Exploring Willemstad, Curacao's UNESCO World Heritage Site
My lodging is in the neighborhood of Pietermaai next to restaurants and homes, and close to the capital city center. This area is slowly restoring itself to reflect the city’s history and its UNESCO World Heritage Site status. There are only six Caribbean UNESCO sites. The decision to spotlight the city was based on "outstanding value and integrity, which illustrates the organic growth of a multicultural community over three centuries, and preserves to a high degree of significant elements."
Curacao was discovered in 1499 by Spanish explorer Alonso de Ojeda, a lieutenant of Christopher Columbus, and systematically taken from its inhabitants, the Arawak Indians.
The island remained under Spanish control until the Dutch occupation in 1634. This history, plus its involvement in the slave trade and the more than 50 nationalities now represented on the island, makes up this culture-rich and diverse population. Governmentally it is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
My tour begins on the Punda (east) side of St. Anna Bay at the popular Curacao sign where everyone in my group queues up to have their photo taken among the large yellow and blue letters. We then walk along brightly painted centuries-old colonial buildings that reflect the island’s Dutch influence and provide a great backdrop to explore the city.
Read the full story, originally published on November 9, 2015, on Grit.