by Alex Coma
In preparing for our filmmaking trip to Curaçao, we were familiar with the Dutch history of the island, but not with the language — papiamento, or papiamentu. It is a true creole stew of influences, mainly Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and several African languages along with Arawak and a touch of French. It is frequently heard in all three “ABC” islands: Antigua, Bonaire and Curaçao.
You can take a lesson here:
The roots of Curaçao’s rich cultural and linguistic mix go back centuries. Just a few years after Christopher Columbus arrived in the Caribbean, an expedition led by a Spaniard, Alonso de Ojeda, and the Italian Amerigo Vespucci found the island. But the Spanish left within a few decades, finding no gold. The Dutch West India Company claimed the island in 1634 and not long afterward began to establish the “triangular” slave trade linking Africa, the Caribbean and America.
The languages of the island’s indigenous culture, known as the Caiquetios, eventually blended with the Dutch, Spanish and African languages. Papiamento was born.