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Netherlands Antilles


(including Aruba )

Major City:
Curaçao (Willemstad)

Other Cities:
The Bottom, Kralendijk, Oranjestad, Philipsburg, Sint Nicolaas

This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report 2000 for Netherlands Antilles. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


THE NETHERLANDS ANTILLES , a Dutch colonial possession for the greater part of three centuries, and once a center for slave trade in the Caribbean, has been an autonomous territory of the Kingdom of the Netherlands since 1954. Aruba, one of the three largest islands (the others are Curaçao and Bonaire) withdrew from the federation in January 1986 to form its own domestic government. In 1990, however, Aruba requested and received from the Netherlands a cancellation of the agreement that would have granted independence in 1996. It remains under Dutch protection and, unofficially at least, is still referred to as an integral part of the Antilles group.

The islands are a fascinating blend of Afro-Spanish-Dutch culturea tapestry of sites, peoples, and languages. The countryside is rich in history, and in natural marvels which draw increasing numbers of tourists each year to these jewels in the sun.



During the colonial period Curaçao was a center of slave trade in the Caribbean. After emancipation of the slaves in 1863, Curaçao lost much of its economic importance until 1916 when Royal Dutch Shell built an oil refinery on the shores of Schottegat Harbor. Shell pulled out in 1985, and the Venezuelan petroleum company took over operation of the refinery. Curaçao also has the largest repair dry-dock in the Caribbean, a container port, an important offshore financial sector and several resort hotels.

The total number of American citizens residing on the island fluctuates but is in the neighborhood of 1,000. The overall "foreign colony", including Dutch nationals, makes up about 10% of the total population. Curaçao has as many as 40 nationalities represented, including a large percentage of Indians, Chinese and Indonesians.

Although Curaçao has been associated with the Netherlands for about 300 years, visitors to Curaçao find that a knowledge of Spanish is as helpful as Dutch. English is spoken and understood to one degree or another by a large percentage of the local population; Papiamentu is the language of daily life.

The town of Willemstad contains most of Curaçao's 150,000 population. Dutch architecture predominates in the older sections of the city. Homes in the suburbs are more modern and spacious.


The city water supply consists exclusively of distilled, potable sea-water. Electric current in Curaçao is 110v-130v, 50-cycle, single-phase AC.

Any American appliance, which relies on 60-cycle current for its timing (such as clocks, record players and tape recorders) must be converted for 50-cycle current in order to operate properly. If possible, have this done in the U.S. before shipment (transformers can only convert voltage, not cycles). Transformers and all types of electrical equipment and appliances are available locally but at high prices. Most major brands can be serviced locally. The local power supply sometimes experiences surges, spikes and/or brownouts.

UPS's and/or surge protectors are recommended for computers, TV's, VCR's, stereos and other sensitive electronic equipment. They can be purchased locally but are less expensive in the States.


Almost all food is imported. A good variety of canned and frozen foods, including baby foods, of U.S. and Dutch origin are available in modern supermarkets. Fresh produce is flown in regularly, mostly from the U.S. and Venezuela, but are not necessarily in stock at all times. Boats from Venezuela sell produce and fish at a central area in Willemstad called the "floating market."

Curaçao imports all its meat, mostly from Argentina, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Denmark and the U.S. Quality is satisfactory although sometimes tougher than we are accustomed to in the U.S. and special cuts, particularly beef and veal, are often unavailable. Most frozen poultry is of U.S. origin. Eggs of good size and quality come from local sources. Butter and cheese are imported from the U.S. and the Netherlands. Frozen fish and seafood products come from as far away as Norway and Iceland. Fresh fish from South American and Caribbean sources is available and safe.

Since transportation costs are included, food prices are comparatively high.


Men: At work, clothing suitable for summer in Washington is appropriate. Casual dress is typical at other times. Both European and American men's clothing is available but relatively expensive. A dark suit is necessary and suitable for most representational purposes.

Women: Curaçao really has only one season-summer. Bring summer wear. Light cotton is preferable to polyester blends. Women wear short dresses at most evening social affairs not identified as "casual" or "sport." All kinds of women's clothes are available in Curaçao at prices higher than those in the U.S. A fair selection of women's shoes is usually, but not always, available; some American women have found excellent buys in European brand shoes.

Children: Infant and children's clothes are available at prices much higher than those in the U.S. but the selection is limited in size and style and the quality is sometimes inferior. Children's shoes are available in American sizes. Baby items (such as diapers) are much more expensive than in the U.S.

Supplies and Services

Nearly all well known brands of American and European toiletries, cosmetics, personal hygiene supplies, home medicines and drugs are available on Curaçao. Prices range from less than those in the U.S. to up to 50% higher on some items. A good range of liquor and tobacco items is available through duty-free suppliers.

Most basic services found in a small community can be found on Curaçao but the quality varies widely. Tailors and dressmakers charge reasonable prices and their work can range from fair to excellent. A wide assortment of cottons and dress fabrics are available but sewing notions offer a limited selection.

Dry-cleaning facilities are available and the services provided are acceptable. Beauty shops compare with those in the U.S. and those in major tourist hotels have good operators and service. Costs are comparable with those in the U.S. Barbershops also have reasonable prices.

Radio and TV repair is adequate and reasonable but parts are not always available locally. Simple plumbing and electrical maintenance repair is available at reasonable prices. Automobile repair is satisfactory but, once again, parts are not always available locally.

Curaçao has a public library with a modest collection of books and publications in English. Several hotels and restaurants maintain a "swap" shelf of English language paperbacks.

Domestic Help

Domestics from English-speaking Caribbean islands are available but require permission from the Curaçao government to live and work here. Local law entitles maids to a three-week paid vacation annually, with supplementary pay for meals is not taken in the employer's home. Employers are obliged to provide health insurance for maids; the premium is about $360 a year. Wages for part-time help are about $2 per hour, plus transportation, or about $150 a month for house servants. The rate for gardeners is from $2 to $3 per hour.

Religious Activities

Curaçao prides itself on having the oldest continuously operating synagogue in the Western Hemisphere. Services are in English and Hebrew. Several Roman Catholic Churches offer services in Dutch and Papiamentu and at least one offers Mass in English. A Dutch Reformed Church holds services in Dutch; a Methodist Church and an Anglican Church hold services in English; and a Seventh-day Adventist Chapel and a few evangelical churches hold services in Papiamentu and English. The Protestant Church of Curaçao, with several locations in the city, holds services in Dutch and English.


The International School was started in Curaçao in September 1968. The school is open to children of Curaçao residents. Grade levels include K-12. All subjects are taught in English, the curriculum is American and the school is accredited in the U.S. There are extensive extracurricular activities available for all ages, even some for adults. School enrollment for the last few years has averaged over 200 students. Parents are responsible for transportation. Tuition varies depending on grade and ranges from approximately $4,500 to $8,000 per year.

