Photos of Curacao

Introduction

Background

The original Arawak Indian settlers who arrived on the island from South America in about 1000, were largely enslaved by the Spanish early in the 16th century and forcibly relocated to other colonies where labor was needed. Curacao was seized by the Dutch from the Spanish in 1634. Once the center of the Caribbean slave trade, Curacao was hard hit economically by the abolition of slavery in 1863. Its prosperity (and that of neighboring Aruba) was restored in the early 20th century with the construction of the Isla Refineria to service the newly discovered Venezuelan oil fields. In 1954, Curacao and several other Dutch Caribbean possessions were reorganized as the Netherlands Antilles, part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In referenda in 2005 and 2009, the citizens of Curacao voted to become a self-governing country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The change in status became effective in October 2010 with the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

Geography

Location

Caribbean, an island in the Caribbean Sea, 55 km off the coast of Venezuela

Geographic coordinates

12 10 N, 69 00 W

Map references

Central America and the Caribbean

Area

total: 444 sq km

land: 444 sq km

water: 0 sq km

country comparison to the world: 199

Area - comparative

more than twice the size of Washington, DC

Coastline

364 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

Climate

tropical marine climate, ameliorated by northeast trade winds, results in mild temperatures; semiarid with average rainfall of 60 cm/year

Terrain

generally low, hilly terrain

Elevation

highest point: Mt. Christoffel 372 m

lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m

Natural resources

calcium phosphates, protected harbors, hot springs

Land use

agricultural land: 10% (2018 est.)

arable land: 10% (2018)

other: 90% (2018 est.)

Population distribution

largest concentration on the island is Willemstad; smaller settlements near the coast can be found throughout the island, particularly in the northwest

Natural hazards

Curacao is south of the Caribbean hurricane belt and is rarely threatened

Geography - note

Curacao is a part of the Windward Islands (southern) group in the Lesser Antilles

People and Society

Nationality

noun: Curacaoan

adjective: Curacaoan; Dutch

Ethnic groups

Curacaoan 75.4%, Dutch 6%, Dominican 3.6%, Colombian 3%, Bonairean, Sint Eustatian, Saban 1.5%, Haitian 1.2%, Surinamese 1.2%, Venezuelan 1.1%, Aruban 1.1%, other 5%, unspecified 0.9% (2011 est.)

Languages

Papiamento (official) (a creole language that is a mixture of Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, English, and, to a lesser extent, French, as well as elements of African languages and the language of the Arawak) 80%, Dutch (official) 8.8%, Spanish 5.6%, English (official) 3.1%, other 2.3%, unspecified 0.3% (2011 est.)

note: data represent most spoken language in household

Religions

Roman Catholic 72.8%, Pentecostal 6.6%, Protestant 3.2%, Adventist 3%, Jehovah's Witness 2%, Evangelical 1.9%, other 3.8%, none 6%, unspecified 0.6% (2011 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 19.68% (male 15,227/female 14,553)

15-24 years: 13.38% (male 10,438/female 9,806)

25-54 years: 36.55% (male 27,733/female 27,589)

55-64 years: 13.88% (male 9,130/female 11,873)

65 years and over: 16.52% (male 10,127/female 14,869) (2020 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 55.9

youth dependency ratio: 28.3

elderly dependency ratio: 27.5

potential support ratio: 3.6 (2020 est.)

Median age

total: 36.7 years

male: 34.4 years

female: 39.5 years (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 77

Birth rate

13.29 births/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 138

Death rate

8.65 deaths/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 68

Net migration rate

-1.32 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 149

Population distribution

largest concentration on the island is Willemstad; smaller settlements near the coast can be found throughout the island, particularly in the northwest

Urbanization

urban population: 89.1% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: 0.57% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Major urban areas - population

144,000 WILLEMSTAD (capital) (2018)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.05 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.06 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 1.01 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.77 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.68 male(s)/female

total population: 0.92 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Infant mortality rate

total: 8.05 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 8.89 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 7.18 deaths/1,000 live births (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 154

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 79.19 years

male: 76.85 years

female: 81.65 years (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 63

Drinking water source

improved: total: 100% of population

unimproved: total: 0% of population (2017 est.)

