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Willemstad, Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles. Author Chika Watanabe. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution
Willemstad, Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles. Author Chika Watanabe

Netherlands Antilles: remains of one of the largest commercial empires in history

The Netherlands Antilles (Nederlandse Antillen) are part of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean Sea and are formed by two groups of islands distant from each other almost 1 000 km: Curaçao, Klein Curaçao, Bonaire and Klein Bonaire, located just off the coast of Venezuela (in the past it was also part the island of Aruba), and Sint Eustatius, Saba and Sint Maarten (only the southern part of the island is Dutch, the rest is French), located southeast of the Virgin Islands and north-west of Saint Kitts and Nevis. The Netherlands Antilles are dissolved in 2010 and the islands that were part of it went to form states or municipalities of the Netherlands. Willemstad, the capital, was on the island of Curacao.

The largest and most important island in the Netherlands Antilles is Curaçao (444 sq km), the island consists of a semi-arid savannah, in the north-west side is the highest peak, Christoffelberg (375 metres). Twenty km south-east of Curaçao is the small uninhabited island of Klein Curaçao.

The island of Bonaire (288 square kilometres) is located to the east of Curaçao, it’s also a semi-arid land, there are many saltwater lakes, in the northern part is the Mount Brandaris (240 metres). At the center of the west coast of Bonaire, less than 1 km away from this, there is the small island of Klein Bonaire (6 sq km).

Netherlands Antilles Map

Netherlands Antilles Map

The other three islands of Sint Eustatius (21 sq km), Saba (13 sq. km) and Sint Maarten (34 sq km, the Dutch side) are of volcanic origin and rich vegetation, these islands are highest than the Curaçao group, in fact, Sint Maarten rises up to 414 metres, Pic Paradis (in the French side of the island), Sint Eustatius reaches 601 meters with the Mount Mazinga and the small Saba is virtually formed by a single volcanic peak, Mount Scenery (877 metres), which is the highest peak of the Netherlands Antilles.

The economy of Curaçao and Bonaire is based on tourism, oil refining, agriculture (sisal, citrus fruits, aloe and production of liquor (Curaçao)) and financial assets, the other islands are mainly related to tourism and agriculture (sugar cane, cotton, fruit, potatoes).

  • Area: 800 sqkm.
  • Population: 183,000 (2005 data) (Mulattos (descendants of European and Africans) 85%, others 15%).
  • State Capital: Willemstad (Curaçao).
  • Language: Official languages are Dutch, English and Papiamento (a creole language with roots in primarily Portuguese and Spanish, and to a lesser extent Dutch, African, and Native Indian languages).
  • Religion: Christian 92% (Catholic 72%, Protestant 20%), Jewish 1%.
  • Currency: Netherlands Antillean Gulden (ANG)
  • Time: UTC -4 hours.

This post is also available in: German

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