Don’t you just love it when you stumble upon eloquent writing? The type that captures the heart of the matter in just a few sentences? The type that resonates deep in your core? Well, I sincerely thank the Google Gods for introducing me to awesome Expat-Writer-in-Curaçao Guilie Castillo Oriard, by way of her blog: Quiet Laughter this week!
Guilie had me at her ‘about’ section:
“I’ve always been fascinated by cross-culture. I am, like so many of us, a mutt: Mexican-Irish-French. I speak English and Spanish like I was born to either of them, and I can stumble my way in French, Papiamentu, and Dutch. I live on a 150K-inhabitant island where the mix is the norm: all the locals speak four (yes, FOUR) languages fluently. Dutch, Antillean, Latin and several other passport-holders [belonging to 50 nationalities] cohabit in relative peaceful conflict, and Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu and several other religions smile at each other from the doors of their places of worship.
This fascinates me, and it’s the foundation subject matter of my work. I want to explore those cross-cultural exchanges, dissect the point where conflict often emerges to find out why it doesn’t when it doesn’t. I am enthralled by the differences, and always awed when, after careful and detailed consideration, those differences diffuse into a similarity that, in its uniqueness, is more than human… It borders on the divine.”
Guilie also notes “Tourists, locals, Latin, European… Impossible to tell apart” [in one of her photo captions]… So I want to thank Guilie (so, so much) for helping me empathize with the immigration official at Curaçao’s Hato airport who examined my Dutch passport [which clearly states born in Curaçao] and still asked me: “unda b’a nansé?” (= where were you born?)
So then I scrolled to Guilie’s post “C is for Curaçao”:
“The thing about Curaçao is that there’s simply too many possibilities. Not just for explaining the name. Think about it: it’s a Caribbean island that belongs to the Kingdom of The Netherlands, thus has a definite European influence.
Lots of Dutch people move here when they retire. Lots vacation here regularly, even own second homes or businesses here. On finishing high school, most Curaçao kids go to Holland for college. That shapes them in ways those of us who grew up in a single country can’t even begin to fathom.
But Curaçao is firmly rooted in Latin America, too. Just off the coast of Venezuela (on clear days you can see the mountain range of Caracas), but with European-style government and a thriving finance industry, it’s only logical that this island be a magnet for immigrants. Colombian and Venezuelan, certainly, but also from other parts in the Caribbean: Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago. From further south, too: Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil.
(No, not a lot of Mexicans. A river’s easier to cross than the Caribbean.)
And then there’s the local Antillean population, another syncretism: descended from African slaves brought here by slave traders in the 1700’s and 1800’s, mixed with the Dutch and Portuguese (Jewish) settlers, later with Latin and Asian immigrants. So rich, so much tradition to choose from.
Curaçao is the original melting pot of culture. And contrast.