A Fascinating Historical Heritage
The island of Curaçao was discovered by the Spanish in 1499 by Alonso de Ojeda, one of Christopher Columbus’ lieutenants. There are different explanations for the origins of the word Curaçao. The most likely is that the Spanish called the island “Corazon” (heart) at some point. The famous Portuguese mapmakers of the time adopted this word into their own language as “Curaçau” or “Curaçao.” Today, the locals know the island as “Korsow.”
The island remained Spanish until the Dutch conquest of 1634. In the 17th century, the Dutch became leaders in the international slave trade. Africans were enslaved from their homeland and transported to Brazil and Curaçao -- where they were sold to wealthy plantation owners from across the Americas. At that time, Curaçao was one of the largest slave depots in the Caribbean.Today, however, the slave site is home to the Kura Hulanda museum, a remarkable exhibition on the horrors of the transatlantic African slave trade.
From the end of the 17th century to the beginning of the 19th century, there was a good deal of trading places between the British and the Dutch, with the French also trying to take over the island. The French came close to succeeding, but left after extorting a healthy ransom. In 1815, the Dutch regained control of Curaçao, which had been in British hands since 1807. It wasn’t until the 1920’s and 1930’s that the largest influx of worldwide immigrants came and turned the island into the multicultural melting pot that it is. The “colonial” status of Curaçao and the other islands of the Dutch Antilles changed in 1954, when the islands became completely self-governing within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Over the years, the interaction between the Indian, European, African, Asian, and Arabic cultures has influenced and brought about the development of Curaçao’s unique society.
Learn about other aspects of Curacao history.
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What about the name?
There are different theories for the origins of the word Curaçao (pronounced kyur uh sow). The most likely explanation stems from the Spanish calling the island "Corazon" (Heart) at some point. The famous Portuguese mapmakers adopted this word into their own language as "Curaçau" or "Curaçao." Today, locally, our island is known as "Dushi Korsou" (Sweet Curaçao).
Enjoy Our Fascinating Curacao Island History
Escape to the Caribbean’s hidden treasure. Fall in love with world-class diving and beaches, invigorating outdoor adventure, and rich Curacao history. Make your travel arrangements today!