[Visited this Dutch Caribbean island that recently seceded from the Netherlands Antilles. Found it to be a cool spot with fascinating history and very kind people. Here’s a bit from “Freedom Found in Curacao” in the Toronto Star.]
WILLEMSTAD, CURACAO — Not many countries in the world exist where you can listen to the former leader of the land play jazz in a bar or dance next to a minister of government.
Curacao, though, is one of those places where status doesn’t seem to matter so much. People here have an easiness about them, even though the island has endured some hard history, including being the focal point of the Dutch slave trade. On a Friday night, the nightclub Asia de Cuba is jammed with people in their 30s, 40s and up who salsa through the night listening to jazzy Latin beats and favourites in Papiamento, the native language of Curacao. The dancers come in all colours and from all walks of life, including leadership, and some dress in elegant outfits perfectly suited for the sinewy movements of the sexy Spanish dance, others wear denim and short sleeves. Some were born on the island, several are immigrants from the Netherlands who’ve left the cold for the warmth of the Caribbean. They change partners from song to song, no coyness involved.
Around midnight, the Viagara set gives way to the young crowd that keeps the dance going until four in the morning or later.
The party atmosphere is more palpable these days because Curacao has a big cause to celebrate. On Oct. 10, it seceded from the Netherlands Antilles, a group of five Dutch islands that had included St. Eustacuis, Saba, Bonaire and St. Maarten. Curacao will remain part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, but it will no longer have to share its tax dollars with the other islands, a significant change because it has 140,000 people, by far the largest population among the former Antilles.