By Zachary Moses
This is the second in a two-part series. To read Part 1 CLICK HERE.
After a quick morning beach visit, we were on the road heading to the capital city of Curacao: Willemstad. The drive took about 45 minutes, and our destination was the sister property of the resort we’d been staying at for the last several days. We don’t normally use the in-town hotel for our dive tours, but our guests often extend their trips for a few days in order to get some local color.
As soon as we arrived, the General Manager, Patricia, gave us tour of the property. The hotel owner, Jacob, purchased several derelict city blocks and renovated them into a single hotel. It was really amazing to tour the once rundown neighborhood and seeing how it is today. Several rooms have been left as museums to see how the people once lived within the property.
Massive courtyards have been converted into swimming pools and common areas.
At the edge of the property, there is a fantastic view of the town center. You can see the Dutch influence on the Caribbean architecture.
While we were out and about, a newlywed couple gave us a ticket for a free lionfish meal. I didn’t realize you could eat lionfish, and had assumed it was poisonous. Apparently only the spines are poisonous, so you have to be very careful when preparing them for eating. Protected coral reefs that have been off limits to fishing for decades are now declaring open season on these invasive and destructive fish. The flavor was very mild, a lot like talapia.
As evening fell, the musicians came out and the town lit up with activity for locals and visitors alike. It was a very infectious atmosphere, and we stayed up very late, eventually finding ourselves lost, then dropping into a casino. I can’t recall if I lost any money.
The following morning, we still had a little bit of time left, so we made our way to the Kura Hulanda Museum. Just outside the museum, I stopped to help this statue with her self-confidence. It was very rewarding.
The museum was full of interesting collections. I especially liked the room of skulls, and wondered at how Jacob had managed to get all these through customs.
The museum had artifacts from all over the world, but the most interesting were the ones that had to do with slavery in the Americas. The most disturbing section was about slave ships. Here is a scale model of one of the ships that could carry hundreds of slaves across the Atlantic Ocean.
And this is what the holding area looked like. It made me sick to think of the human beings that had been piled on top of each other in conditions much worse than the confined feeding areas that we cram chickens into today. Places like this remind us of the collective stain of suffering that the ancestors of some of us caused – or survived.
I highly recommend a visit to Curacao, and definitely a visit to the museum that showcases the Jewish and European heritage of the local people, as well as the history of the African diaspora.
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