For a brief historical outline of the Netherlands Antilles click here.
Curaçao was first visited by Europeans in 1499 and was settled by the Spanish in 1527 and then by the Dutch, who established it as a major centre of trade for their West India Company. The entire native Indian population was deported to Hispaniola in 1515. Curaçao is the home of the oldest continuously inhabited Jewish community in the Western Hemisphere, having originally been formed by Sephardic Jews who immigrated from Portugal in the 1500s.
The island provided one special advantage for the Dutch - the finest natural harbour in the West Indies. At the south-eastern end of the island, a channel, St. Anna Bay, passes through reefs to a large, deep, virtually enclosed bay called Schottegat, the site of the capital town, Willemstad. The need for salt to preserve herring initially drove the Dutch to the Caribbean. During the period 1660 to 1700, the Dutch West India Company flourished; the slave trade boomed, and the port of Curaçao was opened to all countries both to receive the incoming food supplies and to dispose of products from the plantations of South America. The island was subjected to frequent invasions from competing privateers and suffered during the wars between the English and Dutch. It has remained continuously in Dutch hands since 1816.
In spite of having very little rainfall or fertile soil, the island developed a major sugarcane-plantation economy under Dutch colonial rule; it now produces oranges, the dried peel of which is the base for the famous Curaçao liqueur that is distilled there. Aloes, which had originally been imported from Africa, do not require irrigation and are still exported for pharmaceutical uses. All water is distilled from seawater.
In 1920 oil was discovered of the Venezuelan coast. This signalled a new era for Curaçao and Bonaire. The two islands became centres for distilling oil. During WW II the Allies judged Curaçao and its refinery to be important enough, to establish an American military base at Waterfort Arches, near Willemstad.
After WW II Curaçao joined the rest of the Caribbean in a loud clamour for independence. On 8 April 2005 the population of Curaçao (133.644) voted for the Status Aparte like Aruba. This is realized on 15 December 2008.
The Dominicans on Curaçao.
His Dutch Dominican companions – R. Schraauwen (04.07.1831-06.05.1887), H. Bergmans (08.03.1839-19.11.1870), and J. Köller (15.11.1834-01.03.1919) – sailed on the schooner 'Gouverneur de Ronville' from Holland on 03.06.1870 and arrived at Curaçao on11.06.1870.
The old St. Anna Church, built by the Augustinian Miguel Grimon in 1752, was rebuilt by Stephanus Pavert, O.P. (26.11.1860-28.12.1930) in 1902 and now the Bishop's cathedral. Nine Dominicans were Bishop of Curaçao.
The Dominican Jordanus. E. Onderwater (09.11.1850-13.10.1891) founded the weekly magazine 'Amigoe di Curaçao' (05.01 1884), the newspaper since 1941. In this issue many Dominicans wrote articles a.s.o.
Other issues edited by the Dutch Dominicans were: 'La Uninon' by A.J. Jansen (10.06.1845-14.11.1929), later 'La Cruz' (01.05.1900). For children: Witwiek en La Blanca (01.05.1891).
Many Dominicans were pastor in the hospital, in the 'Mgr.Verriet Institute', the clinic 'David Ricardo Capriles', and as rector of the Franciscan Sisters of Breda.
The history of the Saint
Anna's Church is reminded in the diaries
of Bartolomeus Senior and Bartolomeus Junior (1742-1873), published by R.H.Nooyen, O.P.: Tot memorie. Curaçao 1974,
The altar of St. Anna's Church (1752) in Otrabanda, Curaçao.
Netherlands Antilles 1970, Mi 217, Sc 324.
100th Anniversary of the 'Amigoe di Curaçao'.
Netherlands Antilles 1984, Mi 513-515, Sc 405-407.
The artist Arnoldo Maas, O.P. (04.05.1909-27.11.1981) painted a Christmas scene in the church Santa Famia in Willemstad, Curaçao.
Left panel 'the Virgin and Child with churchgoers' of a triptych in the church Santa Famia, Willemstad, Curaçao, by Arnoldo Maas, O.P.
Netherlands Antilles 1997, Mi 941, Sc 619.