The local government supports a complete system of elementary and high schools equivalent to 12 grades or more in the U.S. Local schools are parochial (Catholic or Protestant) or public, with classes conducted in Dutch and Papiamentu. All schools have the same basic curriculum. Academic standards are good. The school year runs from August 15 to July 15, with 60 holidays during the year, including a one-month summer vacation. American children attending a local school above first grade will have difficulty adjusting to schooling in a foreign language. Intensive language training of several months is often necessary. Children are usually put back one or two grades and then promoted grade-by-grade to their regular level as they learn Dutch. Reasonable tuition fees are charged.

Special Educational Opportunities

Papiamentu lessons are available locally but are expensive. Individual language training in Dutch, Spanish and Papiamentu is available through tutors at reasonable rates. Textbooks are available at the local bookstores.

The Curaçao Music School offers classes and individualized instruction in piano, rhythm instruments, orchestral instruments, guitar, accordion and choral group singing. Individual tutoring in both music and art is also available through independent tutors.


Water sports of all kinds are popular. Curaçao has numerous small beaches, some public and others that can be used for a small fee. Swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, water skiing, sailing and wind-surfing are possible year round. Curaçao has an extensive number of dive sites, as well as an underwater park, for scuba divers; equipment rental and instruction are available from several Dive Shops. Other sports are available through clubs.

Membership in local clubs, or private membership at local resorts, provides for the use of swimming pools, bar and restaurants, as well as tennis, basketball, Ping Pong, soccer, yachting, sailing, water sports and horseback riding.

The Curaçao Golf and Squash Club has the island's only golf course. It has nine holes with oiled sand greens. The club sponsors weekend tournaments and has a small clubhouse where refreshments are served. A squash court is located near clubhouse.

The Curaçao Yacht Club and other private marinas offer facilities for sail and powerboats.

For those interested in flying, a small flying club offers small plane rentals and flight instruction but the rates are high.

Baseball and soccer games are played enthusiastically with local and inter-island competition. A large sports stadium with facilities for various spectator sports is located at Brievengat.

Both U.S. and European sports clothing and equipment can be purchased locally but usually at prices higher than those in the U.S.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

The Curaçao Museum has a permanent exhibition of antiques, paintings and artifacts.

Periodic art exhibits are held there and at the Centro Pro Arte and Centro Cultural de Curaçao. A museum of Jewish history is associated with the synagogue. A commercial Seaquarium displays local marine life and there is a small botanical garden and zoo located in one of Willemstad's suburbs.

A national park surrounds Mt. Christoffel, which provides a panoramic view of the west end of the island to climbers. On a high ridge near the airport are the Hato Caverns, the grottos of Curaçao. Near the west end of the island is Boca Tabla, an unusual sea cave.


In addition to a local cinema that shows current U.S. and European movies, several video rental stores offer recent video releases. The Centro Pro Arte has facilities for ballet, symphony orchestras, operas and plays but offerings are limited and infrequent. Most of the theatrical events are in Dutch or Papiamentu. Several tourist hotels in Curaçao offer entertainment with orchestras, dancing and floorshows. Many have casinos and one has a discotheque. Several private discotheques are open as well.

The period between Christmas and Carnival is full of special events. A fireworks display and late night partying celebrate the New Year. Carnival time in February brings out street processions with flamboyant costumes, floats, and street dancing. Several bridge clubs are available for the enthusiast.

Social Activities

Private entertaining and official contacts provide the main source of contact with the American community. An American Women's Club holds regular meetings and sponsors social activities several times a year. A local chapter of the U.S. Navy League sponsors receptions for U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships during port calls.

Daily opportunities exist to meet host country nationals through work and socially. Local branches of Rotary, Kiwanis and Lions Clubs provide social contact with the Anti-llean and international communities.


Saba's main town, THE BOTTOM , is home to about half of the island's total population of 1,000. Saba is just five square miles in area, and is an extinct volcano that rises 3,000 feet above sea level. Vegetation here is lush and there are many gardens and fruit trees. The island's four villages are connected by a single crossroad.

KRALENDIJK , the capital and chief town of Bonaire, lies on the west coast of the island, and has a population of close to 3,000. It is directly opposite the tiny island called Klein (small) Bonaire, noted for its choice snorkeling and scuba diving. Bonaire proper is casual and unspoiled, and is known as one of the best diving areas in the world. There are more than 50 choice diving spots; the average water temperature is 80°F. The beaches are secluded and several of them have sea-carved grottoes. Bonaire has six hotels and resorts, including two casinos. The island is nicknamed Flamingo Island and is home for a flamingo sanctuary, a breeding ground for 10,000 birds of that species. Washington National Park, on the northwestern shore, is a game preserve. Other interesting sites are the salt pans (solar salt works) and slave huts in the south; Rincon, the island's oldest village; and Willem-storen, Bonaire's 150-year-old lighthouse.

ORANJESTAD is the capital of Aruba and has about one-third of that island's 68,000 inhabitants. It is situated on the western side of the island. Aruba has an unusually flat landscape and interesting rock formations. Vegetation includes a wide variety of cacti and divi-divi trees, which are shaped by the cooling trade winds. Its beautiful beaches, most notably seven-mile-long Palm Beach, are where most of the hotels are located. Aruba has more than 1,500 hotel rooms, 15 nightclubs, 60 restaurants, five casinos, and 51 low-duty stores on its main street. The Aruba Historical Museum opened in 1984 and displays Arawak Indian implements as well as furniture made by the island's early settlers. A betting facility located in the Aruba Holiday Inn and Casino, allows tourists to bet on football and other sports events. Aruba also has an annual carnival, which runs from mid-January through mid-March.

The principal town of St. Eustatius is ORANJESTAD (the same name as Aruba's capital), with a population of about 1,600. The island is undeveloped and has several small plantations.

PHILIPSBURG , with a population of about 11,000, is the capital of the Dutch portion of St. Maarten. As with all of the Netherlands Antilles, tourists can enjoy the beaches and water sports, as well as shopping along Front Street in Philipsburg.

SINT NICOLAAS is the former capital of Aruba, located 12 miles southeast of Oranjestad. A refinery closed here recently, seriously depressing the economy. The area has not developed a reputation as a tourist stop, but the adjacent beaches are considered attractive. No resort hotels are in the vicinity. The Aruba Golf Club, however, has accommodations just north of Sint Nicolaas. The community is also known by its Spanish designation, San Nicolás.


Geography and Climate

Curaçao is the largest of the "ABC" islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao) which lie just off the coast of Venezuela. Curaçao is 38 miles long, 7 miles wide at its widest point, and 2-1/2 miles wide at its narrowest point. Sint Christoffel-berg, at 1,260 feet on the western end of the island and Tafelberg, at about 600 feet near the eastern end are the most prominent geographical features. Tafelberg has provided limestone for the construction industry for several years and now resembles a stepped mesa. Numerous small and large bays indent the island's southern coast. The largest of these, which comprises the inner harbor known as the Schottegat, is surrounded by the city of Willemstad.

