by Shari Reinhart
It’s a little known fact that both Manhattan and Curaçao were governed by the Dutch West India Company in the 1700s. Both places were founded around the same time and both were recognized for commercial reasons.
In 1624, the Dutch settled on Governors Island in New York harbor. They moved to Manhattan in 1625 and in 1626 Peter Minuit bought Manhattan Island for all of $24. Eight years later the Dutch arrived in Curaçao and ever since then Curaçao has either been governed by or affiliated with the Netherlands. That’s right; the Dutch intentionally went to both Curaçao and New York for the purpose of trade and commerce, knowing the strength of their commercial existence because of their deep harbors.
The Dutch history is, was and remains obvious in Curaçao but New York’s Dutch connection, not so much. Contrarily, New York didn’t hang on to those Dutch roots with quite the same enthusiasm. The city actually buried its Dutch past.
In 1638 Peter Stuyvesant arrived in Curaçao as the Dutch West India Company’s chief commercial officer. In 1643 he was appointed Curaçao’s governor, mandated to govern both Curaçao and Nieuw Amsterdam. Nieuw Amsterdam was the Dutch settlement that was the capital of New Netherland which later became New York City.
The Dutch West Indian Company’s history was based on the business of making money, and so their arrival in both New York and Curaçao was all about business. One legacy that they left to both New York and Curaçao is the fundamentals of diversity, because diversity was good for business. In the 1640s with only about 500 people settled in the colony of Nieuw Amsterdam, there were as many as 18 languages spoken. That distinction lives on today which would explain why New York is often called the “melting pot’ of the United States. Similarly, Willemstad, with a current population of 125,000, is home to people of over 50 nationalities.
In 1664, King Charles II wanted to give the Dutch colony to his brother James, the Duke of York, and Stuyvesant wanted to fight to maintain control of the colony. The colonists refused to put up a fight so Stuyvesant conceded to the English. That is how the city became New York and that is perhaps where the Curaçao-New York connection comes to an end.