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People, Language & Religion


Because of its history, the island's population comes from many ethnic backgrounds. There is an Afro-Caribbean majority of mixed African and European descent, and also sizeable minorities of Dutch, Latin American, French, South Asian, East Asian, Portuguese and Levantine people. The Sephardic Jews who arrived from the Netherlands and then-Dutch Brazil since the 17th century have had a significant influence on the culture and economy of the island. The years before and after World War II also saw an influx of Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe, many of whom were Romanian Jews.

In the early 19th century, many Portuguese and Lebanese migrated to Curaçao attracted by the financial possibilities of the island. East and South Asian migrants arrived during the economic boom of the early 20th century. There are also many recent immigrants from neighbouring countries, most notably the Dominican Republic, Haiti, the Anglophone Caribbean and Colombia. In recent years the influx of Dutch pensioners has increased significantly, dubbed locally as pensionados.


Languages spoken in Curaçao are Dutch, Papiamento, a hybrid of Spanish, Dutch, English and Portuguese. Most people on the island (85%) speak Papiamento. Papiamento is a Creole language derived from either Portuguese or Spanish with vocabulary influences from African languages, English, Dutch and Arawak native languages.

Effective 1 July 2007, the Netherlands Antilles declared Dutch, Papiamento, and English as official languages, in recognition of the Dutch-speaking, Papiamento-speaking and English-speaking communities of all the islands. Curaçao has decided to continue with this multilingual approach in its new status as constituent country.


According to the 2001 census, the majority of the inhabitants of Curaçao are Roman Catholic (85%). This includes a shift towards the Charismatic Renewal or Charismatic movement since the mid-70s. Other major denominations are the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Methodist Church. Alongside these Christian denominations, some inhabitants practice Montamentu, and other diasporic African religions. Like elsewhere in Latin America, Pentecostalism is on the rise. There are practising Muslims as well as Hindus.

Though small in size, Curaçao's Jewish community has a significant impact on history. Curaçao is home to the oldest active Jewish congregation in the Americas, dating to 1651. The Curaçao synagogue is the oldest synagogue of the Americas in continuous use, since its completion in 1732 on the site of a previous synagogue. The Jewish Community of Curaçao also played a key role in supporting early Jewish congregations in the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries, including in New York City and the Touro Synagogue





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