Curaçao and the other ABC islands are hot year round. Temperatures seldom exceed 90°F during the day or fall below 80°F at night. Relative humidity averages 70% annually and seldom varies far from that average. The effect of the heat and the humidity, however, is lessened by the almost constant northeast trade winds. The ocean temperature averages 80°F and only varies a few degrees between summer and winter. Rainfall averages only 22 inches annually, most of which falls during the months of November and December, and the islands are below the hurricane belt so that particular danger is absent. Drought resistant plants, such as cactus, thorn tree; and succulents predominate. August, September and October are the warmest months; December, January and February are the coolest.

Mildew can occur when dehumidifying air-conditioning is not used, especially during the "rainy" season (October to January). Outdoors, items rust and fade quickly in the salt air and harsh sun. Lizards roaches, flies, ants, rodents and mosquitoes are common.

In addition to the ABC Islands, the consular district includes the Wind-ward Islands of Saba, St. Eustatius (or Statia and Sint Maarten. They are located south east of Puerto Rico and about five hundred miles northeast from Curaçao. Also of volcanic origin, they differ from the ABC Islands primarily in that they have more annual rainfall and lusher vegetation. The most populous and economically developed of the Wind-ward group, Sint Maarten, shares its island with the French Department of Saint Martin.


The population of the Netherlands Antilles is approximately 185,000. Curaçao has about 150,000; Sint Maarten, 23,000; Bonaire, 10,000; St. Eustatius, 1,500; Saba, 1,000. Aruba's population is around 90,000. About 85% of Curaçao's population is of African derivation. The remaining 15% is made up of various races and nationalities, including Dutch, Portuguese, North Americans, natives from other Caribbean islands, Latin Americans, Sephardic Jews, Lebanese and Asians.

Four languages are in common use. Papiamentu is the native vernacular in Curaçao, Bonaire and Aruba. Dutch is the official language, though both English and Spanish are widely used on the ABC Islands. English is the predominant language in the Windward Islands.

Roman Catholicism predominates but several other churches are represented, these include Anglican, Jewish, Muslim, Protestant, Mormon and Baptist. The Jewish community is the oldest in the Western Hemisphere, dating from 1634.

Public Institutions

Willemstad, Curaçao, is the capital of the Netherlands Antilles, which is a separate entity in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Antilles are governed by a popularly elected unicameral "Staten" (parliament) of 22 members. It chooses the Prime Minister (called Minister President) and a Council of Ministers, consisting of six to eight other ministers. The Governor, who serves a 6-year term, represents the Queen of the Netherlands. Defense and foreign affairs are the responsibility of the Netherlands but, otherwise, the islands are largely self-governing.

Local government is in the hands of each island. Under the direction of a Kingdom-appointed Island Governor, these local governments have a "Bestuurscollege" (administrative body) made up of Commissioners who head the separate government departments.

Aruba separated from the Netherlands Antilles on January 1, 1986, and now enjoys equal status (status aparte) with the Antilles within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Its government structure is similar to that of the Netherlands Antilles.

Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao and Sint Maarten have quasi-governmental chambers of commerce, which are, among other things, the official registries of business firms on those islands. They also have trade and industry functions, which are comparable to an American Chamber of Commerce.

Arts, Science, and Education

The educational system is based on the Dutch model, with upper grades split into academic and vocational tracks. The University of the Netherlands Antilles, with law, business and technical faculties, is located on Curaçao. Many students also pursue higher education in the Netherlands or the United States.

Commerce and Industry

Oil refining, tourism, and offshore financial activities are the mainstays of the Curaçao economy. The Netherlands and the European Economic Community provide financial and development aid annually. Local agriculture and manufacturing is very limited. Most consumer goods are imported, often from the U.S. but also from the Netherlands and other European countries.



Curaçao has well over 50,000 vehicles. Driving is on the right. Gasoline prices are currently approximately US$3.80 per gallon. Routine service station maintenance is adequate and reasonable but spare parts and body repair work are expensive. The high humidity, salt air and intense sunlight cause automobile tires and bodies to deteriorate rapidly. Under-coating is recommended and may be done locally at reasonable prices. Overall, roads are fair to good but some parts of Curaçao can only be reached by rough dirt tracks.

Curaçao has no restrictions on automobiles other than normal traffic regulations and compulsory automobile insurance. Third-party liability insurance as well as property damage, collision, and fire and theft insurance can be obtained locally from several Dutch firms. If you present a statement from a previous insurance company stating that you have made no claims in the last five years, a discount of up to 50% is offered; or for each consecutive accident-free year a 10% discount will apply. Full coverage collision insurance is recommended for more expensive vehicles. Several car rental agencies operate on the island at tourist prices.


Three types of public transportation are available: buses, privately owned vans operating as buses and taxicabs. Buses are crowded and run irregularly. The private vehicles operating as buses pick up passengers at specific locations for a flat fee. Taxi fares are fixed (no meters) but are geared to tourists and are relatively expensive.


American and United (through an ALM code-share) Airlines offer daily service between Curaçao and the U.S. Aruba and Sint Maarten also have daily U.S. connections via U.S. carriers. The Netherlands, Venezuela, Colombia, Trinidad and the Dominican Republic have direct connections with Curaçao. Regional airlines provide service between the islands within the consular district. Several local travel agencies are equipped to arrange personal travel anywhere in the world.


Telephone and Telegraph

Local telephone service is usually reliable although not always of the best quality and outages are not unexpected. The monthly charge is $10 plus 10 cents for each four minutes of use for local calls. Long distance calls may be dialed direct to anywhere in the world at any hour but are very expensive.


Several local companies provide internet access on Curaçao; however, service is very expensive compared to the U.S. Access currently ranges from $60 per month for unlimited access to three times that. The less expensive service provider has oversubscribed and it is very hard to connect during peak hours. In addition to the Internet access fees, you still have to pay the local per-minute phone charges that can effectively double your costs if you are a heavy user.


UPS-International, Federal Express and DHL also serve Curaçao.

Radio and TV

Curaçao has one TV station (Tele-Curaçao), which broadcasts in color. Most shows are in Papiamentu. Venezuelan TV can also be received on Curaçao. Cable TV is available, and presently CNN, ESPN, BBC World, HBO Ole, Cinemax, A&E, TBS, ABC, CBS, NBC and others are featured. Major American and European sporting events are generally carried via cable. Television sets are available locally at prices higher than in the U.S. Local television broadcasts on NTSC format and an U.S. television set works with no conversion necessary.

