Bon Dia! That’s good morning in Papiamento and Bon Bini means welcome. Two common phrases heard and seen all about Willemstad.
The Queen Emma bridge is hinged and opens regularly to enable the passage of ocean going vessels. On the opposite end from the hinge is a small shelter where an operator controls two diesel engines with turning propellers.
Punda is the location of the world famous Handelskade: the waterfront collection of multi-colored buildings that has become Curacao’s most characteristic image. It is one of the most known UNESCO world heritage sites.
The floating market is where Venezuelan merchants would dock and sell their fresh fish, produce and spices. Curacao is predominantly arid and it is near-to-impossible to grow in quantities sufficient enough to support the local market and visitors. Today’s more efficient shipping methods and larger scale grocery operation (and the difficulties in Venezuela) threaten to make this once vital market obsolete.
Wilhelmina Park is in the heart of Punda. This is where you will find the brightly colored signs ‘Curacao’ and ‘Dushi’ for photo-opps.
Dushi is a Papiamento word that means ‘tasty’. You see it everywhere. It comes from the Spanish word ‘dulce’ which means ‘sweet’. Biba Dushi means ‘living a sweet life’.
Curacao is home of the ChiChi, a well rounded Caribbean figure. She represents the vibrant, dynamic and responsible older sister. The statues are handmade and painted in bright Caribbean colors by local craftsmen and painters at Serena’s Art Factory.
She represents the eldest daughter of the family who binds the family together in a loving and caring way. She is a much appreciated female role model in the Caribbean community of today and a very live part of its colorful heritage.
The Chichi statues were created by a German woman named Serena Israel. When she came to Curacao, she realized there was a lack of jobs especially for women and that the island needed a souvenir that was distinctly Curacao. Serena was a seasoned mold maker. She dreamed up the idea for the Chichi dolls based on the women of Curacao. But rather than make them herself, she aimed to give the islanders something of their own: to teach them how to make the plaster dolls they inspired through an extensive trainee program with the artist herself at the helm. As the women prove themselves over time, Serena raises their pay as a form of empowerment.
Next stop, I see a building that looks like a church. So we wandered over there. It was once a synagogue but now is a public prosecutors office. I would never have guessed that.
We wandered through the streets of Punda. More colorful buildings, coffee shops and restaurants.
Next stop is the New Market. It’s kind of like an outer concourse of a baseball stadium and you just walk in a circle. It’s like a flea market where you can buy beauty supplies, clothes and other random things. We bought a couple beach towels. There are food vendors too.
They used to celebrate St. Nicholas Day here which is typically December 6. From my American perspective, you would put your shoes outside your door and St. Nicholas would come by and fill them with treats which would be found the next morning. It’s a little different here. St. Nicholas would arrive by boat and deliver gifts to the children. We thought it would be fun to see this … until I started reading some controversial things.
A Dutch woman explained this to us. She said countless years ago, St. Nicholas came to Curacao and bought a slave. He gave the slave his freedom. The slave, an elf-like character’s name was “Zwarte Piet” which translates as “black Pete”. Black Pete was so grateful that he told St. Nicholas he would be his helper. Typically, Black Pete was portrayed by white people in black face with red lipstick. Anyways the tradition came to a halt in Curacao with Covid. During the covid break, somebody portrayed Black Pete as a black Dutch politician originally from Suriname … in poor taste. It was racist and objectionable which made the celebration unappealing. Now instead, Curacao celebrates a children’s day on December 20th.
We’re back on the Outrobunda side of the Queen Emma bridge. Lots of holiday decorations.
Next stop is Netto bar. It is the oldest bar in Curacao and home of the famous green rum, Rom Berde.