Sanitation facility access

improved: total: 100% of population

unimproved: total: 0% of population (2017)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 17 years

male: 18 years

female: 18 years (2013)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 29.3%

male: 25.4%

female: 34.5% (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 32

Environment

Environment - current issues

problems in waste management that threaten environmental sustainability on the island include pollution of marine areas from domestic sewage, inadequate sewage treatment facilities, industrial effluents and agricultural runoff, the mismanagement of toxic substances, and ineffective regulations; the refinery in Sint Anna Bay, at the eastern edge of Willemstad’s large natural harbor, processes heavy crude oil from Venezuela; it has caused significant environmental damage to the surrounding area because of neglect and a lack of strict environmental controls; the release of noxious fumes and potentially hazardous particles causes schools downwind to regularly close

Air pollutants

carbon dioxide emissions: 5.39 megatons (2016 est.)

Climate

tropical marine climate, ameliorated by northeast trade winds, results in mild temperatures; semiarid with average rainfall of 60 cm/year

Land use

agricultural land: 10% (2018 est.)

arable land: 10% (2018)

other: 90% (2018 est.)

Revenue from coal

coal revenues: 0% of GDP (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 86

Urbanization

urban population: 89.1% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: 0.57% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Waste and recycling

municipal solid waste generated annually: 24,704 tons (2013 est.)

municipal solid waste recycled annually: 494 tons (2013 est.)

percent of municipal solid waste recycled: 2% (2013 est.)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Country of Curacao

conventional short form: Curacao

local long form: Land Curacao (Dutch); Pais Korsou (Papiamento)

local short form: Curacao (Dutch); Korsou (Papiamento)

former: Netherlands Antilles; Curacao and Dependencies

etymology: the most plausible name derivation is that the island was designated Isla de la Curacion (Spanish meaning "Island of the Cure" or "Island of Healing") or Ilha da Curacao (Portuguese meaning the same) to reflect the locale's function as a recovery stop for sick crewmen

Dependency status

constituent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands; full autonomy in internal affairs granted in 2010; Dutch Government responsible for defense and foreign affairs

Government type

parliamentary democracy

Capital

name: Willemstad

geographic coordinates: 12 06 N, 68 55 W

time difference: UTC-4 (1 hour ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology - named after Prince William II of Orange (1626-1650), who served as stadtholder (Dutch head of state) from 1647 to 1650, shortly after the the Dutch captured Curacao from the Spanish in 1634

Administrative divisions

none (part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands)



note: Curacao is one of four constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands; the other three are the Netherlands, Aruba, and Sint Maarten

Independence

none (part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands)

National holiday

King's Day (birthday of King WILLEM-ALEXANDER), 27 April (1967); note - King's or Queen's Day are observed on the ruling monarch's birthday; celebrated on 26 April if 27 April is a Sunday

Constitution

history: previous 1947, 1955; latest adopted 5 September 2010, entered into force 10 October 2010 (regulates governance of Curacao but is subordinate to the Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands); note - in October 2010, with the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles, Curacao became a semi-autonomous entity within the Kingdom of the Netherlands

Legal system

based on Dutch civil law

Citizenship

see the Netherlands

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: King WILLEM-ALEXANDER of the Netherlands (since 30 April 2013); represented by Governor Lucille A. GEORGE-WOUT (since 4 November 2013)

head of government: Prime Minister Gilmar PISAS (since 14 June 2021)

cabinet: Cabinet sworn-in by the governor

elections/appointments: the monarch is hereditary; governor appointed by the monarch; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party usually elected prime minister by the Parliament of Curacao; next election scheduled for 2016

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Parliament of Curacao (21 seats; members directly elected by proportional representation vote to serve 4-year terms)

elections: last held on 19 March 2021 (next to be held in 2025)

election results: percent of vote by party - MFK 28.1%, PAR 14.1%, PNP 12.6%, MAN 6.5%, KEM 5.4%, TPK 5.3%; seats by party - MFK 9, PAR 4, PNP 4, MAN 2, KEM 1, TPK 1; composition -