Local radio stations provide a wide range of music choices. Most radio stations broadcast news in Papiamentu and Dutch; however, periodic English news broadcasts are transmitted by some of the stations.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

U.S. newspapers from New York and Miami are available the day after publication. Daily newspapers are printed in Curaçao in Dutch and in Papiamentu. Magazines in English, Dutch and Spanish are available at newsstands but are more expensive than in the U.S. It is less expensive to subscribe to magazines than to pay local newsstand prices, even for airmail editions. Magazines can be pouched but take from three weeks to one month to arrive. Many popular books are available in English at local bookstores but, once again, are more expensive than in the U.S.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities

There are two private hospitals and one public hospital available on-island which provide adequate services for most any medical problem. The doctors are trained in Europe and in the U.S. and overall their quality is good to excellent. Many dentists practice in Curaçao; some have been trained in the U.S. and many in Europe. Specialists, both medical and dental, are either available locally or visit the island periodically from the U.S. or Europe.

Community Health

Community health standards are good. Tap water is distilled from seawater and is of good quality, although turbidity (suspended particles) is frequently high. Fresh foods are safe to eat.

Preventive Measures

Normal health precautions are in order, but some potential dangers warrant special mention. Precautions should be taken against the strong sun and heat, which can cause dehydration. Swimmers should be cautious of sea urchins and other stinging creatures on the sea floor. Some common trees at Curaçao beaches have a poisonous sap (irritating) which rain can wash onto the unwary. Dengue fever has been reported in Curaçao.

Most medicines are available, but local pharmacy prices tend to be higher than in the U.S. Some over-the-counter medicines available in the U.S. are not available in Curaçao or are available by prescription only. You may wish to bring a supply for special needs.


Passage, Customs & Duties

Travel to Curaçao is by air.

A valid U.S. passport or a U.S. birth certificate accompanied by a valid photo identification must be presented. While a U.S. passport is not mandatory, it is recommended since it is more readily recognized as positive proof of citizenship. Tourists may be asked to show onward/return tickets or proof of sufficient funds for their stay. Visitors may enter for two weeks, extendable for 90 days by the Head Office of Immigration. For further information, travelers may contact The Royal Netherlands Embassy, 4200 Linnean Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 244-5300, Internet:, or the Dutch consulates in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and Houston.

The Netherlands Antilles, like most Caribbean territories, are subject to the threat of hurricanes. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at

U.S. citizens living in or visiting the Netherlands Antilles are encouraged to register with the U.S. Consulate General in Curaçao located at J.B. Gorsiraweg #1, Willemstad, Curaçao, telephone (599-9)461-3066; fax (599-9)461-6489; e-mail address: ç">cgCuraç


Pets are admitted duty free and are not placed in quarantine. Dogs and cats must have rabies inoculations and certificates of good health issued within ten days of their arrival. Pet foods, medications and veterinary services are available locally. Fleas, ticks, heartworms and other infestations are a constant problem on the island.

Firearms and Ammunition

The Netherlands Antilles Government maintains strict control over the number of firearms and amount of ammunition on the islands and requires that a permit be issued prior to importation. As a further means of control, local authorities limit the number of authorized dealers in firearms. Sales to individuals can be made only to those licensed to own weapons, and the dealers must register all sales with the government.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures

The medium of exchange in the Netherlands Antilles is the Netherlands Antilles florin, also called the "guilder." The exchange rate is currently fixed at US$1 =NAF 1.78. Local banks cash U.S. Treasury checks and exchange U.S. currency; however, a service fee is frequently charged. You do not need to buy Netherlands Antilles florins before arrival in Curaçao; US dollars are widely used and accepted. Have a supply of small bills with you for tips and taxi fares.

Local banking facilities are comparable to those in the U.S. and arrangements can be made to cash U.S. checks. U.S. ATM/Debit Cards can be used in some local automatic tellers and will allow you to withdraw either US$ or NAF. Many local stores accept VISA and/or Master-Card.

No limit is placed on the amount of money (dollars or other currency) brought into the Netherlands Antilles. Nor are limits placed on amounts taken out. Reporting procedures are in effect for large or unusual monetary transactions. Local bank accounts may be useful but are not necessary.

The metric system is the official standard for weights and measures.


Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Feb/Mar Carnival Monday*

Mar/Apr. Good Friday*

Mar/Apr. Easter*

Mar/Apr. Easter Monday*

Apr. 30 Queen's Birthday

May 1Labor Day

May/JuneAscension Day*


May/June Whitmonday*

July 2 Curacao Flag Day

Dec. 25 Christmas

Dec. 26 Boxing Day



The following titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country:

Tourist and travel information is available from the Curaçao Tourist Offices at the following addresses:

The Curaçao Tourist Board 330 Biscayne Boulevard Miami, FL 33132. Tel: (305) 374-5811 Fax: (305) 374-6741 Toll Free: (800) 445-826.

The Curaçao Tourist Board 475 Park Avenue Suite 2000, New York, NY 10016 Tel: (212) 683-7660 Fax: (212) 683-9337 Toll Free: (800) 270-3350 E-mail:

Several Internet sites can provide additional current information. Use the search words "Curaçao," "Netherlands Antilles," and "Willemstad."

The following bibliography contains a sample of available English language material.

Coomans, Henry E. Building Up The Future From The Past. DeWalburg Press: Netherlands, 1990.

De Groot, G. The Netherlands Antilles. Bosch & Keuning: Netherlands, 1978.

De Roo, Jos. Curaçao, Scenes and Behind the Scenes. Van Dorp-Eddine: Curaçao, 1979.

Dyde, Brian. Islands to the Wind-ward. Macmillan: London, 1987.

Emmanuel, Isaac S. and Suzanne A. History of the Jews of the Netherlands Antilles, Vol. I and II.

Glasscock, Jean. The Making of an Island: Sint Maarten, St Martin, 1985. Goilo, E. R. Papiamentu Textbook. De Wit: Aruba, 1972.

Hannau, Hans. Aruba Pictorial. DeWit: Aruba, 1981.

The Netherlands Antilles. De Wit, Aruba, 1975.

Curaçao in Full Color. De Wit, Aruba.

Hannau, Hans and Bernard Mock. Beneath the Seas of the West Indies. Hastings House: New York, 1979.

Hartog, Dr. Johan. Aruba: Short History. Van Dorp: Aruba, 1980.

Curaçao, A Short History. De Wit:Aruba, 1979.

History of St. Eustatius. De Wit:Aruba, 1976.

St. Maarten, Saba, St. Eustatius.

De Wit: Aruba, 1978.

A Short History of Bonaire. DeWit: Aruba, 1978.

U.S. Consul in 19th Century Curaçao. Van Dorp & Co., N.V: Aruba and Curaçao, 1971.

Heinen, G. The Image of Curaçao. Witgeverij ICS: Netherlands, 1997.

Howes, Barbara, ed. From the Green Antilles: Writings of the Caribbean. Granada: London, 1971.

Johnson, Will. Saban Lore: Tales from My Grandmother's Pipe. Saba, 1983.

Karner, Frances, P. The Sephardics of Curaçao. Van Gorcum: Netherlands, 1969.

