Island of the Giants
Curaçao was discovered in 1499 by Spanish explorer Alonso de Ojeda, a lieutenant of Christopher Columbus. The Spanish christened the island “Isla de los Gigantes” in reference to the massive physiques of its original inhabitants, the Arawak Indians – but there are several theories about the origin of its actual name, the most likely being the Portuguese words for cured (curação) or heart (coração). Today, the island is affectionately known locally as “Dushi Korsou” (Sweet Curaçao).
In Dutch hands
Curaçao remained under Spanish control until the Dutch occupation in 1634. In 1642, Peter Stuyvesant was installed as governor. He left in 1647 to become Governor of New Amsterdam, later to become New York City. In 1662, the capital city of Willemstad became a major commercial center of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade under the direction of the Dutch West India Company. The Kura Hulanda Museum in Otrobanda is a must-see attraction that impressively exhibits the island’s role during this controversial period.
Target of conquest
The island continued to be a target of conquest from the end of the 17th century to the beginning of the 19th century, changing hands between the British and Dutch several times until the Dutch finally wrestled away control in 1815. (A French privateer even attempted an invasion in 1713, but left after extorting a healthy ransom.)Curaçao experienced its largest influx of worldwide immigration in the 1920s and 1930s and today boasts over fifty on-island nationalitiesthat contribute to its remarkable diversity and development. The colonial status of Curaçao and other islands of the Netherlands Antilles changed in 1954, when the islands became completely self-governing within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. On October 10, 2010, the Netherlands Antilles dissolved and Curaçao became a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Today, this island of more than 142,000 people is being carried forward on the shoulders of new giants – the artists, entertainers, entrepreneurs and dreamers whose imaginations and ambition extend an open invitation to the truly curious, calling them to a culture of freedom and exploration where big ideas can be born and creativity and courage are always welcome.