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An island rich with colorful history


Curacao has a motto: "We have it all, it is just a matter of finding what you are looking for."

The white polka dots painted on the ochre-colored wall in the kitchen of the gallery/studio of Curacaoan artist Nena Sanchez aren't merely an aesthetic choice.

"The color white confuses flies. In the old days before air conditioning and even ceiling fans, flies would congregate in the kitchen, buzzing and hovering over food simmering on the stove," the guide at the Willemstad gallery explained. "If the wall above the stove was painted with white circles, flies would buzz elsewhere. Something about the color white spooked them," the guide said.

I spent a lot of time one morning in that studio, admiring the vibrant splashes of Caribbean colors and patterns that spilled onto chairs, tables, bookcases, cooking utensils, walls and even floors. They're my kind of colors. I wish I had met the artist herself, but she was at her home in another part of Curacao that day.

I bought one of her prints, a small, colorful depiction of the colonial merchant houses on the Otrobanda side of Willemstad. Legend has it that the architect who built the Dutch colonial houses long ago in the style of the narrow houses along Amsterdam's canals initially had them painted white. However, the combination of the sun reflecting off the white buildings and the sparkling waters of the St. Anna Bay gave the architect a headache.

Read the full story, originally published on November 5, 2015, on Travel Weekly.