Maslin, Simeon J. Synagogue Guidebook. Mikve Israel-Emanuel: Curaçao, 1975.

Reimar, Dietmar. Caribbean Underwater World, Curaçao & Klein Curaçao. Nautiphot: Germany, 1991.

Romer, Dr. Rene. Curaçao. UNICA, 1981.

Sekou, Lasana M. National Symbols of St. Martin. House of Nehesi: St Martin, 1996.

Smit, Sypkens. Beyond The Tourist Trap, A Study of St Martin Culture. Koninklijke Bibliotheek: Netherlands, 1995.

Tuchman, Barbara W. The First Salute. Alfred A. Knopf. New York 1988.

Van Dalen, Henk H. The Netherlands Antilles. Bosch & Keuning: Netherlands 1994

van den Bor, W. Island Adrift: The Social Organization of a Small Caribbean Community: The Case of St. Eustatius. Smits Publishers: Netherlands, 1981.

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Netherlands Antilles

Netherlands Antilles

Basic Data
Official Country Name: Netherlands Antilles
Region: Puerto Rico & Lesser Antilles
Population: 210,134
Language(s): Dutch, Papiamento, English, Spanish
Literacy Rate: 98%

The Netherlands Antilles consists of two groups of islands in the Caribbean Sea. The first group of islands is Curacao and Bonaire, and the second group of islands are St. Maarten, St. Eustatius, and Saba. The island of St. Maarten is shared with France. The land area is approximately 960 sq. km. with a coastline of more than 364 km. (World Factbook 2000). The 210,000 people of the islands are approximately 85 percent Creoles of mixed African, Dutch, and Spanish descent.

The major industry of Netherlands Antilles is tourism, followed by petroleum transshipment and offshore banking.The Netherlands Antilles is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, but in 1954 they were granted autonomy in their internal self-government. The islands are a parliamentary democracy consisting of the executive branch that includes a queen, a prime minister, and a cabinet. The legislative branch consists of 22 seats with members elected by popular vote for four-year terms. The Joint High Court of Justice comprises the judicial branch of their government (World Factbook 2000).

The basic structure of the school system consists of primary school for ages 4 to 12, secondary for ages 12 to 16, or pre-university studies for ages 12 to 18 (IAU 1995-1996). The secondary track is further broken down into either a general secondary stream or a technical and vocational stream. About 38 percent of the population have graduated from the secondary level, and another 32 percent have finished their primary schooling; this has produced a population with a literacy rate of about 94 percent.

There is only one university in the Netherlands Antilles. The Universiteit van de Nederlandse Antilles provides higher education degrees in the study of law, social sciences and economics, and engineering including architecture, civil, mechanical and electrical.

Primary school teachers are trained at a teacher training college in Curacao. The training consists of two years of theoretical and practical work and one year of practice in the educational system.

Currently there are educational reforms underway in the Netherlands Antilles that were started in 2000. The main features of the reforms are:

  1. grouping the students into three main age groups: 4-8, 8-12, and 12-15
  2. integration of kindergarten and primary education
  3. incorporating in the first two years of secondary education foundation-based education
  4. development of a system of education that is more in tune with the technological developments and educational theories from the Netherlands and around the world

(International Bureau of Education).


The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The World Fact-book 2000. Directorate of Intelligence, 1 January 2000. Available from

International Association of Universities (IAU). "Education System-Netherlands Antilles," 1996. Available from

International Bureau of Education. "Analysis of questionnaire, Caribbean Survey," 2001. Available from

Netherlands Antilles-Altapedia Online, 2000. Available from anti.htm.

Deanna Edens

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Netherlands Antilles

Netherlands Antilles

Basic Data

Official Country Name: Netherlands Antilles
Region (Map name): Caribbean
Population: 210,134
Language(s): Dutch, Papiamento,English, Spanish
Literacy rate: 98%

The Netherlands Antilles consists of five islands in two separate Caribbean island chains. Bonaire and Curaçao are part of the Windward Islands, which are north of Venezuela, while Saba, Sint Eustatius, and Sint Maarten belong to the Leeward Islands to the east of the Virgin Islands. The country belongs to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, but received full autonomy in internal affairs in 1954. The Dutch Monarch serves as the head of state through a local Governor General, and a Prime Minister manages the government, heading a unicameral, 22-seat Staten. Dutch is the official language of the islands, but most speak Spanish, English or Papiamento, a dialect that combines Spanish, Portuguese, English and Dutch. The collective population is approximately 213,000, and the literacy rate is 98 percent. The economy of all five islands depends largely on tourism, petroleum refining, and offshore finance.

The country enjoys freedom of the press and speech as guaranteed under Dutch law. There are numerous daily newspapers published throughout the Netherland Antilles. Eight of them originate from Willemstad, the capital of Curaçao. Amigoe and Algameen Dagblad print in Dutch; Amigoe is available online. Extra, La Prensa, Nobo, Bala, Vigilante, and Ultima Noticia publish in the Papiamento language. Also printed on Curaçao is the Dutch-language newspaper De Curaçaosche Courant, which appears weekly. On Bonaire, the weekly English-language Bonnaire Reporter is an independent publication focusing on news as it relates to the island's residents and visitors. It is distributed free on the island and publishes online. On the Leeward islands, Sint-Maarten, Sint-Eustatius, and Saba, there are two English language newspapers, the St. Maarten Guardian and The Daily Herald, both printed on Sint-Maarten. The Daily Herald is available online.

There are 13 radio stations, nine AM and four FM, and 217,000 radios, There are three television stations broadcasting to 69,000 televisions. There are six Internet service providers.


Amigoe, (2002). Home Page. Available from .

Benn's Media, 1999, Vol. 3, 147th Edition, p. 272.

Bonaire Reporter. (n.d.). Home Page. Available from

The Daily Herald, (2002.) Home Page. Available from

"Dutch Language Newspaper: Netherlands Antilles," KrantNet. (2002). Available from

"Netherlands Antilles," CIA World Fact Book (2001). Available from

"Netherlands Antilles: Papiamento/English." Available from

Jenny B. Davis

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Netherlands Antilles

Netherlands Antilles, former autonomous country in the Kingdom of the Netherlands consisting of several islands in the West Indies. Earlier known as the Dutch West Indies and Netherlands West Indies, the island country consisted of Bonaire and Curaçao, both lying off Venezuela, and Saba, St. Eustatius, and the southern half of Saint Martin, all in the Leeward Islands, east of Puerto Rico. The island of Aruba, also off Venezuela, was part of the Netherlands Antilles until 1986. Willemstad, on Curaçao, was the capital.

