Curaçao (population 150,000) is an island in the southern part of the Caribbean Sea, one of the Windward Islands of the Netherlands Antilles, a dependency of the Netherlands. Curaçao's capital is Willemstad.
The languages widely spoken on Curaçao are Papiamento, Castilian (Spanish), English and Dutch. Of these languages, Papiamento is the native language of most inhabitants. Papiamento is a creole language that has developed through centuries of contact between the diverse peoples living on Curaçao. Though it is a widely accepted language, usage of Dutch is considered prestigious.
First discovered by the Spaniards, the island was occupied by the Dutch in 1634. The original inhabitants were Arawak indians, which were decimated after the Spanish occupation. After the island became a territory of the Netherlands, slaves were brought from Africa. The Dutch abolished slavery in 1863. Because of its history, the island now has a diverse ethnic background. Willemstad features colonial architecture and one of the oldest synagogues in the western hemisphere, all of which earned Willemstad a place on UNESCO's world heritage list.
The main industries of the island are tourism and oil refining. Off-shore banking activities also contribute to the local economy. Curaçao gained limited self-government on January 1, 1954. Though most are content with the status quo, a small number of leftists from Curaçao are seriously considering total independence. Others want Curaçao to become a province of the Netherlands.
The name "Curaçao" has become associated with a particular shade of blue, and is sometimes used as an adjective, because of the deep-blue liquor named "Blue Curaçao ". The Curaçao liquor was made on the island as well. This liquor has a slight orange aroma, and is used primarily as a colouring agent in mixed drinks.