Curaçao - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Even though the Dutch colonizers were Protestant, Catholicism was—and remains—the prevalent religion. Catholic missionary activities, mainly by Spanish priests from Venezuela, were directed toward Afro-Antilleans, and the Franciscans even preached in Papiamento to establish closer ties with potential converts. After Abolition, Catholic friars, nuns, and priests from the Netherlands came as missionaries to Curaçao and the other Dutch islands. The predominance of Catholicism has led to the foundation of a far greater number of Catholic schools than of state schools. Since around 1970, nonmainstream Christian sects have become increasingly widespread. Most of these movements are based in the United States.

Religious Practitioners. Brua is an agglomeration of non-Christian spiritual practices, similar to the obeah of the West Indies. These practices include preparing and using lucky charms, eliminating purported and declared enemies, ensnaring spouses, divining, making amulets, spirit possession, and consultation with the dead. By manipulating supernatural powers, a practitioner attempts to restore the health of his patients and heal disturbed social relationships (which are often considered the cause of certain illnesses). Today most Brua specialists combine their practice with other jobs, such as selling groceries or other small-scale ventures.

Arts. Both music and dance are important facets of Antillean culture. The tambu and tumba are probably the most popular dances. "Tambu" is the local name for an African drum, the main instrument in the tambu dance music. In contrast to the tambu, the tumba is a more intimate dance. "Tumba" is also the name of an African drum, yet in this music it is not the main instrument.

In contrast to music and dance, interest in literature is largely confined to the educated class. Although the literature of the Netherlands Antilles is multilingual (English, Spanish, Papiamento, and Dutch), most authors from Curaçao have preferred to write in Papiamento or Dutch. Colá Debrot, one of the well-known writers of the Netherlands Antilles, once suggested a distinction between "popular literature" and "art literature." The former—in Papiamento—is realistic, and contains strong Afro-Caribbean elements. The so-called art literature is mainly written in Dutch.

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