1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Curaçao

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

CURAÇAO, or Curaçoa, an island in the Dutch West Indies. It lies 40 m. from the north coast of Venezuela, in 12° N. and 69° W., being 40 m. long from N.W. to S.E., with an average width of 10 m. and an area of 212 sq. m. The surface is generally flat, but in the south-west there are hills attaining an elevation of 1200 ft. The shores are in places deeply indented, forming several natural harbours, the chief of which is that of St Anna on the south-west coast. Curaçao consists of eruptive rocks, chiefly diorite and diabase, and is surrounded by coral reefs. Streams are few and the rainfall is scanty, averaging only 16 in. per annum. Although the plains are for the most part arid wastes, sugar, aloes, tobacco and divi-divi are produced with much toil in the more fertile glens. Salt, phosphates and cattle are exported. The commerce is mainly with the United States, and there is a large carrying trade with Venezuela. The famous Curaçoa liqueur (see below) was originally made on the island from a peculiar variety of orange, the Citrus Aurantium curassuviensis. Willemstad (pop. about 8000), on the harbour of St. Anna, is the principal town. It bears a strong resemblance to a Dutch town, for the houses are built in the style of those of Amsterdam, and the narrow channel separating it from its western suburb of Overzijde and the waters of the Waigat, which intersect it, recall the canals. The narrow entrance leading to the Schottegat or Inner Harbour is protected by forts. The negroes of the island speak a curious dialect called Papaimento, composed of Spanish, Dutch, English and native words. Curaçao gives name to the government of the Dutch West Indies, which consists of Aruba, an island lying W. of Curaçao, with an area of 69 sq. m. and a population of 9591; Buen Ayre, lying 20 m. N.E., with an area of 95 sq. m. and a population of 4926; together with St Eustatius, Saba and part of St Martin. The governor is assisted by a council of four members and a colonial council of eight members nominated by the crown. The island of Curaçao has a population of 30,119; and altogether the Dutch West Indies have a population of 51,693.

Curaçao was discovered by Hojeda about 1499 and occupied by the Spaniards in 1527. In 1634 it fell into the hands of the Dutch, who have held it ever since, except during the year 1798 and from 1806 to 1814 when it passed into the possession of Great Britain.

See Wynmalen, “Les Colonies néerlandaises dans les Antilles,” Revue colon. internat. (1887), ii. p. 391; K. Martin, West-Indische Skizzen (Leiden, 1887); De Veer, La Colonie de Curaçoa (Les Pays Bas, 1898). Also several articles on all the islands in Tijdschrift v. h. Ned. Aardr. Genootschap (1883–1886).