When the Spanish arrived in the 16th cent., the region was inhabited by Arawaks and Caribs. The islands were captured by the Dutch in the 17th cent. and were worked by the many African slaves who were brought to their shores. Slavery was abolished in 1863 and the economy faltered until the oil industry began to flourish in the 20th cent. The Netherlands Antilles became autonomous in 1954. In 2004 a government commission recommended splitting up the Netherlands Antilles, giving St. Martin and Curaçao autonomy and establishing direct Dutch rule over the other islands. In a series of referendums islanders largely seconded this proposal, which took effect in 2010.

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Netherlands Antilles

Netherlands Antilles

Culture Name

Netherlands Antillean; Antiyas Hulandes (Papiamentu)


Identification. The Netherlands Antilles consists of the islands Curaçao ("Korsow") and Bonaire; the "SSS" islands, Sint Eustatius ("Statia"), Saba, and the Dutch part of Saint Martin (Sint Maarten); and the uninhabited Little Curaçao and Little Bonaire. The Netherlands Antilles is an autonomous part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. From a geographic, historical, linguistic, and cultural point of view, Aruba, which seceded in 1986, is part of this group.

Location and Geography. Curaçao and Bonaire, together with Aruba, form the Dutch Leeward, or ABC, islands. Curaçao lies just off the Venezuelan coast at the southwestern end of the Caribbean archipelago. Curaçao and Bonaire are arid. Sint Maarten, Saba, and Sint Eustatius form the Dutch Windward islands, 500 miles (800 kilometers) north of Curaçao. Curaçao encompasses 171 square miles (444 square kilometers); Bonaire, 111 square miles (288 square kilometers); Sint Maarten, 17 square miles (43 square kilometers); Sint Eustatius, 8 square miles (21 square kilometers), and Saban, 5 square miles (13 square kilometers).

Demography. Curaçao, the largest and most populated of the islands, had a population of 153,664 in 1997. Bonaire had 14,539 inhabitants. For Sint Maarten, Sint Eustatius, and Saba the population figures were 38,876, 2,237, and 1,531 respectively. As a result of industrialization, tourism, and migration, Curaçao, Bonaire, and Sint Maarten are multicultural societies. On Sint Maarten, migrants outnumber the indigenous island population. Economic recession has caused a growing migration to the Netherlands; the number of Antilleans living there is close to 100,000.

Linguistic Affiliation. Papiamentu is the local language of Curaçao and Bonaire. Caribbean English is the language of the SSS islands. The official language is Dutch, which is spoken little in daily life.

The origins of Papiamentu are much debated, with two views prevalent. According to the monogenetic theory, Papiamentu, like other Caribbean Creole languages, originated from a single Afro-Portuguese proto-creole, that developed as a lingua franca in western Africa in the days of the slave trade. The polygenetic theory maintains that Papiamentu developed in Curaçao on a Spanish base.

Symbolism. On 15 December 1954, the islands obtained autonomy within the Dutch kingdom, and this is the day the Antilles commemorates the unity of the Dutch Kingdom. The Dutch royal family was an important point of reference to the Antillean nation before and directly after World War II.

The Antillean flag and anthem express the unity of the island group; the islands have their own flags, anthems, and coats of arms. Insular festive days are more popular than national festivities.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. Before 1492, Curaçao, Bonaire, and Aruba were part of the Caquetio chiefdom of coastal Venezuela. Caquetios were a ceramic group engaged in fishing, agriculture, hunting, gathering, and trade with the mainland. Their language belonged to the Arowak family.

Christopher Columbus probably discovered Sint Maarten in 1493 on his second voyage, and Curaçao and Bonaire were discovered in 1499. Because of the absence of precious metals, the Spanish declared the islands Islas Inutiles ("useless islands"). In 1515, the inhabitants were deported to Hispaniola to work in mines. After an unsuccessful attempt to colonize Curaçao and Aruba, those islands were used to breed goats, horses, and cattle.

In 1630, the Dutch seized Sint Maarten to make use of its large salt deposits. After the Spanish reconquered the island, the Dutch West India Company (WIC) took possession of Curaçao in 1634. Bonaire and Aruba were taken over by the Dutch in 1636. The WIC colonized and governed the Leeward Islands until 1791. The English occupied Curaçao between 1801 and 1803 and 1807 and 1816. After 1648, Curaçao and Sint Eustatius became centers for smuggling, privateering, and the slave trade. Curaçao and Bonaire never developed plantations because of the arid climate. Dutch merchants and Sephardic Jewish merchants on Curaçao sold trade goods and slaves from Africa to the plantation colonies and the Spanish mainland. On Bonaire, the salt was exploited and cattle were bred for trade and food on Curaçao. Colonization on Bonaire did not take place until 1870.

Dutch administrators and merchants formed the white elite. Sephardim were the commercial elite. Poor whites and free blacks formed the nucleus of the small Creole middle class. Slaves were the lowest class. Because of the absence of commercial, labor-intensive plantation agriculture, slavery was less cruel when compared to plantation colonies like Surinam or Jamaica. The Roman Catholic Church played an important role in the repression of African culture, the legitimization of slavery, and preparations for emancipation. Slave rebellions occurred in 1750 and 1795 on Curaçao. Slavery was abolished in 1863. An independent peasantry did not arise because blacks remained economically dependent on their former owners.

The Dutch took possession of the Windward Islands in the 1630s, but colonists from other European countries also settled there. Sint Eustatius was a trade center until 1781, when it was punished for trading with the North American independents. Its economy never recovered. On Saba, colonists and their slaves worked small plots of land. On Sint Maarten, the salt pans were exploited and a few small plantations were established. The abolition of slavery on the French part of Sint Maarten in 1848 resulted in the abolition of slavery on the Dutch side and a slave rebellion on Sint Eustatius. On Saba and Statia, slaves were emancipated in 1863.

The establishment of oil refineries on Curaçao and Aruba marked the beginning of industrialization. The lack of local labor resulted in the migration of thousands of workers. Industrial laborers from the Caribbean, Latin America, Madeira, and Asia came to the islands, along with civil servants and teachers from the Netherlands and Surinam. Lebanese, Ashkenazim, Portuguese, and Chinese became important in local trade.

Industrialization ended colonial race relations. The Protestant and Sephardim elites on Curaçao maintained their positions in commerce, civil service, and politics, but the black masses were no longer dependent on them for employment or land. The introduction of general suffrage in 1949 resulted in the formation of nonreligious political parties, and the Catholic Church lost much of its influence. Despite tensions between Afro-Curaçaoans and Afro-Caribbean migrants, the process of integration proceeded.

In 1969, a trade union conflict at the Curaçao refinery angered thousands of black laborers. On 30 May a protest march to the government seat ended in the burning of parts of Willemstad. After a request for intervention by the Antillean government, Dutch marines helped to restore law and order. Newly founded Afro-Curaçaoan parties changed the political order, which still was dominated by white Creoles. Within the state bureaucracy and the educational system, Antilleans replaced Dutch expatriates. Afro-Antillean cultural traditions were revalued, racial ideology was changed, and Papiamentu became recognized as the national language on Curaçao and Bonaire.

