An article by Odette Doest for the Curaçao Chronicle.
My father often “joked” to people. “Curaçao is the center of the world”. For many people on the island, it is. Unfortunately not everybody gets the chance to move around and travel abroad. In retrospect we do get exposed to the world. Trough the media like television , social media and alas in real life too. Trough the people that have chosen to visit our Little Caribbean Heaven. Tourists we call them. And trough the many immigrants flooding the island since 17th century. When in school we have the privilege to be able to share the school with a variety of cultures and religious beliefs. bar mitzvah’s , baptisms, Chinese new year, Ramadan. ‘utter disbelief as an 18 yrs old Portuguese classmate of my brother got married with another Portuguese fellow, chosen and arranged by the parents. Curiosity made me interrogate her about how and why and it wasn’t as bad as we pictured it after all. We have the luxury of the influx of other surrounding latin and Caribbean countries, and islands as long ago as when some came to Curacao because of our Refinery. We think its normal to be able to speak and understand at least 4 languages , how wonderfull is that. How people traveled from curaçao to Cuba as curaçao people traveled there to work in the field. I found it fascinating that if someone died over there, that the corpse would be send back in a barrel of rum, to conserve it….At least , that was what i was told when i was little. I always wondered if the rum was than thrown away or not…..
Small island grow and so did Curaçao. If you fly over the island you can see the development everywhere. Good and not so good ones. It is amazing what has changed in the last 40 years. I remember horseback riding and spotting deer at the Malpais plantation. I still remember the first hill were we saw a doe and her kid. I first thought it was an inkfrou, one of our local cacti. But then the four cacti leaves started to move, that was so fantastic. I was 7 at the time. Strange enough that hills is still there. But now surrounded by the scatterings of our biggest landfill. I have seen the landfill when it was constructed, seen how it has developed into the “hills” that have grown there since. Smoking on a rainy day of toxic fumes, the landfill harbors a lively community though. At least a dozen people rummage daily trough the remains, professionally. Recycling what was deemed useless by other countrymen Sometimes i wonder how come perfect schoolbooks are littering the floor. I was there on a photo shoot assignment but could not resist picking up hundreds of guilders worth of books, that i donated to school with many children unable to afford books themselves.
My center of the world,
Soon the government will decide upon another chapter in the development of our little paradise, and i am worried. Little is known about certain areas on the island, that have luckily been preserved. What is known is being shoved aside it seems by the powers to be, to achieve their materialistic goals, But at what cost? Why risk losing millions of dollars of revenue that can be generated by eco or “green ” tourism. Why does everyone not seems to understand the importance of our dive industry, tourism, our pristine beaches, the superb snorkeling. The value of our nature for the birds that travel all the way from North America to rest here. The hundreds of special endemic species that we have on our island whether its mammalian, reptile, insect or fish. It is a bliss that we have them here and that we can help them survive the harassment of human nature. We need to save and preserve as much of the valuable nature that we have, after thoughtful consideration. Economic development can go hand in hand with green development, Nature Conservancy and Ecotourism. But it needs to be given a chance and all that have spoken and have questions have the right to be heard. And as it is now, that is not happening. I hope our parliament wakes up and smells the coffee. Long term management. We don’t want to live trough the horrors of mass reef destruction as has happened in Jamaica. We need to pamper our coral reef breeding grounds, especially those in Oostpunt. A piece of Curaçao that is not only valuable for the underwater world, but also on land. Curaçao, the center of the world, for many endemic species yes. For me too, because it is in this little rock that i find my home, and peace. It has a very distinct beauty that can not be find nowhere else in the world. I love curaçao. I hope my parliament loves it too.