Curaçao has over 30 pop-up shops selling klapchi (fireworks + firecrackers) to ring in the New Year… with a special light and a few loud bangs. “We believe klapchi fends off fuku (evil spirits / bad luck), we all grew up lighting klapchi! I really can’t imagine New Year’s Eve without them.” says Rizar Marchena (39), owner of a Klapchi pop-up shop on Cascoraweg (across the street from Radulphus College). Marchena employs a handful of teenage boys to serve customers (during their school break) and has been running his klapchi (side-)business for the past 7 years. Klapchi requires quite a bit of planning and logistics: Marchena puts in his order around January/February and imports all of his stock from China. He admits that he’s very lucky to have a local partner who’s fluent in Chinese to negotiate favorable deals.
Marchena has something for everyone who lives in Mahaai – donderbòs, sky bombs, pagaras for the sound-aficionados, beautiful light fountains and waterfalls for the aesthetics, egg-laying and clucking chickens for the toddlers, and artfully spinning pagodas for the design-minded. Parents are gatekeepers when it comes to klapchi; Marchena’s best-seller (by far) is his backpack — a bundle of super fun and relatively safe firecrackers and lights, tailor-made for children 6-12 years old.
Extended families tend to bring in the new year together. “Sure, it’s expensive… But think of it this way, if a family of 12 spends NAf. 500 ($285) on klapchi that’s just NAf. 40 ($23) pp… well-worth the awesome experience!” says Marchena. He does have one very important piece of safety advice for klapchi aficionados: if you light it and nothing happens, leave it. DON’T check on it, hoping to re-light. Let it lie at a distance for a few minutes.