After 1985, the oil industry has declined and in the 1990s, the economy was in recession. The government is now the largest employer, and civil servants take up 95 percent of the national budget. In 2000, a series of agreements with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concerning the restructuring of the government expenses and a new economic policy have paved the way for renewed Dutch financial aid and economic recovery.

National Identity. In 1845, the Windward and Leeward Islands (including Aruba) became a separate colony. The governor, appointed by the Dutch, was the central authority. Between 1948 and 1955, the islands became autonomous within the Dutch kingdom. Requests from Aruba to become a separate partner were refused. General suffrage was introduced in 1949.

On Sint Maarten, political leaders preferred separation from the Antilles. On Curaçao, the major political parties also opted for that status. In 1990, the Netherlands suggested a breakup of the colony into autonomous Windward and Leeward (Curaçao and Bonaire) countries. However, in a referendum in 1993 and 1994, a majority voted for the continuation of the existing ties. Support for an autonomous status was largest on Sint Maarten and Curaçao. Insularism and economic competition constantly threaten national unity. Despite economic setbacks, in 2000 the Island Council of Sint Maarten expressed the desire to separate from the Antilles within four years.

Ethnic Relations. The Afro-Antillean past is a source of identity for most black Antilleans, but different linguistic, historical, social, cultural, and racial backgrounds have strengthened insularism. To many people "yui di Korsow" (Child from Curaçao) refers only to Afro-Curaçaoans. White Creoles and Jewish Curaçaoans are symbolically excluded from the core population of Curaçao.

Urbanism,Architecture, and the Use of Space

Curaçao and Sint Maarten are the most densely populated and urbanized islands. Punda, the old center of Willemstad on Curaçao, has been on the United Nations World Heritage List since 1998. Plantation houses from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries are spread over the island, next to the traditional cunucu houses in which poor whites, free blacks, and slaves used to live. Sint Maarten has residential areas on and between the many hillsides. The Bonairean cunucu house differs from the ones on Aruba and Curaçao in its ground plan. The cunucu house is built on a wooden frame and filled in with clay and grass. The roof is made of several layers of palm leaves. It consists minimally of one living room (sala ), two bedrooms (kamber ), and a kitchen, which is always situated downwind. The picturesque Saban cottage has style elements of traditional English cottages.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Traditional food customs differ between the islands, but all of them are variations of Caribbean Creole cuisine. Typical traditional foods are funchi, a maize porridge, and pan bati, a pancake made of maize flour. Funchi and pan bati combined with carni stoba (a goat stew) form the basis of the traditional meal. Bolo pretu (black cake) is prepared only for special occasions. Fast food and international cuisine have become more popular since the establishment of tourism.

Basic Economy. The economy centers on oil refining, ship repair, tourism, financial services, and the transit trade. Curaçao was a major center of offshore business but lost many clients after the United States and the Netherlands signed tax treaties in the 1980s. Efforts to stimulate tourism on Curaçao have been only partly successful. Market protection has resulted in the establishment of local industries for the production of soap and beer, but the effects have been limited to Curaçao. On Sint Maarten, tourism developed in the 1960s. Saba and Sint Eustatius depend on tourists from Sint Maarten. Bonairean tourism doubled between 1986 and 1995, and that island also has oil transshipment facilities. Underemployment climbed to 15 percent on Curaçao and 17 percent on Sint Maarten during the 1990s. Emigration by unemployed persons from the lower classes has caused social problems in the Netherlands.

Land Tenure and Property. There are three types of land tenure: regular landed property, hereditary tenure or long lease, and the renting of government land. For economic purposes, especially in the oil and tourism industries, government lands are rented in long renewable leases.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. In all the islands, racial, ethnic, and economic stratification are intertwined. On Saba, the relationship between black and white inhabitants is comfortable. On Curaçao, racial and economic stratification are more obvious. Unemployment is high among the Afro-Curaçaoan population. Trade minorities of Jewish, Arabian, and Indian descent and foreign investors have their own positions in the socioeconomic structure. Curaçao, Sint Maarten, and Bonaire have many immigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean, who hold the lowest positions in the tourism and construction sectors.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Luxury goods such as cars and houses express social status. In traditional celebrations of important life events such as birthdays and First Communion, conspicuous consumption takes place. The middle classes aspire to upper-class consumption patterns, which often puts pressure on a family's budget.

Political Life

Government. There are three levels of government: the kingdom, which consists of the Netherlands, the Netherlands Antilles, and Aruba; the Netherlands Antilles; and the territories of each of the five islands. The council of ministers consists of the complete Dutch cabinet and two ministers plenipotentiary representing the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba. It is in charge of foreign policy, defense, and the safeguarding of fundamental rights and freedoms. Since 1985, Curaçao has had fourteen seats in the national parliament, known as the Staten. Bonaire and Sint Maarten each have three, and Sint Eustatius and Saba have one each. The central government is dependent on coalitions of parties from Curaçao and the other islands.

Political autonomy in regard to internal affairs is almost complete. The governor is the representative of the Dutch monarch and the head of the government. The island parliament is called the Island Council. Representatives to each are elected for a four-year term. Political parties are island-oriented. A lack of synchronization of national and island policies, machine-style politics, and conflicts of interests between the islands are not conducive to efficient government.

Military Activity. Military camps on Curaçao and Aruba protect the islands and their territorial waters. The Coast Guard of the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba became operative in 1995 to protect the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba and their territorial waters from drug trafficking.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

There is a social welfare plan called the Social Safety Net on Curaçao, to which the Netherlands contributes financially. The results have been meager and the exodus of young unemployed Antilleans to the Netherlands has increased.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

OKSNA (Body for Cultural Cooperation Netherlands Antilles) is a nongovernmental advisory board that advises the minister of culture on the allocation of subsidies from the Dutch development aid program for cultural and scientific projects. Centro pa Desaroyo di Antiyas (CEDE Antiyas) allocates funds to social and educational projects. OKSNA and CEDE Antiyas receive funds from the Dutch development aid program. Welfare organizations focus on areas ranging from day care centers to the care of the elderly. The government supports many of these activities.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Women's participation in the labor market has increased since the 1950s, but men still hold the most important positions throughout the economy. Women work mostly in sales and as nurses, teachers, and civil servants. Unemployment is higher for women than for men. Since the 1980s, the Antilles has had two female prime ministers and several female ministers. Women from the Caribbean and Latin America work in the tourism sector and as live-in maids.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Until the 1920s, the upper strata of society, especially on Curaçao, had a highly patriarchal family system in which men had social and sexual freedom and women were subordinate to their spouses and fathers. In the Afro-Antillean population sexual relations between men and women were not enduring and marriage was the exception. Many households had a female head, who often was the chief provider for herself and her children. Men, as fathers, husbands, sons, brothers, and lovers, often made material contributions to more than one household.

