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Cultural Heritage Willemstad, Curacao, the Netherlands
The old historic city centre of Willemstad is the capital of the island Curacao, situated in the Caribbean. It is a self-governing part in the kingdom of the Netherlands, only 60 km north from the coast of Venezuela. These days Curacao is a important touristic destination with crystal clear waters, beautiful white beaches and is a popular tourist destination with mostly Dutch and American tourists (Grant, 2008). There are a lot of different cultures and descendants from all across the world living on the island. The majority of the descendants has their origin from Africa (Systems, 2013). The reason of this is because the Dutch West India Company transported black slaves from Africa to Curacao to work at cotton farms on the island. There are many other influences you can find on the island, like Spanish, British and Portuguese culture. This is not only because of trading but Curacao was also a place to hide for religious minorities that were in danger. There is still a big minority of Jews living on the island. The harbor of Willemstad was the place where all the goods, slaves and other people arrive at the island. In the historical area around the harbor there are several buildings from the colonial period that are still in a really good state (UNESCO,1997).
Why is it a world heritage site?
Since 1997, the historical area of Willemstad is entitled as a cultural world heritage site. According to UNESCO there are three criteria why the historical area of Willemstad is world heritage namely; important interchange of human values, outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history and an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change. Especially the fact that the historical area has a lot of different and unique architecture from the Netherlands and Portugal that was typical for the colonial period (UNESCO, 1997).
There are three main fields that are responsible and involved with the WHS (World Heritage Site); Monument policy development, Co-ordination and financing Implementation. In those fields there are several institutions and organizations responsible. From a government perspective the monument council and bureau is responsible for the policy development, the co-ordination is handled by the urban development secretariat and the monuments fund foundation. The Pro Monumento Foundation has a supporting role in the process of preservation (Curacaomonuments.org, 2013).
In the middle of the 20th century the condition of the side really bad. Since 1955 Curacao has its own government within the Dutch Kingdom. It gave the inhabitants more right and power to control their island without much influence from the Netherlands. The historical area of Willemstad was a memory of colonial influence of the Netherlands. Some local politicians wanted to burn and break down the buildings. This didn't happen although the area was abandoned. In the seventies Curacao went bankrupt and they asked the Dutch government for money. The Dutch government gave money but first they invested money to renovate the historical area of Willemstad. These days some people from Curacao wants total independency, this can affect the heritage site if financial support from the Netherlands ends.(Giesen, 2012)
- UNESCO. 1997. Historic Area of Willemstad, Inner City and Harbour, Curaçao - UNESCO World Heritage Centre. [online] Available at: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/819 [Accessed: 11 Nov 2013].