Matthew became a hurricane and was situated north of Curacao/Aruba. But the water in the marina was calm, the winds were quiet, and little rain fell, though the skies were gray and cloudy. We were all itching to get off the boats, since it appeared we were not needed to stay and fend them off from the docks or other boats. Still, we were a little nervous about leaving them. What if the wind really kicked up?
The lagoon was so very well protected. We didn’t feel anything until we parked the cars in Willemstad. The wind was blowing pretty good and the swells and waves in St Ann Bay were sizable. The Queen Emma pedestrian bridge was completely removed! It was weird to see the bay wide open to the sea when there was a bridge there just the day before. It must have been removed because of the hurricane. Might have been interesting crossing with the swells tossing it about and the waves crashing over it.
With the bridge removed, the ferry jumped into action carrying people back and forth between Punda and Otrobanda. You just can’t capture what the water is doing in photographs. I should have taken some video here.
We heard great things about the Kura Hulanda Museum in Otrobanda. After a massive restoration effort to revive Otrobanda, it has become an UNESCO World Heritage Site. It really is a beautiful neighborhood and the Kura Hulanda Mansion is incredible. Outside, we were greeted with some African art. Please excuse my old SNL reference on these great pieces.
Kura Hulanda Museum is mostly dedicated to documenting the history of the slave trade in the West Indies. The founder, Jacob Gelt Dekker (who is also responsible for gentrifying Otrabanda), also has a great art collection from around the world. I don’t normally take pictures in a museum and share them on the blog, but the stories/history that go with the pieces are worth sharing.
This face is in the courtyard before entering the museum. I thought it was cool…
But I really thought it cool after seeing the side view. The face transformed into the African continent.
Steve bumped into a long lost friend at the museum, but he was looking a little skinny and tired.
The tone was set immediately when we entered to find manacles everywhere. They hang all over the museum. What a horrible way to spend your life: in and out of manacles and chains. I can’t even imagine.
These traps may look like ordinary (and vicious) animal traps, but they have a darker history. Slavers would travel to villages in Africa and set traps. Children running around and playing would accidentally trigger the trap and it would slam shut on their legs causing damage and pain. The trapped child would cry out, attracting the attention of the villagers. When the adults came to help the child, the slavers would come out of hiding and capture the others. The newly captured would be chained together and forced onto a ship to be sold in other countries.
Punishments for any slight, real or imagined, were harsh and cruel. This iron chair would be left sitting in the sun. The offending slave would be forced to sit naked inside, burning their skin on the iron, and left to roast in the sun. They were usually left without food or water, sometimes long enough to die in the chair.
The slave trade was responsible for massive amounts of people being kidnapped and torn from their previous lives and families. This drawing shows the type of ships they were shipped on.
This drawing shows the condition of the slave quarters on the ships. You can’t really call them quarters. Slaves were chained in rows in the bowels of the ships. Even livestock was treated better on ships than slaves!
An incredible amount of people were crammed together without use of a head, running water, or any other basic human necessities. It seems counter productive to keep your commodity in such unhealthy conditions, where many arrive sick or never arrive having died under way and been thrown overboard. Even if the slavers didn’t think of them as humans, they should have been able to think of them in financial terms. Honestly I just can’t wrap my head around it.
The museum included a replica of the ship compartment where slaves were kept. It was dark, claustrophobic, completely lacking in creature comforts, and had no good drainage system to remove human waste. The filth and stench had to be abominable. I would rather die than suffer as the newly captured slaves did in transit. The will of these people to survive amazes me.
Here is a model of a slave ship. They were beautiful ships that don’t look like they should have such a dark history.
This iron collar was designed to keep slaves being punished from falling asleep. It also looked like it could be used to hang the slave from a tree.
I just don’t even know what to say. This museum had me in tears.
Cowardly landowners hid their identities when they gathered for meetings, raids, or whatever all they did. But the sight of these costumes became synonymous with pain and terror. Even today, if I was approached by someone wearing such a costume, I would be terrified. No one up to any good would need to wear a hood over their face. This museum was filled with such artifacts from the days of slavery. Very depressing. What a downer blog this is! So I’ll leave it at this and won’t even go into modern day human trafficking. As we left the slavery part of the museum, plaques and photos showed the progression of black people’s rights and status. From slavery to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcom X to Nelson Mandela and Barrack Obama, it’s quite a progression.
To lighten the mood of the blog, here is a picture from a happy hour for everyone at the marina. Livin’ Life, Pandai, and Slow Flight were there. Milly and Coco de Mer were also there, though not pictured. We met several Dutch cruisers and some that don’t cruise anymore; having found their paradise, they stayed. One lady, Marta, was a blast. She filled us in on some of the differences between the laws in Holland and those in Curacao and made recommendations on where to go and what to see. She was adorable and I wish I had more time to get to know her. So far there’s a lot to like about Curacao, but we are missing being in Bonaire. Go away, Matthew!