Colorful wooden boats dock along the Sha and Lionel Caprileskade in Punda — stalls brimming with fresh fish and produce dot the pavement. “Paisana?” (fellow country woman) merchants ask, probably noticing my dark hair and light complexion. Swift callused hands clean and fillet fresh fish. That distinct smell of “fresh” (salt mixed with sweat) fills the air around us. Cars move slowly up the street, looking to make drive-buy purchases from merchants uber-eager to step into traffic to sell their fruits, vegetables, fish, honey, cigars, and some of our favorite snacks Toronto hazelnut chocolates and Cocosette coconut-flavored wafers. These merchants are from Venezuela, not from Curaçao. Yet their colorful wooden boats are iconic Punda. Their trade has been passed down through generations of men who hail from poor Venezuelan coastal towns about 40 miles from Curaçao. They leave their wives and kids behind for months on end to make the journey and sell their goods. They live aboard their wooden barquitos and have created their own little Venezuelan community within Punda.
These hard-working floating merchants provide a steady supply of fresh fruit and vegetables to predominantly arid Curaçao, where such produce is impossible to grow in quantities sufficient to support the local market.
Below is a preview of a phenomenal documentary by Joan Kaufman distributed by Documentary Educational Resources.