Curacao – The Meaning of Dushi

Curacao

Dushi

In the island of Curacao, you may hear (or even see) the expression “Dushi” but as explained by my guide Charla of the Curacao Tourist Board, “Dushi has a lot of meanings…but it mostly means sweet, nice or good”. The phrase perfectly fits this beautiful island.

I was only in Curacao for 1 day on a Princess Cruise port stop. Most tourists that visit she explained, are either from the cruise ships like myself or they are predominantly European with lots of vacation time. “In order to experience and absorb the real lifestyle of Curacao you really need to stay 2+ weeks”.

With such a very short window of time for my visit, we quickly set out to explore the island and find out what makes Curacao so “Dushi.

Curacao has history

The Dutch colony of Curacao, discovered in 1499, is located in the Southern Caribbean, just a short 60 miles north of Venezuela. As a result, you will see Arawak, French, Dutch, Spanish, West Indian, Portuguese, and African influences throughout the island – in language, food, religion and architecture. Approximately 80% of Curacao is Roman Catholic but there is also a large Jewish Settlement (Scharloo) dating back to the 1650′s and continuing today.

Willemstad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to 16 museums, is the capital of Curacao and where most of the action is. Separated into 2 portions – the Punda and the Otrobanda “other side” – by St. Anna Bay. The Punda is the start of town and where you will see most of the tourists shopping and eating along the water’s edge. Otrobanda is where most of the residents live. It’s quite the contrast and if you really want to see what it’s like being a local take a stroll through the streets of Otrobanda and feel like you belong. You can cross back and forth from Punda and Otrobanda via the Queen Emma Bridge.

The Queen Emma Bridge, called the “swinging old lady” by locals, is a pontoon bridge originally built in 1888 and restored in 2005/2006. Charla told me with a giggle that it is free to cross NOW but originally there was a fee of 1/2 a cent to walk across the bridge if you were wearing shoes, but if you had no shoes on there was no fee (people caught on very quickly). As I was walking across the wooden bridge (with my shoes on) I could feel a slight bobbing motion and the slight sway of the bridge as it floats over the water. I was told that if you are crossing when it is windy or the water is rough it’s as if you are drunk and I can well imagine this because even in calm waters I found it difficult to walk in a straight line.

The 167 meter (548 feet) long bridge opens and moves to the side about 30 times / day to allow for ships to enter the harbour. When the bridge is open, free ferries called “ponchi” are in operation to accomodate people who wish to cross from side to side.

Curacao – More than meets the eye

It is worth mentioning that even though St. Anna Bay looks narrow it is actually very deep. It’s misleading when you are standing on the Queen Emma Bridge and you look inland towards the 56 meter (185 feet) high Queen Juliana Bridge. But if you follow it further it opens up into a very large and deep shipping port area with container ships and dry docks.

I was told that Curacao played an important part in WWII because of it’s hidden harbour and resources. Curacao, unlike other islands in the Caribbean, is more than just sunshine, beaches and tourists. There is major industry here with an oil refinery, salt mines and shipping all due in part to this harbour.

Colours of the Rainbow

When first arriving in Willemstad you will instantly notice the very colourful, brightly painted houses and buildings throughout all the streets. Curacao is one of the most photographed islands in the world due to these building and I have to say, they look exactly as shown in the photos and postcards! No photoshop action needed here to enhance these colours.

So, the story goes.

The buildings were originally made from sea stone and mortar. Over time the salt leeches out of the stone and gives a white chalk appearance (aka efflorescence). The governor at the time felt that the bright sun reflecting off the white buildings hurt his eyes and gave him headaches, so he declared that all buildings be painted in a colour other than white. It was later discovered (after he left office) that he was part owner of the local paint factory…

Now, all official government buildings are painted the same shade of yellow for uniformity and easy identification.
Curacao_Charla

What makes Curacao Dushi? It’s the people you meet…

Charla shared with me personal photos of her dressed in traditional folklore costume that she had just taken a few days prior…

It was Easter week and Curacao had just celebrated the annual Seu Folklore Parade that marks the beginning of the month-long Harvest Festival. The parade takes place in Willemstad on the first Monday after Easter and is celebrated with offerings, dancing in the streets, traditional costumes, songs and musical instruments. It’s a tradition and is steeped with meaning as it reflects back to the Curacao’s past history as an African slave trade harbour. The dancing (wapa) and music (seu) is meant to symbolize the swaying motion of the slave workers as they carry their large baskets of fruit and vegetables through the fields to the warehouses.

Here is a link to a youtube video I found that shows a portion of the 2012 parade.
Curacao
It’s this rich cultural history of the people, their welcoming nature, and the stories like the ones that Charla shared with me that makes a place unique. It draws you in and wraps you in a warm hug and makes you laugh and smile and feel like you belong – if only for a short while. This coupled with perfect year-long weather, sunshine, and the beautiful surroundings is what makes Curacao truly Dushi.