Judicial branch

highest courts: Joint Court of Justice of Aruba, Curacao, Sint Maarten, and of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba or "Joint Court of Justice" (sits as a 3-judge panel); final appeals heard by the Supreme Court, in The Hague, Netherlands

judge selection and term of office: Joint Court judges appointed by the monarch for life

subordinate courts: first instance courts, appeals court; specialized courts

Political parties and leaders

Korsou di Nos Tur or KdnT [Amparo dos SANTOS]
Korsou Esun Miho or KEM [Michelangelo MARTINES]
Mayors for Liberec Region (Starostove pro Liberecky Kraj) or SLK [Martin PUTA]
Movementu Futuro Korsou or MFK [Gerrit SCHOTTE]
Movementu Progresivo or MP [Marylin MOSES]
Movishon Antia Nobo or MAN [Hensley KOEIMAN]
Partido Antia Restruktura or PAR [Eugene RHUGGENAATH]
Partido Inovashon Nashonal or PIN [Suzanne CAMELIA-ROMER]
Partido pa Adelanto I Inovashon Soshal or PAIS [Alex ROSARIA]
Partido Nashonal di Pueblo or PNP [Humphrey DAVELAAR]
Pueblo Soberano or PS
Trabou pa Kòrsou or TPK [Rennox CALMES] 
Un Korsou Hustu [Omayra LEEFLANG]

International organization participation

Caricom (observer), FATF, ILO, ITU, UNESCO (associate), UPU

Diplomatic representation in the US

none (represented by the Kingdom of the Netherlands)

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Consul General Allen GREENBERG (since June 2019); note - also accredited to Aruba and Sint Maarten

telephone: [599] (9) 4613066

mailing address: P. O. Box 158, J.B. Gorsiraweg #1

FAX: [599] (9) 4616489

Flag description

on a blue field a horizontal yellow band somewhat below the center divides the flag into proportions of 5:1:2; two five-pointed white stars - the smaller above and to the left of the larger - appear in the canton; the blue of the upper and lower sections symbolizes the sky and sea respectively; yellow represents the sun; the stars symbolize Curacao and its uninhabited smaller sister island of Klein Curacao; the five star points signify the five continents from which Curacao's people derive

National symbol(s)

laraha (citrus tree); national colors: blue, yellow, white

National anthem

name: Himmo di Korsou (Anthem of Curacao)

lyrics/music: Guillermo ROSARIO, Mae HENRIQUEZ, Enrique MULLER, Betty DORAN/Frater Candidus NOWENS, Errol "El Toro" COLINA

note: adapted 1978; the lyrics, originally written in 1899, were rewritten in 1978 to make them less colonial in nature

Economy

Economic overview

Most of Curacao's GDP results from services. Tourism, petroleum refining and bunkering, offshore finance, and transportation and communications are the mainstays of this small island economy, which is closely tied to the outside world. Curacao has limited natural resources, poor soil, and inadequate water supplies, and budgetary problems complicate reform of the health and education systems. Although GDP grew only slightly during the past decade, Curacao enjoys a high per capita income and a well-developed infrastructure compared to other countries in the region.

Curacao has an excellent natural harbor that can accommodate large oil tankers, and the port of Willemstad hosts a free trade zone and a dry dock. Venezuelan state-owned oil company PdVSA, under a contract in effect until 2019, leases the single refinery on the island from the government, directly employing some 1,000 people. Most of the oil for the refinery is imported from Venezuela and most of the refined products are exported to the US and Asia. Almost all consumer and capital goods are imported, with the US, the Netherlands, and Venezuela being the major suppliers.

The government is attempting to diversify its industry and trade. Curacao is an Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT) of the European Union. Nationals of Curacao are citizens of the European Union, even though it is not a member. Based on its OCT status, products that originate in Curacao have preferential access to the EU and are exempt from import duties. Curacao is a beneficiary of the Caribbean Basin Initiative and, as a result, products originating in Curacao can be imported tax free into the US if at least 35% has been added to the value of these products in Curacao. The island has state-of-the-art information and communication technology connectivity with the rest of the world, including a Tier IV datacenter. With several direct satellite and submarine optic fiber cables, Curacao has one of the best Internet speeds and reliability in the Western Hemisphere.

Real GDP growth rate

3.6% (2012 est.)

2% (2011 est.)

0.1% (2010 est.)

country comparison to the world: 82

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$3.856 billion (2019 est.)

$3.992 billion (2018 est.)

$4.08 billion (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2012 US dollars

country comparison to the world: 187

GDP (official exchange rate)

$5.6 billion (2012 est.)

Real GDP per capita

$24,479 (2019 est.)

$24,982 (2018 est.)

$25,475 (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 82

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 0.7% (2012 est.)

industry: 15.5% (2012 est.)

services: 83.8% (2012 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 66.9% (2016 est.)

government consumption: 33.6% (2016 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 19.4% (2016 est.)

investment in inventories: 0% (2016 est.)

exports of goods and services: 17.5% (2016 est.)

imports of goods and services: -37.5% (2016 est.)

