Awesome Roots

When non-Curaçao friends ask why I started ‘1000 Awesome Things About Curaçao’, I tend to answer: “because I want the world to understand how awesomely we coexist as a diverse melting pot of people / cultures on such an obscure beautiful island!” Case in point: Papiamentu, our comical orgy of Portuguese, Spanish, African dialects, Dutch, English, is spoken by about 0.5 million people from the ABC islands… but we think it’s also spoken in Cape Verde! 🙂

I’m also creating this content to refresh memories and help ‘us’ celebrate our unique awesome-ness, particularly those of us who grew up in and love Curaçao, but have sought to establish ourselves elsewhere given our island’s limited resources (my case). Immigrant life outside of Curaçao isn’t always easy… We tend to spend most days feeling misunderstood… wanting to assimilate, but not lose our sense of identity… and we often hold back and find ourselves living ‘from one Curaçao trip to another’.

Though I encounter many fun ‘ah ha!’ moments letting my curiosity run wild exploring the very long list of awesome things Curaçao has to offer, the most special aspect of ‘1000 Awesome Things About Curaçao’ is connecting, and in many cases, re-connecting with Curaçao friends, who are doing interesting things all over the world. (You’ll find their names ‘tagged’ to articles published on this website as some have been invaluable sources of inspiration, perspective, creativity, laughter and love!)

Juan-Carlos Goilo who’s currently living the self-described ‘creative civil servant life’ in Amsterdam suggested we do a video project shooting all contributors at ‘home’, explaining their Curaçao roots, highlighting our awesome melting pot of culture, creating our shared, ‘open-minded’ identity. For surely our island is endowed with natural beauty but it is we – ourselves – who make Curaçao such an awesome experience!

So, without further ado, our first installment of “Our Awesome Roots” by Juan-Carlos Goilo!

Juan-Carlos and Clifford Goilo all bundled up in Amsterdam.

Juan-Carlos and Clifford Goilo all bundled up in Amsterdam.

It all started with the Arawaks? No wait, a Slavic shipmate named Goilo! Goilo is actually a small town in Sisacko-Moslavacka, Croatia. It may have also started with a Spanish Conquistador or some other ‘Latin’ European who made his/her way to the Americas. And definitely also various West African tribes! Our hearts still beat in 6/8’s. It’s safe to say that anyone who crossed the middle passage is related to us or familiar with our ancestors! Truth is we can’t pinpoint exactly when our ancestors ‘arrived’ in Curaçao: they’ve proven to be quite erratic.

We’re proud to have been ‘mingling’ through them for centuries: we’re a product of all this mingling. So it’s best to work our way backwards, instead of starting with our ‘roots’.

Clifford, Naima and I were born and raised in Curaçao, our parents were born and raised in Curaçao too. They studied in the Netherlands just like we did. Their parents are a bit harder to trace. Our dad’s father was born in Aruba to Curaçao parents. Curaçao primary school Atanasio Emilio Goilo School is named after our paternal great grandfather. Our dad’s uncle, Enrique R. Goilo, published Curaçao’s first workbook to teach immigrants Papiamentu. Our dad helped him in the 80’s with orthographic corrections and translations. Our dad’s mother was a Zuliana, born in Sta. Rita, Estado Zulia (Venezuela), and deeply passionate about her children and poetry.

Our maternal grandmother descended from a Surinamese bosland creole and an indigenous Indian (Arawak) lady from Curaçao. She’s also the mostly lively person in our family. Our mothers biological father is Portuguese (from Madeira, Portugal) and immigrated to Curaçao to work for our Shell refinery in the 1920s. But, our mother, ‘mami’, was raised by my Colombian grandfather, who also worked for Shell.

Specifics about our older ancestors are poorly documented, but we’re pretty certain they were hard workers, creative, and passionate about education!


  1. Mchele

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. Your ancestry is amazing, you and your siblings are the ultimate Curacao melting pot. Celebrate it!

  2. elsbethkooyman

    Wow, you guys are truly an excellent example of the icredibly intertwined composition of Curacao’s population! 🙂

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