Mothers and grandmothers enjoy high prestige. The central role of the mother is keeping the family together, and the strong bond between mother and child is expressed in songs, proverbs, sayings, and expression.

Marriage,Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Couples often marry at an older age because of the matrifocal family type, and the number of illegitimate children is high. Visiting relationships and extramarital relationships are prevalent, and the number of divorces is growing.

Domestic Unit. Marriage and the nuclear family have become the most common relationships in the middle economic strata. Salaried employment in the oil industry has enabled men to fulfill their roles as husbands and fathers. Women's roles changed after agriculture and domestic industry lost economic importance. Raising children and taking care of the household became their primary tasks. Monogamy and the nuclear family are still not as predominant as in the United States and Europe, however.

Inheritance. Inheritance rules vary on each island and between ethnic and socioeconomic groups.

Kin Groups. In the upper and middle classes, kinship rules are bilateral. In the matrifocal household type, kinship rules stress matrilinear descent.


Infant Care. The mother takes care of the children. Grandmothers and older children assist in the care of younger children.

Child Rearing and Education. The educational system is based on the Dutch educational reforms of the 1960s. At age four, children attend kindergarten and, after age six, primary school. After age twelve, they enroll in secondary or vocational schools. Many students go to Holland for further studies. Although Dutch is the language of only a small percentage of the population, it is the official language of instruction in most schools.

Higher Education. The Curaçao Teacher Training College and the University of the Netherlands Antilles, which has departments of law and technology, provide higher education. The university is located on Curaçao and Sint Maarten.


Formal etiquette is adapted from European etiquette. The small scale of the island societies influences everyday interaction patterns. To outside observers, communication styles lack openness and goal orientation. Respect for authority structures and gender and age roles are important. Refusing a request is considered impolite.


Religious Beliefs. Roman Catholicism is the prevalent religion on Curaçao (81 percent) and Bonaire (82 percent). Dutch Reformed Protestantism is the religion of the traditional white elite and recent Dutch migrants who are less than 3 percent of the population. Jewish colonists who came to Curaçao in the sixteenth century account for less than 1 percent. On the Windward Islands Dutch Protestantism and Catholicism have had less influence, but Catholicism has become the religion of 56 percent of Sabans and 41 percent of the inhabitants of Sint Maarten. Methodism, Anglicanism, and Adventism are widespread on Statia. Fourteen percent of Sabans are Anglican. Conservative sects and the New Age movement are becoming more popular on all the islands.

Religious Practitioners. Brua holds a position similar to that of Obeah on Trinidad. Originating from the word "witch," brua is a mixture of non-Christian spiritual practices. Practitioners use amulets, magic waters, and fortune-telling. Montamentu is an ecstatic Afro-Caribbean religion that was introduced by migrants from Santo Domingo in the 1950s. Roman Catholic and African deities are revered.

Death and Afterlife. Opinions on death and afterlife are in accordance with Christian doctrine. Afro-Caribbean religions mix Christian and African beliefs.

Medicine and Health Care

All the islands have general hospitals and/or medical centers, at least one geriatric home, and a pharmacy. Many people use medical services in the United States, Venezuela, Columbia, and the Netherlands. Specialists and surgeons from the Netherlands visit the Elisabeth Hospital on Curaçao on a regular basis.

Secular Celebrations

The traditional harvest celebration is called seú (Curaçao) or simadan (Bonaire). A crowd of people carrying harvest products parade through the streets accompanied by music on traditional instruments. The fifth, fifteenth, and fiftieth birthdays are celebrated with ceremony and gifts. The Dutch queen's birthday is celebrated on 30 April, and Emancipation Day on 1 July. The Antillean national festival day occurs on 21 October. The French and Dutch sides of Sint Maarten celebrate the feast day of Saint Martin on 12 November.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. Since 1969, the Papiamentu and Afro-Antillean cultural expressions have influenced art forms. The white Creole elite on Curaçao leans toward European cultural traditions. Slavery and the pre-industrial rural life are points of reference. Few artists, with the exception of musicians, make a living from their art.

Literature. Each island has a literary tradition. On Curaçao, authors publish in Papiamentu or Dutch. In the Windward Islands, Sint Maarten is the literary center.

Graphic Arts. The natural landscape is a source of inspiration to many graphic artists. Sculpture often expresses the African past and African physical types. Professional artists exhibit locally and abroad. Tourism provides a market for nonprofessional artists.

Performance Arts. Oratory and music are the historical foundations of the performance arts. Since 1969, this tradition has inspired many musicians and dance and theater companies. Tambú and tumba, which have African roots, are to Curaçao what calypso is to Trinidad. Slavery and the slave rebellion of 1795 are sources of inspiration.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

The Caribbean Maritime Biological Institute has done research in marine biology since 1955. Since 1980, scientific progress has been strongest in the fields of history and archeology, the study of Dutch and Papiamentu literature, linguistics, and architecture. The University of the Netherlands Antilles has incorporated the Archeological Anthropological Institute of the Netherlands Antilles. The Jacob Dekker Instituut was founded in the late 1990s. It focuses on African history and culture and the African heritage on the Antilles. Because of a lack of local funds, scientific research relies on Dutch finances and scholars. The fact that both the Dutch and Papiamentu languages have a limited public hampers contacts with scientists from the Caribbean region.


Broek, A. G. PaSaka Kara: Historia di Literatura na Papiamentu, 1998.

Brugman, F. H. The Monuments of Saba: The Island of Saba, a Caribbean Example, 1995.

Central Bureau of Statistics. Statistical Yearbook of the Netherlands Antilles, 1998.

Dalhuisen, L. et al., eds. Geschiedenis van de Antillen, 1997.

DeHaan, T. J. Antilliaanse Instituties: De Economische Ontwikkelingen van de Nederlandse Antillen en Aruba, 19691995, 1998.

Goslinga, C. C. The Dutch in the Caribbean and in Surinam, 17911942. 1990.

Havisser, J. The First Bonaireans, 1991.

Martinus, F. E. "The Kiss of a Slave: Papiamentu's West African Connection." Ph.D. dissertation. University of Amsterdam, 1996.

Oostindie, G. and P. Verton. "KiSorto di Reino/What Kind of Kingdom? Antillean and Aruban Views and Expectations on the Kingdom of the Netherlands." West Indian Guide 72 (1 and 2): 4375, 1998.

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Luc Alofs

Nevis See Saint Kitts and Nevis

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Netherlands Antilles

Netherlands Antilles Group of five main islands (and part of a sixth) in the West Indies, forming an autonomous region of the Netherlands; the capital is Willemstadt (on Curaçao). The islands were settled by the Spanish in 1527 and captured by the Dutch in 1634. They were granted internal self-government in 1954. The group includes Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, Saint Eustatius, and the s half of Saint Maarten. Industries: oil refining, petrochemicals, phosphates, tourism. Area: 993sq km (383sq mi). Pop. (2002) 255,000.

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