Oh how I wish I had more time to spend here…


Stay tuned for the continuation of my tour of Curacao as I visit the floating market and the beaches of Curacao…

Part 2: Curacao Beaches – Sun, Surf and Sand
Part 3: Curacao – Restaurants with a View
Part 4: Curacao in One Day

My tour of Curacao was generously provided by Curacao Tourist Board. My opinions are my own.

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17 Responses to Curacao – The Meaning of Dushi

  1. Natasha September 9, 2013 at 3:03 pm #

    Hi Mary,

    Enjoying your 4 part blog series on Dushi Korsou! Wanted to point out one error though: Curaçao is no longer a colony and hasn’t been so since 1954, at which point the island, as part of the Netherlands Antilles (which also doesn’t exist anymore) obtained political autonomy: still part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, but with our own parliament.

    Thanks for the posts!

    Natasha

    • Mary Chong
      Mary Chong September 9, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

      Thank you so much for visiting AND for pointing out the error and correcting me. I really appreciate it!

  2. Irene @ CuracaoRentalHomes June 15, 2013 at 5:07 am #

    I really like the fact that they have the name of the island written in such big letters. And I also love how “dushi” sounds like. Papiamentu is quite an interesting language!

  3. New friend of Curacao May 2, 2013 at 11:23 am #

    Wow, I have just met some amazing people from Curacao, and an amazing man who addressed me as ‘Dushi’.

    I had to look up the meanin to really understand him, but wow, what a lovely ‘Dushi’ place. what a great nation. And with all the meanings attributable to the word Dushi, I now feel very honoured.

    I look forward to a trip to Curacao!!

  4. Clayton April 23, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

    That’s a very vibrant festival indeed. I didn’t realize the place was about 500 years old. That’s very interesting, and I must admit though that I really like the license plates. It was a kind of weird hobby to collect license plates and lots of people back home did that so I always just kind of notice them.

    • Mary Chong
      Mary Chong April 23, 2013 at 1:13 pm #

      There is lots of history and a lot of museums for one island. I find with some islands in the Caribbean I get bored after a couple of days of beach but with Curacao there is plenty to keep you occupied! Apparently there are a lot of knock-off license plates for sale as souvenirs – manufactured to look like the real thing which are more sought after. Honestly, as I’m not a collector I can’t tell the difference! I just think they look pretty! Thanks Clayton!

  5. Joost April 23, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    Good to read that you had such positive experiences on our island and that you syndicated your content to one of our local websites (Curacao Chronicle) :-)

    • Mary Chong
      Mary Chong April 23, 2013 at 1:14 pm #

      Thanks for your comment! It’s an honour to have been published in the Chronicle!

  6. Sheedia April 23, 2013 at 9:02 am #

    You truly had a great guide that told you all the great stories about the island. As a former Tour Guide, it was fun to hear that you are sharing the same stories I used to share with tourists.

    People used to always laugh about the governor that died rich because of the silly lie he made up. In a way Curacao is lucky he did it, otherwise we would not have all those beautiful colors.

  7. Debbie April 22, 2013 at 11:29 am #

    Love everything I have been hearing about Curacao. Looking forward to reading more in your next post(s).

  8. Faye April 22, 2013 at 11:08 am #

    Hi there Mary I went to Curacao on the 30 of march for one week. It was a beautiful experience. I, like you, had a great tour guide and the day I spent with him was non stop talk about this terrific little Island of paradise.. I am a woman in her fifties and went by myself and felt safe and oh so lucky to have been able to have seen this paradise , like you say wait for the pictures of the beach TERRIFIC>>. Thanks for sharing.
    Faye

    • Mary Chong
      Mary Chong April 22, 2013 at 11:19 am #

      Thanks so much Faye for your comment. So lucky of you to have spent 1 week in Curacao – and all by yourself too. You GO girl! I would love to know which resort/hotel you stayed at if you are open to sharing that information…

  9. Charla April 20, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

    Hi Mary this is a great story, it was a pleasure to be your guide, the story on Dushi hende is great, you are also a Dushi hende, keep on giving positive info .. I hope to see you soon in Curacao at least for a week.

    Greetings,

    Charla.

  10. Heather H April 20, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

    Wow! You learned all of this in a day? I’m looking forward to hearing more. :)

    • Mary Chong
      Mary Chong April 20, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

      You have to have the right person showing you around… Thanks for your comment Heather! I appreciate it.

  11. Myra April 20, 2013 at 11:31 am #

    Makes me want to be there!

    • Mary Chong
      Mary Chong April 20, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

      Thanks Myra for you comment! Yes, you have to visit but just wait until the next post on the beaches and you’ll be booking a trip right away.

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