Agricultural products

aloe, sorghum, peanuts, vegetables, tropical fruit

Industries

tourism, petroleum refining, petroleum transshipment, light manufacturing, financial and business services

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 1.2%

industry: 16.9%

services: 81.8% (2008 est.)

Public debt

33.2% of GDP (2012 est.)

40.6% of GDP (2011 est.)

country comparison to the world: 158

Current account balance

-$400 million (2011 est.)

-$600 million (2010 est.)

country comparison to the world: 116

Exports

$839.7 million (2017 est.)

$1.44 billion (2010 est.)

country comparison to the world: 166

Exports - partners

Switzerland 27%, United States 17%, Spain 14%, Ecuador 7%, India 7%, Antigua and Barbuda 5% (2019)

Exports - commodities

gold, precious metal scraps, petroleum coke, frozen fish, coal tar oil (2019)

Imports

$540.3 billion (2018 est.)

$453.8 billion (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 13

Imports - partners

United States 35%, Netherlands 24%, China 5% (2019)

Imports - commodities

refined petroleum, cars, crude petroleum, packaged medicines, perfumes (2019)

Exchange rates

Netherlands Antillean guilders (ANG) per US dollar -

1.79 (2017 est.)

1.79 (2016 est.)

1.79 (2015 est.)

1.79 (2014 est.)

1.79 (2013 est.)

Energy

Electricity access

electrification - total population: 100% (2020)

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 53,500

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 35.47 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 158

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 184,236

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 122.15 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 185

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: fully automatic modern telecommunications system; telecom sector across the Caribbean region continues to be one of the growth areas; given the lack of economic diversity in the region, with a high dependence on tourism and activities such as fisheries and offshore financial services the telecom sector contributes greatly to the GDP (2020)

domestic: 39 per 100 users for fixed-line and 116 per 100 users for cellular-mobile, majority of the islanders have Internet; market revenue has been affected in recent quarters as a result of competition and regulatory measures on termination rates and roaming tariffs (2020)

international: country code - +599, PCCS submarine cable system to US, Caribbean and Central and South America (2019)

note: the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on production and supply chains globally; since 2020, some aspects of the telecom sector have experienced downturn, particularly in mobile device production; many network operators delayed upgrades to infrastructure; progress towards 5G implementation was postponed or slowed in some countries; consumer spending on telecom services and devices was affected by large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes; the crucial nature of telecom services as a tool for work and school from home became evident, and received some support from governments

Broadcast media

government-run TeleCuracao operates a TV station and a radio station; 2 other privately owned TV stations and several privately owned radio stations (2019)

Internet users

total: 102,359

percent of population: 68.13% (July 2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 179

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 53,297

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 35.34 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 137

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 2 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 11

Airports - with paved runways

total: 1 (2019)

over 3,047 m: 1

Merchant marine

total: 66

by type: general cargo 8, oil tanker 1, other 57 (2020)

country comparison to the world: 108

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Willemstad

oil terminal(s): Bullen Baai (Curacao Terminal)

bulk cargo port(s): Fuik Bay (phosphate rock)

Military and Security

Military and security forces

no regular military forces; Curaçao Militia (CURMIL) (2021)

Military - note

defense is the responsibility of the Kingdom of the Netherlands; the Dutch Government controls foreign and defense policy; the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard (DCCG) provides maritime security

Transnational Issues

Trafficking in persons

current situation: human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Curacao; undocumented migrants, including the growing population of Venezuelans, are vulnerable to sex and labor trafficking; Curacaoan and foreign women and girls, mostly Dominican and Venezuelan, are exploited in sex trafficking; migrants from other Caribbean countries, South America, China, and India are subject to forced labor in construction, domestic servitude, landscaping, minimarkets, retail, and restaurants

tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List — Curacao does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but it is making significant efforts to do so; the government prosecuted and convicted more traffickers than in the previous reporting period; however, authorities identified fewer victims, and assistance to victims was contingent upon their cooperation with law enforcement in prosecuting traffickers; victims who were in the country illegally, including Venezuelans, were at risk of deportation if they did not participate in trials against their traffickers; the government did not operate centers for trafficking victims but provided some funding to NGOs and international organizations to care for victims (2020)