868. (Scandalous) First Letters in Papiamentu

In 1775 a young man named Abraham de David de Costa Andrade Jr. poured his heart out to a member of his synagogue, Sarah de Isaac Pardo y Vaz Farro: “My diamanty no laga di skirbirmy tudu kico my ta puntrabo – awe nuchy mi ta warda rospondy” (“My diamond, do not fail to write me everything I am asking you – tonight I await an answer.”)

Turns out Abraham shared more than his feelings with Sarah: she was expecting their first baby. A baby not fathered by her dying, most likely impotent husband (a rich merchant who was also her elderly uncle). Abraham encouraged Sarah to abort their fetus; she tried using herbal remedies provided by her yaya. “Write to me how you are and what the negress says, when you will throw it,” to which [Sarah] replied, “Davichy is very tough, he refuses to fall.”

Sarah gave birth to a healthy baby boy… and the scandal rocked Curaçao’s Sephardic community and led to litigation in secular and religious courts, both sides of the Atlantic, for 20 somewhat years – the congregation was so divided as to course of action that the States General of the Netherlands and the elders of Amsterdam’s Sephardic community had to intervene. Ultimately the elders decided to excommunicate the two cheating lovers (Sarah remarried and was whisked off to St. Thomas and Abraham — embarrassed and disgraced — moved to Jamaica)

As much as we love good gossip, the greater historical significance of this ill-fated story is the fact that these love letters are the earliest known documents written entirely in Papiamentu! In fact, the incriminating correspondence was described in court records as being written “in black speech” (negers spraake) or “in creole speech” and was the primary legal evidence of the lovers’ adultery and the basis for their excommunication… I, for one, wonder why these native Portuguese speakers decided to communicate their deepest darkest feelings in Papiamentu… then again…Papiamentu was born out of a need to confuse the (Dutch/Spanish/Portuguese) authorities…  so it’s not *that* far-fetched!

Source:  Rupert, Linda M. Creolization and Contraband. Athens, GA. 2012. [p. 212 – 214]

About 1000awesomethingsaboutcuracao

I'm Carolina Gomes-Casseres, the creator of 1000 Awesome Things About Curaçao. I live in Manhattan but sometimes miss my first awesome island. Thanks for visiting!

One comment

  1. Pingback: 799. Lovely Third Oldest Papiamentu Text (1783) « 1000 Awesome Things About Curaçao

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