A Multi-Cultural Society
CuraÐ·ao is a true melting pot of a surprising ethnic and religious diversity. The historic architecture echoes the Dutch colonial influence, whilst the native language of Papiamentu and many musical and folkloric traditions are a direct inheritance from the African slaves brought to the islands by these same Dutch merchants centuries ago.
For much of its history, CuraÐ·ao was home to just three major groups: the black majority, which was largely Catholic; the small Dutch Protestant aristocracy; and a small Sephardic Jewish elite. With the opening of the Royal Dutch Shell oil refinery (nowadays Isla) immigrants from all over the world were attracted to CuraÐ·ao. They each brought their own customs, foods and religious practices with them and have adapted these to the local reality. The ensuing well integrated society CuraÐ·ao has today offers a welcome home to groups as diverse as Arabs, Chinese, Indian and Portuguese immigrants.
Most natives on the island can express themselves pretty well in Dutch, English, and Spanish, with Papiamentu – the island’s native tongue – the most common in use. Papiamentu is a unique, multifaceted Creole language, based on Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, and several African dialects. It’s spoken most often in the ABC (Aruba, Bonaire and CuraÐ·ao) Islands, and has been in use for 300 years.
Papiamentu has a simple grammatical structure and is not too difficult to learn, but behold – the pronunciation can be crucial in changing the meaning of a word. But do try these easy, fool-proof phrases:
Kon ta bai? – How are you?
Bon dia – Good morning/ good day
Bon nochi – Good afternoon