to other popular Caribbean destinations, but its background is quite unique. While my island of Puerto Rico has Taíno, African, and Spanish influences, the Spaniards successfully retained control of the island for more than 400 years, ever since its discovery by Columbus on November 19th, 1493. In fact, it was not until the Spanish-American War that Spain lost the island to American forces. In contrast, Curacao was occupied and juggled between colonial powers repeatedly for about two centuries, which makes its background that more diverse in my opinion. It will be wonderful see for myself and discover whether this assumption of mine is true or if the cultural background is as equally diverse, and not more, than Puerto Rico’s.
According to the government’s website, Curacao’s unique society has seen interactions between the Indian, European, African, Asian, and Arab cultures. I wonder how that will translate into its architecture, food, customs, etc. I plan on Couchsurfing there, just so I get to see the country from a local’s perspective and am able to ask several questions about traditions and current influences and changes.
I’m still not sure what I will do there. A friend of mine, named Jessica, might join me, but seems like I will be going as a solo woman traveler again *smiles* I think I’ll want to cycle around the island, given the fact that it is only 61 km long by 5-14 km wide, plus I will have about 5-6 days to explore (yay). Additionally, I plan on doing some diving and snorkeling, as I have heard Curacao boasts some of the most virgin, vibrant corals in the whole Caribbean. Moreover, it was considered one of the top budget diving destinations in the world–say whaaaat!? Guys, I’m so excited about this trip! By the way, I found my flight from Miami-Curacao for only $215 RT including taxes on a special sale from American Airlines, which ends on July 18th (in four days!). They have tons of cities on sale so you might want to check it out. Oh and hey, if you decide to visit the magical Dutch Caribbean after snatching a cheap flight, let me know! *wink*
Have you visited Curacao or any other Caribbean island? Tell us about your experience