A prehistoric tribe of seafaring hunter-gatherers lived along the coast, subsisting mainly on rabbit and deer, lobster, dolphins and oysters. Pottery and shell fragments found here have been radiocarbon dated as early as 5,000 years ago.
In 1499 the Spanish arrived seeking sources of fresh water – hence the name Spanish Water for the magnificent bay and natural harbor.
Not finding gold, the Spanish left in the early 1600’s, followed by the Dutch who arrived in 1634, founding the port of Willemstad and claiming the island for the King of Holland.
The thrifty Dutch soon created a lucrative international trading business on the island – part of which was the importation and sale of African slaves, destined to populate the Dutch Caribbean’s sugar cane islands.
By the mid-17th Century, with the Inquisition, which the Spanish had brought with them to Holland, Jewish families began emigrating to Curaçao.
Seeking religious freedom, they were welcomed by the Dutch Protestant community on the island. Indeed, the first Synagogue in the Western Hemisphere was founded, and still stands, in Willemstad. The fortunes of Curaçao and her sister island Aruba changed dramatically with the discovery of oil in 1920 in Venezuela.
A major refinery on Curaçao drew immigrants from as far away as Asia and Europe, resulting in a new period of economic prosperity.
During World War II the Allies recognized the importance of protecting the refinery from the German U-Boats wreaking havoc throughout the Atlantic.
The U. S. built a naval base to defend the port and refinery, and remains a friendly presence on the island through the U. S. Coast Guard’s search and rescue operations.
Curaçao, as of October 10, 2010, became an autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
The population of 145,000 has Dutch nationality.
The government is a parliamentary democracy, based on freedom of association, the right to form political parties, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech.