A Short History of Bonaire [2 (revised & enlarged)]

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Dr. J. Hartog Second revised and enlarged edition.

Published by Island Territory of Bonaire


Text H. Booi, 1938 Music J. B. A. Palm.

Translation : :eradi solo y suave biento >atria orguyoso sail fo 1 kjjjj . 3ueblo humilde semper contento Di un conducta tur parti gaba.

Pues laga nos trata tur dia , Kemper nos Bonaire ta menta nos canta den bon armoma Dushi Bonaire nos patna stima.


Tjand of sun and soft winds. Proud country risen from the sea, Simvle ve0'pl'e> a^ways



Toalwaysemake Bonaire well-known.


t et nil of us us Bonaireans, aga nos tur como Bonaireano in Jsinging and raise our voices; fni nos canto, alsa nos bos We who are children of a TieaZifcy [os cu tin yiu di un pueblo snno tucc, ,emper contento sperando den Dlos Always happy, hoping with God.

sfingun poder por kite e afecto nos ta sinti pa e Ida di nos Maske chikito cu su defecto Nos ta stimele ariba tur cos.

No power can take this That we feel for this island of ours; is' small, with many^

Translation by Virginia Gideon Oenes. Cover design Nigel Matthew. , , ttnrtoo All rights reserved. No pC^fthis9book may ^produced or abridged in any


Bonaire discovered a year after North America. Bonaire has a history of well over four and a half centuries, but on your trips across the island you will come upon Indian drawings, in caves and recesses, which are of a much older pe¬ riod. In 1499 Bonaire was discovered simultaneously with what is now Venezuela and Colombia. In fact the discovery of Bo¬ naire was only part of an exploring venture along the north¬ ern shore of South America. At the time of its discovery North America was known to exist. In 1497 and ’98 the Ge¬ noese sailors John and Sebastian Cabot by order of Henry VII of England had set out on cruises resulting in the discovery of Labrador and perhaps also some stretches of the coast ly¬ ing farther southward. In May 1499 an expedition under Alonso de Ojeda, one of Columbus’ captains from 1493, left Cadix in Spain. Crossing the Atlantic Ocean took 44 days and during this period the ships lost sight of each other and they sailed in different di¬ rections. In September 1499 Ojeda was in Santo Domingo, but we know nothing of his route after he had called at Trinidad. No logbook or other document of his has ever been found. The navigator of the expedition was Amerigo Matteo Ves¬ pucci, the renowned Florentine, who gave America his name. Vespucci sailed on another ship. In a private letter, which is still extant, he narrates to a friend in Florence details of how he sailed from Trinidad along the coast. Another fellow traveler, in still another ship, was Juan de la Cosa, who, with the help of data gathered during the vo¬ yage, published in 1500 the Mapamundi, the oldest map of the Western Hemisphere. By the aid of Vespucci’s letter and the Mapamundi a reconstruction of the voyage during which Bo¬ naire was discovered is possible. Trouble off La Guaira Approximately August 12, 1499 Vespucci set sail from the Gulf of Paria (Trinidad). Four days later he was off La Guai¬ ra (Venezuela) where he had trouble with the natives. Wound¬ ed sailors had to be nursed and all kinds of repairs made. For some three weeks his vessel lay in the roadstead and during



Reconstruction of the route followed by the discoverers of Bonaire and Curagao in 11+99.

This is the route presumably taken by Vespucci; for

lack of a journal Ojeda’s course cannot be traced.


Main routes of the historical spread of Indian cultures.

this delay on the Venezuelan shore Vespucci made his worldfamed discovery enabling sailors to compute the geographical longitude of their ships. This method was employed for cen¬ turies and only became outdated with the invention of a chro¬ nometer indicating time accurately even on board a pitching and tossing vessel. From Golfo Triste to Bonaire On September 5, 1499 the discoverers hoisted sail and set off again. In memory of their bitter experience they called the gulf Golfo dell’Inferno, which subsequently became Golfo Triste. That very day or the day after they sighted Bonaire.


’’Bonaire” an Indian word The abundance of dye-wood found by Vespucci and his tra¬ veling companions on the island caused Juan de la Cosa to name it Isla de Palo Brasil or Dye-wood Island. This can be seen on the Ptolemaic map shown here below. Thus Bonaire, although not under its present name, occurs on the oldest maps of the Western Hemisphere. The Spaniards, who at first of course were unable to speak with the Indians, before long discovered that the island already had a name which they rendered with a close attempt at a phonetic transcription as Bojnaj. This is the way it is spelt on Vesconte de Maiollo’s map (1519).

A map from 1513, known as the Ptolemaic map, on which Bonaire (indi¬ cated by the arrow) still bears the name Y. do Brasil, that is Brasilwood or dye-wood island.


The Indians carefully selected caves affording a maximum of protection. On the left-hand drawing we are looking TOWARDS such a cave. the right-hand one we are looking out FROM inside.


The big boulder

serves for protection.

The Spaniards and the Dutch, who knew no Spanish but did have a smattering of French, later modified this Bojnaj and other spellings to Bonaire. The meaning of this word is variously interpreted, the most ’ acceptable interpretation being : the low country. This is plausible because, as compared with the mountainous native country of the Indians, Bonaire actually was a very low bit of land. At any rate, the word does not mean good air; the French-seeming spelling is in fact misleading, the ai not being pronounced in the French manner, but it sounds like ie. In French the word ’air’ has no final e. Moreover, what little French influence there is on Bonaire did not exist until to¬ wards the end of the 18th century and that is very slight (a few French-speaking immigrants with names such as Rigaud and Beaumont). Bonaire in Georgia, U.S. Remarkably, there is another Bonaire in this world, a village in the United States, of about 3000 people, about 25 miles from Macon, Georgia. Most of the inhabitants work at Warner Robins Air Force Base 5 miles North. The village


came into into existence in 1890 after the building of the Geor¬ gia and Florida Railroad, now Southern, in 1889. According to the tradition a young and popular lady wanted the town named after her, but understandably another young lady said no, and consequently at a town meeting it was decided to use neither name and they took the name, sponsored by the rail¬ road officials, ’’Bonaire”, because, they said, this means good air. Before Bonaire came into existence there was a settlement around a mill, called Wellborn, after William Wellborn the

The figures on this map show the principal sites where Indian drawings have been found. guide.


In most cases these spots cannot be found without a

easily accessible



(Cave no. 7).



no 2)

and Fontein

The Indian drawings of Spelonk. (Photo: K. Mayer)

owner of the mill on Sandy Run Creek. After the mill had ceased to exist in the late 1860’s, the community was known as Feagin Settlement after the postmaster George Feagin. In 1912 the town of Bonaire was incorporated by the Georgia General Assembly, but the charter has been inactive for fifty years. Because of the Air Force Base the population increased; there are highly populated trailer courts around. The people not working at the Base work in the beer factory (Pabst), the can factory, a glass factory or, as in the olden times, they do some farming. There are plenty of shops and no less than five churches, all protestant. Postmistress Mary Wheelus wrote us, that the Bonaireans of Georgia know of the island, because of Trans World Radio. So far about the village of the same name in the United Sta¬ tes. Let us go back to our island. Leaf-chewing inhabitants Judging from their appearance and manner the inhabitants were fierce — at least that is how Vespucci describes the aborigenes — but on seeing the strangers the Indians came up to them and acted friendly. They were chewing leaves. Some of them stuffed their mouths so full that they were barely able to speak. From their necks were suspended hollowed-out


calabashes. In one of them they kept the leaves, in the other a substance resembling flour. A little stick, which the Indians first moistened in their mouths, they stuck into this flour-like powder, after which they put it in their mouths again, to¬ gether with the leaves. What kind of powder this was, Vespucci does not explain. He does tell us that the Spaniards, intimating that they were thirsty, did not get water, but a quantity of leaves with ’’flour”. From this they concluded that the Indians by these means quenched their thirst. As we all know, dew gathers on cer¬ tain leaves. Subsequently, on making a one and a half days’ journey across the island, the travelers — Vespucci does not relate where they slept, they may have returned on board for the night — came upon some women with a calabash full of w&tcr. They did not find any village or hamlet on Bonaire, and the inhabitants did not even have huts. They protected them¬ selves from the sun by means of large leaves. When they left, the travelers got fresh fish and some tur-

Coral plant, a beautiful picture, taken by Andre Corsten. Official name : Soft Coral Plexaurella nutans.


ties Continuing his voyage, Vespucci also called at Curasao, but not at Aruba, since he was following the shoreline once more. Bonaire inhabited by Arowaks The Indians whom Amerigo Vespucci encountered on Bo¬ naire were Caiquetios, an Arowak tribe still living in the stone age The Caiquetio territory comprised Bonaire, Cura¬ sao and Aruba as well as part of Venezuela; namely the Fal¬ con plains as far as La Vela on the peninsula of Paraguana; o- the east coast of Zulia it stretched from La Vela as far as the mouth of the river Jaracuy. In consequence they were virtually continental Indians. Because they hunted too inten¬ sively in the forests where they lived, the wild animals were becoming extinct. So gradually they traveled to the coastal areas where they learned navigation. In canoes called piraauas hollowed-out tree trunks, they sailed to the islands. Con¬ tact 'was kept with the coastal areas rather than between the islands themselves. The Indian drawings may have a magical import The Caiquetios knew the length and breadth of Bonaire. But from the presence of marca di Indjan, as the Indian draw¬ ings are called on the island, it may be deducted that they inhabited the area between Onima and Northern Bolivia, close to the north shore, where the climate is mild. Where more¬ over, they had the water of Fontein within reaching distance. To this day Boca Onima continues to be used by fishermen as a landing-place during calm periods. At Spelonk, Ceru Pungi and Ceru Grita-Cabai one finds drawings on sites that may have been inhabited by the Bo¬ naire Indians. Pos Calbas, farther to the south, also had a water-supply sufficient to support a settlement. It has been supposed that the Indians at Ceru Pungi obtained their water from Pos Letin. The Indian drawings were not writing in the proper sense of the word; their import was magical. These drawings are usually encountered in caves. They may have had some sym¬ bolic function relating to the sacrifices offered up in these caves. The drawings are commonly found on the ceilings which seems to suggest some connection with the vault of heaven. At every place where the drawings have been found, there are


many figures which have no known meaning or interrelation¬ ship —though it is sometimes possible to recognize snakes, li¬ zards, the sun and similar objects. A hand with fingers also occurs frequently. So far no investigator has been able to provide a satisfac¬ tory explanation for their significance; nor has it been possible to ascertain their age.

Here and

there you will see

cactuses decorated in the above manner.

Some believe they can protect themselves from evil spirits by doing this.



Sixty Spaniards on Bonaire Shortly after Vespucci, another Spanish vessel dropped an¬ The Caiquetlos cannot have been very pleas¬ ed about the way the Spaniards thought fit to renew their friendship Cristobal Guerra, leader of the party, rounded up a number of Bonaire Indians and carried them off on board his shin Guerra subsequently sold these Bonaire Indians in Spain. In 1501 they came into the hands of a priest who set them free and with the help of the authorities, had them brought back. chor off Bonaire.

All the Indians deported Barely fifteen years after the discovery, in 1513 — ’15, all of the 2.000 or more Indians inhabiting Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao were deported to Espanola (the island which now comprises the Dominican Republic and Haiti), where they were put to work in the copper-mines. For almost a decade Bonaire, Curagao and Aruba remained practically uninhabited. In 1526 an influential civil servant at Espanola, Juan de Ampues, asked and obtained permission to found a colony on the three islands with the ostensible pur¬ pose of promoting the timber-trade. In reality it was to catch Indians living on the Continent as slaves. In 1527 Ampues sent some 200 Caiquetios to Curagao. The repopulation of Bonaire may be presumed to have taken place at that very time because numerous Caiquetios were leaving the Continent owing to the inhuman administration carried on there by German banking-houses — first Ehinger of Konstanz, and later Welser of Augsburg. These Germans had received Venezuela as a security for loans supplied to Charles V. Livestock taken to Bonaire in 1527 On their trips from Espanola to Curagao the Spaniards, in addition to people, also carried livestock and utensils, which were distributed among the three islands. In this manner animals of European origin, such as horses, cattle, donkeys, goats, sheep, pigs, etc. arrived via Espanola on Bonaire. For the rest the Spaniards did not bother very much about the colonization of Bonaire. The island came to be used as a


place of exile for undesirable elements in the province of Ve¬ nezuela. When the Dutch landed about sixty Spaniards were living on there, an uncommonly large number as compared with Curagao, where there were only a very few of them.

During the stirring years of the end of the 18th century fortresses were built on the islands.

In 1796 Fort Republic (now Fort Nassau) was built

on Curasao, and Fort Zoutman on Aruba.

This old photograph, from 1896,

shows the fortress built, presumably during the same years, on Bonaire, FORT ORANGE.

Height of the walls varies from 7 to 8 feet.

the Commander of the Island lived in the fort.

Till 1837

Since there were only very

few houses around, the ’’capital” was often called ’’the Fort”. Fort Orange never saw action.

During the years it served as government

center and depot for government goods. in the fortress.

One also found the prison with¬

Until November 20, 1971^ Fort Orange was Police and

Fire Brigade Headquarters.

Probably in 1868 or ’69 a wooden lighthouse

was built in the fortress (see photograph).

In 1932 this wooden structure

was replaced by a stone built lighthouse (see page 88).


Scenes such as this are not unusual as you make trips over the island. (Photo: K. Mayer)

Rincon founded by the Spaniards A veedor or surveyor acted as administrator. On the spot where the path leading from the lower part of the island to the landingplace in the north, at present called Slagbaai (= Slachtbaai = Slaughter Bay), makes a bend, the Spaniards had a settlement named Rincon (Spanish for corner). The fact that the Bonaire Spaniards moved so far into the interior compares with what they did elsewhere. On Aruba they lived near desolate Ceru Plat; on Curasao in a little town¬ ship called Santa Ana, now non-existent but which was in the neighborhood of Matancia. None of these spots, consequent¬ ly, could be seen from the sea. The flat country to the south¬ ward lay dangerously exposed to enemy inroads, and further¬ more, its soil was poor. Reasons of safety are sure to have been the most important factor in the choice of the locations of settlements on Bonaire as elsewhere. It cannot fail to have been an asset of Rincon that it happened to be situated in a fertile valley and was a breezy little place because of its lying in a bowl open to the prevailing wind, but this fact was not de¬ cisive.


A diminutive coastal fortress A second settlement, dating from the latter part of the Spanish era, was Barbudo. It resembled a small fort rather than a dwelling-place, and was situated a little south of pre¬ sent Kralendijk and west of the natural cattle-well (Pos di Ba¬ ca) situated close to the Kralendijk-Nikiboko road. Export of skins for the Curagao tanning-industry The Spaniards kept sizeable herds of livestock on Bonaire using convicts as herdsmen. In view of the fact, however, that the animals were allowed to roam about freely and that it was the Indians who were employed to round them up, one finds it hard to assume that the convicts overworked themselves The animals were not kept for their meat; with so few peo¬ ple on the island its value was so slight that sometimes it was simply discarded. On Curagao the Spaniards had a tannery and so it was primarily the hides of the animals in which the people on Bonaire were interested. These skins were tanned with watapana- or dividivi-pods, and they too, partly came from Bonaire. Cotton on Klein-Bonaire When the Dutch came in 1634 they found a small cotton plantation on Klein-Bonaire (Little Bonaire), which formerly is certain to have had a much denser vegetation including trees and coconut palms. On Bonaire itself the Spaniards, of course, also grew some crops for their own use.


3 Wood, Salt and Mutton In the sixteenth century Dutch merchants were the distri¬ butors of salt in Europe. The Dutch themselves used large quantities of salt for the curing of herring. This salt they procured mainly in Portugal. In 1580 when that country came under the rule of Spain, with whom the Netherlands was already at war, they had to go and look for the salt elsewhere. It was in this way that the Dutch sailors — primarily from the province of Holland — came to explore the Caribbean area. Punta de Araya (Vene¬ zuela) soon developed into one of the principal centers from which the salt was obtained. Once they had reached the north coast of South America, the Dutch also called at the islands lying off it. First Dutch ship In 1623 a Dutch vessel cast anchor off Bonaire, and the sail¬ ors were at once struck by the fact that there was such an abundance of dye-wood standing about the island which, more¬ over, grew conveniently close to the shore. It will be remem¬ bered that this had already been noted at the time of the is¬ land's discovery in 1499, and that Vespucci therefore had given it the name Isla de Palo Brasil or dye-wood island. What is dye-wood ? Dye-wood is a forgotten, unknown product today. It used to have various names : brasil wood from its rudy colour (brasil means red; brazen and to braise, too, derive from this old Portuguese word), campeachy wood from the Gulf of Campeachy in Mexico, where it was plentiful, and finally stockfish wood, either owing to the peculiar stockfishlike form of its bark or from the legendary island of Stocafixo. The little tree is capriciously formed and owed its economic value to the cardinal red dyes that could be obtained from the wood by rasping it or grinding it fine. The Dutch textile in¬ dustry used it liberally. The official name of the tree is haematoxylon brasiletto Karst and, although reckless cutting caused it to disappear, one may find the dyewood-tree on the island, especially between Kralendijk and Karpata.


, 7^ on ™ tionaire Knnnirp since 9ince 19h0; he married a woman r*.i0O TTpitl^nnia has lived ao^v, from Bonaire. He has a small private zoo with ^^T^L and the island You see him here with a flamingo. He also has turtles an many species of birds.

At the Souvenir Industry Heitkomg you *****

remembrances of the island such as a gold flamingo on a tor oise


Much guaiac also grew on Bonaire (Guaiacum officinale, from which the Papiamento name Wayaca), used at the time for medicinal purposes. It was appreciated by the Dutch for its tremendous hardness and was especially suited for the making of ships’ pulley-blocks. More visitors from Holland and Zealand This first call of 1623 was destined to be followed by many others. Only a few months later sailors from the province of Holland and its neighboring province of Zealand revisited the island. Dye-wood and guaiac were reasons enough in themselves, but the sheep walking freely about formed the added enducement of rustling to crews forced to live on dried meat which, more often than not, was years old. The meat virtually had no value for the Spaniards, they sometimes simply flung it into the sea for the sharks to feed on. Nevertheless they were not enthusiastic about the calls of these Holland and Zealand ships. They incited the Indians to oppose the landings, sometimes to good effect. Those attempting to come by a lag of mutton cheaply, some¬ times paid dearly. On one occasion seven dead marauders had to be left behind.

Until recent years Bonaire boasted wild horse.

Their tail and mane grew

to be very long and the animals were extremely shy.

At present there

is only one horse left on the Island, a tame one.


Alone on the coast : Niki Tromp at Boca Onima.

Antriol founded by Spanish prisoners of ivar. The little town of Antriol or Entrejol owes its existence to a seafarer, Boudewijn Hendricksz, who, after being burgomas¬ ter of the famous little cheese-town of Edam in Holland, found his vocation on the high seas. He made an attempt to the coastal settlement of Punta de Araya and captured eleven Spaniards and Portuguese. On April 10, 1626 — at Easter, as it happened — Hendricksz called at Bonaire and released his prisoners there because they were such heavy eaters that they sadly depleted his ship’s stores. These Spaniards and Portuguese are supposed to have settled ”al interior”, that is, in the interior. From al interior the name of the little township is assumed to derive, which also occurs as Dentera (now only with the older generation), as Antriol and Entrejol. 1636 : Bonaire occupied There have been various reasons why the Dutch, whose calls at the Caribbean islands were becoming more and more nume¬ rous, ultimately resolved to occupy Curagao permanently. Their principal desire was to possess a naval base from which they could harass Spain, which was then at war with the Netherlands. Undecided as to whether Bonaire or CuraQao was more suit¬ able, they settled on the latter with its sheltered harbour.


The Dutch secured Curagao in 1634; the expedition fitted out for this purpose sailed by way of Bonaire. Once on Curagao, lying at the very heart of the enemy-ruled area, the Dutch were obviously forced to occupy the neigh¬ boring islands as well in order not to be taken in flank. More¬ over, they intended to make their colony as far as possible a selfsupporting one: Aruba was destined for horse-rearing, Bo¬ naire was to continue its shipments of meat to Curagao and in addition it was intended that the local salt-making and maize-growing should be developed. These were the motives causing the Dutch to occupy Aruba and Bonaire shortly after March 23, 1636, nearly two years af¬ ter their occupation of Curagao. On the site of the little Span¬ ish fort they erected a somewhat more imposing stronghold garrisoned by 40 whites, 13 negroes and 7 indians. In 1639 its defenders boasted four iron cannon; no inconsiderable ar¬ mament for the time. » Drenched Spaniards mistake salt-stack for a fort The construction of the little Bonaire fort with a view to forestalling any Spanish attempt at reconquering Curagao was a very wise move, as was proven in 1642, when the attempt was actually made. Somewhere on the south coast the Spaniards made a night¬ landing, headed by the Governor of the province of Venezuela, Ruy Fernandez de Fuenmayor. It was no easy matter for

Old English cannon from 1811 on Fort Oranje.


In remote places there is no water; people must carry it from the wells.

there was a heavy sea running and the whole force came al¬ most drowned. Once they had got ashore soaken wet the in¬ vaders saw something white glittering in the distance. One of the soldiers, Juan Frances, familiar with the island, assert¬ ed that this was the Dutch fort. Very carefully the attackers moved upon it but on getting closer they saw they had not been advancing on the fort, but on a big salt-stack....... An Indian then indicated that the fort was about two and & half miles marching farther inland. One cannot march at the double across rugged boulders and rocks, and when dawn broke upon them there could of course be no more question of a sur¬ prise. The soldiers, who were drenched getting ashore, were fairly exhausted after this march and their commanding offi¬ cer called a halt. , , Suddenly the cannon of the fort roared so that it seemed ad¬ visable to continue the advance. However, even before the Spaniards had closed in upon the fort, the Dutch, believing they were faced with heavy odds, had evacuated it and put out to sea in a vessel lying in the road-stead. Peter Stuyvesant avenges Bonaire For a week the Spaniards remained on Bonaire. But fear¬ ing that Peter Stuyvesant, then the Dutch West India Compa¬ ny director of CuraQao, would try to attack they withdrew after setting fire to the fort and the houses.


This induced Stuyvesant to send a governor to Bonaire, Jacob Polak, subsequently styled lieutenant-general and ac¬ cordingly a military man of high rank. Polak restored order and informed Stuyvesant of the ruthlessness of the Spaniards. Stuyvesant instantly made preparations to set out for Puer¬ to Cabello to retaliate in kind. For, apart from being a stra¬ tegic point, Bonaire was also of vital importance to the Cura¬ sao garrison because of its livestock, and had gained some ad¬ ditional value by its exports of dye-wood and of the wool of its sheep. Via Aruba, where he hoisted on board some horses in order to have some cavalry at his disposal on land, Stuyvesant head¬ ed for Cape San Roman. The result was a retaliatory foray lasting the better part of a fortnight. Our account of this expedition has brought us to a point some years in advance of the present stage of our narrative. We will, therefore, go back to the time when the Dutch took possession of the island.

A type of funchi flour, or corn meal, which is the basic food on the is¬ land, is made from mats.

Photo of the harvest, by K. Mayer.


4 The 1639 Economic Development Project When Curacao had been Dutch for slightly less than a year a man was sent out by the Dutch West India Company who, in modem terminology, brought the Colony its first economic development project. This was Jan Claeszoon van Campen Formerly he had been Commander of St. Maarten and had been driven away from there by the Spaniards m 1633. The gist of the project of 1635 was development of the capacity ot the soil in the colony of Curagao. . , . ,, When Aruba and Bonaire were also occupied in lbdb, tne Dutch West India Company not only considered these islands as constitutional dependencies of CuraQao, but, basing them¬ selves on the right of conquest, also as economic dependencies. This concept had as its consequence the drawing up in lbjy ot an Economic Development Project for Bonaire and Aruba which clearly revealed an intention of developing them for the sake of Curasao itself. The Company resolved to redevelop salt-making and maize¬ growing in Bonaire and to raise stock-breeding to a satisfac¬ tory level. On Aruba nothing but horses were bred during this initial period.

Here some fishermen are taking care of their nets.

About 6% of

working population are engaged in agriculture and fishing.


As far as Bonaire was concerned matters at once began to fall into a set pattern. As early as 1639 some government officials were stationed on the island and, as we have already seen, an adequately gar¬ risoned fortress was constructed. Stock-breeding was not to be promoted for the hides, as had been the case under the Spaniards, but to provide the ta¬ bles of Curagao’s new inhabitants with legs of mutton and haunches of goat. This was no simple thing for together with the Spaniards, the Indians had also left in 1636. They were afraid of the Dutch, who had been represented to them by the catholic Spa¬ niards as depraved heretics. In consequence Bonaire remain¬ ed virtually uninhabited from 1636 to 1639. But where there is work — and Bonaire was soon able to provide work once more — there will be workers too. The more so, because the Indians west of Maracaibo had not yet been subjected in 1639 and the passive Caiquetios would rather watch the livestock of the heretics than fight the Spaniards on the mainland.

At the occasion of the opening of Hotel Bonaire in 1963 a special postage stamp, designed by P. M. van Lienden, was issued (top left). Followed by the stamp commemorating World Broadcasting System

the opening of the studio

of the Dutch

(Radio Nederland Wereldomroep) in 1969

(top right). When in 1970 Trans World Radio celebrated its fifth anni¬ versary on Bonaire two stamps, designed by Charles S. Cor sen, were is¬ sued by the Postal Service (bottom).


5 The Rise of Bonaire’s Population As salt-making and maize-growing prospered, the Dutch West India Company also carried Africans to Bonaire, via Cu¬ racao, where after 1662 a big slave-market came into existence. By 1700, however, the total number of slaves was no more than 97, from which it may be concluded that stock-raising, in which the Indians were employed, was more important. The Africans constituted the second element of the popula¬ tion and as time went on became the most prominent. White settlement prohibited Whites were few at first, because the Company did not per¬ mit the settlement to white persons on either Bonaire or Aruba. This was an outcome of the land-policy the Company had

Fishermen close to Kralendyk.

In the background the office of Water

Supply and Public Works (the old dwelling house of Bubuchi Debrot, later Pasanggrahan, see page 72).


Wedding procession around 1895.

adopted. On Curasao white colonists had established themselves on Company land and because of the impossibility of proper supervision on Aruba and Bonaire, settlement here was simply forbidden. Except for the Commander and his family and some soldiers, therefore, there were no white people. Nevertheless there arose a small white group. Soldiers, on the expiration of their contract sometimes stayed on either married to or cohabiting with an Indian or colored woman. Their children were not entirely white. By the close of the 18th century the Company’s authority diminished and clandestine white settlement began to appear. Among these whites, es¬ pecially the soldiers, there was a considerable number of nonDutch. Rincon, a "breeding-place of slaves”

Salt-making gradually became Bonaire’s greatest source of revenue. The Company therefore after 1700 sent an ever-increas¬ ing number of slaves to the island. They settled in Rincon. On the face of it, it was an odd arrangement because the only saltpond — on the site of what is at present Blauwe Pan (Blue Pond) — lay on the low west coast. The slaves consequently had to tramp there by a foot-path, the camina di piedra, along the shore. This path was a little shorter than the present road, which of course did not exist at the time, but nevertheless the slaves had a six to seven hours trudge. In settling this slave-contingent at Rincon, however, the authorities had a definite aim in view. By allowing all the slaves to live together, they called into being what was termed ”a breeding-place of slaves”. Establishments of this kind were 25

by no means unprecedented. Our modem feelings may be of¬ fended by it, but this type of settlement existed elsewhere too until well into the 19th century. _ , T Almost all of these slaves were owned by the Dutch West In¬ dia Company. But with the development of white settlers, private slaves also arrived. When in the end of 1791 the Dutch West India Company ceased to exist, the Netherlands claimed its rights and the Com¬ pany slaves were designated as government- or crown-slaves, in Papiamento catibu di rei, or king’s slaves. Warehouse of the king

East of Kralendijk on the plantation Amboina ruins are standing which have always been called the Cas or Magasina di Rei (house or warehouse of the King). It was a building that has been approximately 98 by 32 feet (30 by 10 meters). South of the Magasina di Rei the outlines of the slave houses that stood here formerly can still be seen. It is said that the whole section of the Magasina di Rei towards the east was cul¬ tivated and they grew small maize or sorghum there. On the

Bonaire Technical School, established in 1952.


plantation Amboina and adjacent plantation Aruba there were a few wells that had rather good drinking water. The free colored became a separate group

From the slaves another element of the population develop¬ ed, that of the1 free colored. Slaves could be set free, as reward for certain services. It was also possible for them to buy their freedom (for approxi¬ mately $200.) Slaves not infrequently received rewards in money and were generally permitted to raise vegetables or fruit on their ’’own” little plots of the plantation; these they were allowed to sell. Though they could have no actual pro¬ perty according to the law, they were permitted to keep these savings. Freedmen of this kind cut themselves a clearing from the forest, built a cabin and a goat-corral there and gradually ac¬ quired property. Disappearance of the last of the Indians about 1810

The Indians gradually disappeared. Some of them left the island, because the Company allowed their livelihood, stockbreeding, to fall into neglect. Others mixed with the negroes, both slaves and freedman, whose number increased after about 1700. In 1774 there were still some full-blood Indians on Bonaire; after 1816 not a single one. Tradition has it that one morning shortly after 1810 the few Indians still on the island secured some boats on Playa di Lechi, the site of the present Hotel Bonaire and departed for the mainland. Especially under the original inhabitants of Noord-di-Salina and Rincon are found people who have certain characteristics of being descendants of Indians. Indians and freedmen not wholly free

The Indians and freedmen were free, but in spite of this bound to perform certain services. They formed separate groups of the population, and were dealt with by the adminis¬ tration as such. Each had a kind of chief, who of course, was responsible to the Commander, as the island’s administrator used to be called till 1848. The head of the Indians carried the title of Captain of the Indians. This title survived the Indians living on Bonaire themselves. 27

At late as the 19th century, when the Indians had either be¬ come extinct or had departed, one of the officials was "Cap¬ tain of the Indians". As his real duties no longer existed, he was commissioned to do every kind of odd jobs the others had not been expressly charged to do, and gradually the title dis¬ appeared, merging into that of Government Surveyor. Penal Colony.

If we add to this that Bonaire, at a relatively early date, became a penal colony for soldiers of the Dutch West India Company who were being punished, and for free colored per¬ sons, both mulattoes and negroes, we have touched upon all the elements from which the population arose. These convicts came to live at Rincon. In so far as they had been sentenced to forced labor at the salt-ponds, they had to cover the distance between Rincon and the salt ponds every week on foot, like the ordinary salt-slaves.

Lonely wanderer on the so-called Indian path of Onima by Boca Onima. This photo is typical of the landscape of Bonaire outside of the villages. Many of these places are well protected because the people on Bonaire are not spread out over the island but live concentrated in townships.


From the Hudson to Bonaire A unusual group of people were set ashore on Bonaire in 1660. On the banks of the Esopus Creek, a small tributary of the Hudson, the war had broken out which is known in Ameri¬ can history as the Esopus Creek War. One evening a number of Dutch colonists living on that river were so foolish as to fire into a body of Indians carousing there. Shortly afterwards the Indians surprised the little Dutch settlement. The entire Esopus settlement was pillaged and burnt down; at Wilwyck twelve houses were set on fire, 21 Dutchmen were killed and 45 captured. Peter Stuyvesant, then Governor of New Amsterdam, but still always Company director of Curacao, declared war against the Indians and drove them off. With the Mohicans acting as intermediaries, and armistice was finally declared. In May 1660 Stuyvesant sent eleven of the chiefs that had been captured to Curasao, in order to put them to work either there or on Bonaire, together with the negroes. The Esopus Creek War dragged on until well in 1664. This consignment of Indians — they were only eleven — quite obviously had no¬ thing to do with the slave-trade or with the infusion of new blood into the Bonaire population. It was simply a means of retaliating upon the enemy who lived in the interior of the co¬ lony of New Netherland.

± 1650 : A brisk lumber-trade The Development Project of 1639 is certain to have yielded satisfactory results. Though no official figures from the 17th century have been preserved, we know — oddly enough because of piracy — that there was a good deal of business being done on Bonaire shortly after 1639. Evidently the trade in dye-wood began immediately. As early as 1652 we find Joao de Ilian, who had settled on Curagao the previous year, dealing in horses and timber from Bo¬ naire. Some idea of the extent of the timber-trade may be obtained from the amount of booty that fell into the hands of an En¬ glishman, David Gilbertson, in 1654 — the Netherlands and England were at war then — while raiding Bonaire: 50.000 pounds of dye-wood rated at Dfl. 12.500, 80 U.S. gallons of salt valued at Dfl. 460, and some cannon, anchors and cables, valued at Dfl. 3.600.


Brandaris, the highest point of the island — 790 feet (21,0,80 m>

Few Soldiers Loading such a quantity of timber and *alt,™u J hf™ auired many hands and long working-hours, but so few sol diers were stationed on Bonaire, that they were unable to de fend it.

Tn 1642 there were 50 soldiers. , , When peace was declared between the Netherlands and Spain in 1648, Curasao ceased to be a naval ,baSwpUam Tam-

of the military guarding Bonaire decreased. William Dam pier who called at the island during his famous voyage round the world of 1681, only encountered eight. In 1701 their num ber had dwindled to five.

”No lighthouse, if we can help it” Those on Bonaire went in such fear of foreigners that m

1730 a plan to erect a lighthouse on hire s°uth-east eotuier o ^ the island fell through because it was thought that a 1 g house would only serve as a beacon to the enemy.

Not until some ships had been wrecked was a beacon-light set up on South Bonaire in 1762 on the site of the present light¬ house. It was a pile of rocks visible from the sea on whic fire could be burnt at night. 30

Fire on Mount Brandaris as a warning signal Nevertheless where Bonaire was concerned matters did not go beyond small-scale privateering attempts and piracies. The large expeditions launched against Curasao left Bonaire unmolested. No real enemy attacks have ever been made on Bonaire and it has never become directly involved in war. However, the havoc wrought on Curagao in 1713 by Jacques Cassart, threw the colonists into such a panic that arrange¬ ments were made to use Bonaire as a kind of signal-post. When danger was imminent, a fire was to be lit on the top of 790 ft. Mount Brandaris at night; in the daytime green wood was to be burnt to make smoke-signals. The distance from the top of Brandaris to the island of Cu¬ ragao is 25 nautical miles and under favorable circumstances people on Curagao would see the fire or smoke and take pre¬ cautions. A flat piece of ground close to the top was used for this pur¬ pose. Dry wood was thrown in a pile and, when necessary, set a fire. Because green wood was plentiful roundabout it was tossed on top; this caused quite heavy smoke. Although there is documentary proof that this arrange¬ ment to make Brandaris a signal post was enforced, no evi¬ dence can be found that it actually has been used as such.

Swarms of laughing gulls above the salt ponds. Photo : K. Mayer.


6 Former Exports of Bonaire In the 17th and 18th centuries salt and dye-wood constituted the principal exports of Bonaire, but not the only ones. The salt was obtained on the spot where now Blauwe Pan (Blue Pond) is to be found. The other salt-ponds were not constructed until the 19th century. In 1672 100.000 guilders worth of Cura¬ cao” salt was stored in the Amsterdam warehouse of the Dutch West India Company, the bulk of which came from Bonaire. Dye-wood which fetched Dfl. 24 per 1000 pounds in 1654, was exported in considerable quantities, but cut so injudiciously that the island’s vegetation suffered heavy damage. Until the beginning of the 20th century dye-wood was ex¬ ported to Amsterdam from Bonaire. In the end however the is¬ land could not supply enough, so it was imported from Colom¬ bia whereupon good profit was made exporting the dye-wood further to Europe. Klein-Bonaire also plays its part

Much of the dye-wood was also obtained from Klein-Bonaire (Little Bonaire). In the 17th century this little island was covered with it. Here too, ruthless cutting destroyed the trees. Watapana to Hamburg

The export of dividivi or watapana was also rather impor¬ tant; the pod was used in the tanning process in the leather minSthe' olden days this was always shipped via Curasao so that the middleman also made a profit and the product became more expensive. „ , , When the transshipment expenses at Curagao became too high the vessels of the Royal Netherlands Steamship Company (K.N.S.M.) came to Bonaire to load dividivi in lots of 100 tons weight (500 tons measurement). , ^„T ., The export of dividivi continued until the outbreak of World War II in May 1940. Principally it was exported to Amster¬ dam (for the leather factories in the Langstraat, North Bra¬ bant), Denmark, England and Germany (Hamburg where it was transshipped to the tanning factories on the Elbe where the greased leather boots for the East German farmers were made). 32

In 19If3 the Postal Service of the Netherlands Antilles issued the first se¬ ries of postage stamps with views of the islands. Bonaire was represent¬ ed with a photograph of the roadstead of Kralendijk (top left). In 1958, complimented in 1973, a series, designed by Harry Disberg (made from photographs), was put into circulation: flamingoes: available stamps 6, 50, 65 and 75 cents, and 10 guilders (top right). In 1965 another flamingo postage stamp was issued, after the Curagao artist Oscar Ravelo (bottom left). Mr. Ravelo also designed the series is¬ sued in 1972, again showing flamingoes: 4 cents (bottom right).

Series issued in April 1975, in commemoration of the resumption of the saltmaking on Bonaire. From left to right:

Design by E. van der Sar, Curagao.

Natriumchloride molecule against background of

colorful salt pond. Photographic detail of the saltmaking process. In the background heaps of salt. Map of Bonaire; inset: the ponds.


’’Jorki” for Curagao A letter of the year 1679 has been preserved from which it appears that there were about 8.500 sheep and goats on Bonaire at that time. Stock-breeding on behalf of the inhabitants of Curagao became an important industry. An American docu¬ ment from the 18th century designates Bonaire as ’’goat-is¬ land”. By the close of the 18th century there were 3.000 pri¬ vately owned goats and 150 cows. There was much more livestock than this because the ani¬ mals grazed wherever they pleased, mainly in the north and west part of the island, where they were slaughtered. Slachtbaai (= Slaughterbay) owes its name to this fact. Every forthnight the Curagao meat-vessel came to get supplies. The meat destined for export was salted on the spot. This salt meat used to be called jorki, from an Inca word charque de¬ signating meat dried in the sun. Pirates like a juicy bite too ! The abundance of meat was the main cause of regular com¬ munication between Bonaire and Curagao but it also lured pi¬ rates to the island endangering the lives of the inhabitants. Even if it was not plentiful the presence of animals made a marauding expedition worthwhile. In addition one could oc¬ casionally also steal some slaves. Consequently it was laid down in the Commander’s Instruc¬ tions that on the approach of an unknown ship the slaves work¬ ing in the open had to be collected and put into safety in the woods. Fortification on Karpata drives off an Englishman The involvement of the Netherlands in war by the close of the 18th century resulted in Curagao and its dependencies be¬ ing attacked by the French and the British, and finally in their being occupied a few times by the latter. Such soldiers as there were on Bonaire had to get into ac¬ tion in 1799. An English brigantine tried to cut out the government meatvessel, which sailed from Slachtbaai to Curagao. The English ship approached the meat-vessel but a wellaimed fire from the battery on Karpata, made the Englishmen think twice. This is one of the rare occasions on which Bo¬ naire had to fight off an attack.


Neglected It should not be concluded that Bonaire was prosperous. After the first years, when a fair amount of business was be¬ ing done the island soon shared the general neglect into which the entire colony was allowed to fall by the Dutch West India Company. Generally speaking it may be said that the importance of Bonaire after 1700 — for lack of information it is difficult to judge of the period before this date — was greater than for example, that of Aruba. Yet the island cost more than it yielded. An occasional pirate might think it worth his while to sail there to procure himself meat or slaves, but during the wars between the Netherlands and Great Britain the British men-ofwar which were constantly cruising about the Spanish Main left Bonaire virtually alone. This is sufficient proof that there was little or nothing to be gotten in the way of plunder.

Modern Kralendijk: on the right a school-building.


7 Bonaire under British rule From 1800 till 1803 Curasao was in British hands. Though Bonaire was not occupied, the British repeatedly called at the island. But matters changed when in 1807, Curasao came under British rule for the second time. The British did not know what to do with Bonaire and in 1810 decided to lease it out in its entirety including its 300 slaves. The whole island leased out to a New Yorker After some ill-fated experiments a seriously-minded lessee was at last found in the person of a United States merchant

By tying a stone to the mast the vessels are careened so as to enable repairs to be made to their hulls.

A scene like this may still seen on

Bonaire almost every day. To the right the offices of Water Supply and Public Works Left: fishmarket built in 1935.


and owner of a shipbuilding yard, Joseph Foulke, who had sett¬ led in Curagao in 1800. His lease amounted to 3.000 pieces of eight or pesos, i.e. ap¬ proximately $ 2400 at the present rate annually. In return for this sum of money he obtained the usefruct of everything the island, together with Klein Bonaire, could yield. He had more¬ over at his disposal over three hundred slaves, on whom he did not have to spend anything but the slight sum necessary to provide them with their usual nourishment, consisting of maize (part of which had to be bought abroad), meat, cadushi, okra and fish all produce of the island itself. All animals, houses, and utensils were at Foulke’s service. In return he was bound to feed and clothe the slaves. Money spent on repairs executed at his charge to buildings, etc., was to be reimbursed by the British Government on termination of the contract. All the ships Foulke was to employ for his imports and exports were exempted from harbor-dues both on Bonaire and on Curasao. With the exception of animals which died a natural death, the Bonaire livestock was to be re-transferred in its entirety at the expiration of the lease. Supplies laid in by Foulke were to be purchased by the British Govern¬ ment. Finally Foulke pledged himself not to transfer the in¬ terests of the island to persons or countries at war with Great Britain. Excessive feUing of trees The exploitation of the island’s resources which had never amounted to much under Dutch rule, being restricted to sup¬ plies of livestock for Curasao consumption, of firewood for the garrison and the warships and of some dye-wood, salt, watapanapods and moderate quantities of skins and pelts, was now enforced with greater vigor. The guaiac or wayaca trees suffered the most destruction. The old easy-going life of the slaves had become a thing of the past. It was a great piece of good fortune for the island that, owing to lack of shipping facilities, this unwise wasteful felling of trees was checked somewhat. If this had not been so, Bonaire, like Curasao an especially Aruba, would have been deprived of all of its trees. This waste of the island’s natural resources continued until some months after the Netherlands authorities had taken over again in 1816. Foulke departed for New York where he died in his 83rd year in 1852. When already very old he paid two more visits to Curasao in connection with his bu¬ siness interest and because of his in-laws, for his wife was a


Curagao girl, a sister of the Admiral Luis Brion, known from the Venezuelan war of independence. He did not, however, vi¬ sit Bonaire anymore. Relics of the stay of the British When sightseeing at Fort Oranje visitors may still see some relics of the British administration. Four cannon are preserved here, on dating from 1808, two from 1811, and one from 1812, which were left behind by the British. They have never been used otherwise than for firing salutes.

A good example of an old Bonairean home.

This house is from 1885 and

stands in NiJciboJco-Noord.


8 Historical dates of Bonaire 1499:

1499-1623 1513: 1527:

1623: 1626: 1636: 1639: 1650:

Amerigo Matteo Vespucci is the first European to visit Bonaire (most probably September 5th or 6th) and to report on it. The Spanish era. All Indians evacuated from Bonaire. Repopulation of Bonaire. The Spaniards bring the first livestock to the is¬ land including the first goats. Founding of Rincon as the seat of the veedor or overseer. First Dutch ship visits the island. Founding of Antriol by a few Spaniards and Por¬ tuguese. Occupation of Bonaire by the Dutch. First welfare project. Prospering wood trade. During the 17th and 18th centuries Bonaire is a Company Plantation and the Dutch West India Company does not permit white people to settle on

Kralendijk street about 1920. The building at left is now the discoteque E WOWO.


Cannon in front of Bonaire Trading Company is one of the 7 If on hoard of the English man-of-war Barhem, which ran ashore in the night of April 28 — 29, 1829 near the

Orange Pond.

cannons were thrown into the sea.

To set

the ship afloat 87

TJp till now 9 have been found.


more of the Barhem cannons can he seen in front of the studio of the Dutch World Broadcasting System. near Orange Pond.

The anchor seen above was found

Inscription on the cannon tells us where it was made: Carr on, Falkirk, Scotland.



± 1810:


the island. Still in the beginning, there were not many slaves. By 1700 there were only 97. As the other islands Bonaire, through the discon¬ tinuance of the Dutch West India Company, comes under the rule of the Netherlands Government. Time of confusion. English and French raiders make the coast unsafe. The English occupy the island a few times. The last Indians leave the island. Because the English did not maintain strict order during their occupation, white tradesmen begin to establish themselves clandestinely on Bonaire. They settle were the ships lay at anchor. Around 1810 Play a (= Kralendijk) springs up.


1825 : 1827: 1837:


The Dutch rule is renewed. Until 1868 Bonaire is exploited as a government plantation. Simon Bolivar visits the roadstead but does not come on shore. The oldest map on which the village Nikiboko ap¬ pears (spelled Nokoboki). Establishment of a catholic parish. Church built in Kralendijk in 1829 and replaced in 1948. The oldest mention of the name Kralendijk. Building of the Lieutenant Governor’s home (restor¬ ed in 1972, now seat of the Island Government). Beginning of Catholic religious services in Rincon; establishment of parish in 1858. In 1861 a church is built which was destroyed in a storm in 1908 and replaced by the present one. Willemstoren Lighthouse built.

When everyone was poor during the second half on the 19th and the be¬ ginning of the 20th century women were engaged in hat-plaiting to earn a living.

They made a type of Panama hat, which was exported prima¬

rily to the southern states of the United States, where it was worn by farmers.

The picture shows the way Bonaire women were dressed in

their Sunday best around the turn of the century.

See page 68.

1843: 1849: 1850:

1856: 1859: 1863: 1868: 1908:

1911: 1915: 1921: 1922:

1925: 1927:


1933: 1934: 1936: 1937:


Protestant Congregation established on July 2; church built in 1847. First school opened; a government school under leadership of the protestant minister. Tera Cora established. Stone huts built for accommodation during the night by the salt ponds, the so-called ranchos. Opening of a school by the Sisters at Antriol. The first steamship visits Kralendijk. Abolishment of slavery (151 private and 607 govent slaves were freed). The government sells practically all crown-land causing large private property holdings. The church built in Rincon in 1861 destroyed by a storm and replaced by the present St. Ludovicus Bertrandus Church. Telegraph connection with Curagao opened. First showing of a movie film (by the priest!). Telephone lines laid between Kralendijk and Rin¬ con. Wooden pier built at Kralendijk. The first tourist ships, Baralt and the Merida, vi¬ sit Bonaire: coming from Curagao with 365 pas¬ sengers. A soccer team was on board and the first soccer game between Curagao and Bonaire was held. Electric light in use; since 1951 run by OGEM. Seventh Day Adventist Church established. The Baralt and the Atlas bring almost 400 pas¬ sengers to Bonaire to help celebrate the festivities of the 100 year anniversary of the parish of Kra¬ lendijk. Protestant church built at Rincon. The tail of a hurricane causes great damage on Bo¬ naire November 1st and 2nd; half of the pier is swept away. The American ships America and the Baltimore run ashore near Kralendijk; the latter is a total loss. Repairs and enlargement of the wooden landing stage. Alhambra, the first cinema, opens (founded by L. D. Gerharts). First airfield in use on May 30; it was situated at Subi Blanco. Opening of second movie house; closed in 1939 be¬ cause of lack of interest.

Kralendyk Customhouse and Tax collector’s office (storey)




1943: 1944:

1947: 1948:

1950: 1951:

1952: 1954:


The Algemeen Nederlands Verbond (General Dutch League) establishes a library; this was la¬ ter taken over by the Cultural Center Bonaire. Establishment of an internment camp because of the Second World War. It was built where the Fla¬ mingo Beach Club Hotel is now situated. Foundation of the Bonaire Trading Company, one of the main firms of the island, by Lodewijk D. Ger¬ harts, bom in The Hague, The Netherlands. Mr. Ger¬ harts settled down in Bonaire in 1931, married a daughter of Mr. Julio E. R. Herrera and worked in his father-in-law’s business till 1939. In 1934 Mr. Gerharts started an electricity plant; in the same year Bonaire’s first cinema the Alhambra; in 1939 a modem bakery (the present Flamingo Bakery), in 1940 the Bonaire Trading Company. From 1946 1952 and from 1954 -1956 Mr. Gerharts was a Mem¬ ber of the Staten, the legislature of the Netherlands Antilles. Airfield built south of Kralendijk; after its exten¬ sion in 1955 it was called Flamingo Airport. Construction of the Kralendijk telephone system. Opening of radio-telephone with Curacao. Visit of Princess Juliana. Brion Barracks built (after the war the building became Beatrix School until 1967, since then the Council Hall, the Courthouse, the Foundation of Bonairean Art and Industry). Internment camp closed (see 1940). Water works begin. Establishment of clothing industry now called Cambes n.v. Consecration St. Bernardus Church at Kralendijk on November 7. Concrete pier built to replace the old wooden one. Realization of the Island Territory of Bonaire as an autonomous territory. In this year the colo¬ nial status of the Netherlands Antilles was abolish¬ ed and four independent island territories were formed. Bonaire gets its own island government which can handle independently the island finan¬ ces. Opening Hotel Zeebad in the former internment camp, now renamed Flamingo Beach Club Hotel. Parish of Antriol established; Our Lady of Coromoto church built in 1955.



1962: 1964: 1965:




1970: 1972: 1973:

Establishment of Souvenir Industry by Jules Heitkonig. February 21 Flamingo Airport opened. The fourth airfield of the Flamingo Airport open¬ ed. (See 1936). Telephone system becomes automatic. Light houses made automatic. Church of Seventh-Day Adventists in Rincon inau¬ gurated. Hotel Bonaire opened. Cambes Clothing Factory begins work. Trans World Radio goes on the air on August 13th. Construction of Hotel Sorobon begins at Lac; due to financial difficulty construction was stopped; construction resumed in 1975. Antilles International Salt Company begins to lay out salt ponds. First salt export began in 1972. Beatrix School built. First cruise ship of the new era visits Bonaire, the Bergensfjord on November 24. (see 1922) Unveiling of bust of the Venezuelan doctor, Jose Gregorio Hernandez on October 26. This came about through the initiative of Jose G. Provence. Dr. Hernandez is well-known because of his humanita¬ rian work in Venezuela and has many admirers on Bonaire First Sailing Regatta held. Bungalow hotel Debonair opened by Governor Nicolaas Debrot in February; on December 15, 1972 the name was changed to Sunshine Beach Hotel. Hotel Rochaline opened on January 1st. The Dutch World Broadcasting System begins using a relay sender on March 6. Opening of the Natural Park Washington on May 9 by the Governor Nicolaas Debrot. Opening of the discoteque E Wowo by Minister Ernesto O. Petronia on June 25. Foundation of Bonairean Art and Industry found¬ ed on April 11. On April 23 a new pier of 394 feet long opened in Kralendijk. It costs 2lh million NA guilders, and was financed by the Development Fund of the Eu¬ ropean Economic Community. Mrs. Alicia Pietri de Caldera, wife of the then Pre¬ sident of Venezuela opens a children’s play ground



which was donated by Venezuela. She also unveil¬ ed a bust of Simon Bolivar (23 October). Establishment of the Bonaire Petroleum Corpora¬ tion n.v., a daughter company of the Northville In¬ dustries (activities building site started August 15). Church of the Evangelical Community opened at Nikiboko (July 28). Construction started of the new hospital (July; building NAf. 668.477; fitting up and equipment NAf. 1.054.523). Foundation of the Instituto di Folklore Boneriano, which opens an exposition hall in Kralendijk (Au¬ gust 19). Opening new police-office (November 20).

On the road from Antriol to Lagun a bust of the Venezuelan physician Jos6 Gregorio Hernandez was unveiled on October 26, 1968. The road was named after the doctor the Dr. Jose Gregorio Hernandez Road. Doctor Hernandez (1861^-1919) is known in Venezuela as the ’’Physician of the Poor”, because he was always ready to help and he never sent bills to people who could not pay.

The memory of this benefactor is kept alive

and one tries to come to a process of beatification.

The Bonairean post¬

man Jos& Gregorio Provence, whose mother is a Venezuelan, introduced the action on Bonaire too, from where it spread to Aruba and Curagao. Often one sees the doctor’s portrait in taxicabs. On June 29, 1971^, on the 55th anniversary of dr. Hernandez’ death, a small sanctuary next to the doctor’s bust was inaugurated. (Photo Herbert).


9 The 19th Century The Economic Development Project of 1816 On May 7, 1816, the Union Jack at Fort Oranje was lowered and the red, white and blue banner of the Netherlands run up the flagpole in its place. The Dutch who took over from the British resolved to no longer lease out either the island or its produce. The damage done to the trees by a lessee like Foulke had been found excessive during the period of British rule. The island was to be run as it had been formerly — a govern¬ ment plantation employing government slaves. A very promising start was made. In order to raise the Bonaire livestock to a satisfactory level, 158 sheep and 16 cows were imported. Roads were nowhere to be found on Bonaire, only foot- or bridle-paths. In 1824, Nicolaas de Jongh, the owner of a sheep-pen at Washikemba, had the first wagon-road construct-

Harvesting of salt in the old times at Awa di Suid or Pickle Lake. See overleaf.


Salt industry nowadays.

See last chapter.

ed at his own cost. It led from his plantation to the anchorage. As time went on more roads were made, mainly by clearing the underwood away from the borders of existing bridle-paths This enabled the inhabitants to improve their rather primitive mode of transporting things by introduction of ox-carts. For¬ merly slaves had to carry everything on their backs. Blue, White and Orange Ponds Salt-making too, was receiving some attention. First of all a technical advance was made by damming off the existing brine-fields so as to ensure a more efficient exploitation. Of old these used to be, as we have said, the salt-ponds, where we find now the installations of the Antilles Internatio¬ nal Salt Company, known as the Blue Pond. New ponds were laid out. One pond at the south end of the island at Pickle Lake or Awa di Suid, popularly called for¬ merly Pietike and now Pelike, after the man who made them, Pedro Kelly. Halfway down Pickle Lake another one came into being in 1837, raising the number of ponds to three.


According an old tradition south of Pelike there used to be still another one, the fourth. The western coast on this part of the island lay so low that it was difficult if not impossible to distinguish. To help mas¬ ters orientate themselves in 1837 pyramids — sometimes erro¬ neously called obelisks — were erected to enable the masters of the saltvessels to take the bearings. Going from south to north these pyramids were painted red, orange, white and blue. Thereafter the ponds were often called the Red Pond, the Orange Pond (or Pelike), the White Pond (Caballero or Caba]e), and the Blue Pond (the oldest one, also called Salin’Abao). According to what old people remember there used to be a very tall flag-pole near the southernmost pond, the Red one. When ships were expected from the south the Dutch flag was hoisted. In addition to indicating where the ship could anchor, the

Pyramid built in 1837 near one of the salt-ponds. These pyramids served as beacons for the navigators of the salt-vessels, who, but for their presence, would have had great difficulty in discerning the low-lying part of the island.


Slachtbaai (— Slaughter Bay), where in former centuries the sheep and goats were slaughtered before being shipped off to Curagao.

The house

was built in 1868.

pyramids were also used as mooring posts. can still be seen at the foot of the pyramids.

Abrasion marks

The white pyramid was destroyed by the hurricane of No¬ vember 1, 1932. The orange and the originally red pyramids arThteilbluenpyr?mid is difficult to find as it stands amid the installation built by the Antilles(International Sah^^^^

Next to the blue pyramid is found the ruins of the forme seer's home which was in use until the 1930 s. Further there were dolphines and six barges to facilitate loading, an overseer was appointed etc. Salt-making a capricious industry Salt-making came to be a large-scale enterprise. Inl837 a sum total of 103.602 barrels of 286 lbs. each was jointly han¬ dled by 3 three-masted vessels, 29 brigs, 14 U.S. schooners,


English brigs, and 9 smaller craft. The salt brought Dfl. 1,50 per barrel. One of the drawbacks of the industry was the treachery of nature. Too much rain spoilt the salt. In addi¬ tion, the demand for salt was unstable. In 1839 no more than 35.290 barrels were exported (in 20 ships). In 1842 it increas¬ ed to over 100.000, but the year after there was so little de¬ mand that 159.000 barrels remained lying on shore. As a con¬ sequence the price decreased to 22 Dutch cents per barrel. After 1850 there were no more really good export-years. If some 50 or 60.000 barrels were shipped, the salt-makers could count themselves very fortunate indeed. That the salt-industry disappeared is due partly to factors of climate (rain) and to tariff-walls elsewhere. However blame can also be placed on the Government. They were very fussy about various odd administrative matters, but paid no heed to the construction of roads adequate to the transportation of the

The Island Government Administrative

Office, built in 1837 as living

quarters and office for the Commander of the island. of Commander was changed into Lt. Governor. was so delapidated it had to be vacated in 1959. for the Lt. Governor was built in another place.

In 18 48 the title

Because the building An official residence The Dutch government


made funds available for the restoration of the historical building


January 1973 the Island Government was brought together under one roof (offices of the Lt. Governor, the deputies, the secretary, archives and filing, the registar’s office and

the register op population, finance,


education, social affairs and welfare). The restoration cost NAf. 475.000 The architect for the restoration was Ben Smit from Curagao.


In 1856 the naval officer Gerard W. C. Voorduin visited Bonaire on board of the Dutch warship Venus. went.

etches were published. stead.

Voorduin painted watercolors wherever he

A colleague of his put the paintings on stone and in 1860 these This is Voorduin’s painting of Kralendijk road¬

From the etch we see that already before the opening of Bonaire in 1868 the capital was quite some town.

salt. As late as 1861 a horse-ride from Kralendijk across the rocks to Oranje Pan took as much as 3% hours. Even an iron constitution was hardly up to the double trip on the same day if it was necessary to put in some hours of work as well. It may be remembered that the laborers were living at Rin¬ con, seven hours (see page 25) from their work. Not until 1850 was there a change for the better. But by then it was too late. The beginning of Kralendijk In 1816, when Bonaire became Dutch again, its little capital


facing the roadstead consisted of no more than a few strawcabins scattered around a diminutive fort, called Fort Oranje, where the commander lived. Ships calling at the little port had to moor to a gunbarrel sticking out of the beach. Official¬ ly nobody was allowed to settle on Bonaire — it was not until 1868 that this prohibition was formally withdrawn — but when, drawn by the success of the first years after the resto¬ ration of the Dutch rule, some people did come to settle on the island, the authorities connived at their transgression. Thus a little township arose. In 1837 a visiting naval officer noted that a number of hous¬ es were in process of construction. Among them was the pre¬ sent Island Government Building, built from 1837 — ’40 as the Lieutenant-Governor’s House. About this time the name Kralendijk, that is Coral Rocks’ Dike, was adopted. The name is highly characteristic of the little place situated as it is on the flat part of the west shore and consisting of a dike of coral rocks thrown up by gales and rollers. Bonaire’s capital usually styled Play a The name of Kralendijk is only currently used officially or by strangers to the island. The islanders themselves call the little town Playa — that is The Beach. Simon Bolivar comes to Bonaire During the war for independence in Venezuela and during subsequent revolutions, refugees very frequently fled to the safety of the Netherlands islands. Most important of these was Simon Bolivar who, in 1816, lay in the roadstead for a spell on board his ship Indio Libre. Luis Brion, a native of Curasao who fought for Venezuela, dropped anchor off the Bonaire shore with eight men-of-war that same year. Warship wrecked at anchorage The island’s connection with Curagao was fairly good. Two sailing-vessels, owned by the colonial administration, maintain¬ ed the service between Curagao and Bonaire. As a government plantation the island was in constant contact with Curagao. Letters written by Bonaire authorities resemble those sent by a steward of some country-seat to its proprietor rather than as documents from civil servants. Dutch warships also used to


call at Bonaire with some regularity. In 1831 the Netherlands warship Sirene was wrecked in Kralendijk roadstead by a sud¬ den shifting of the wind. Her crew were able to reach the shore. The men were lodged in the Roman Catholic Church that had only recently been completed. This is not the present one which dates from 1948. Light on the King’s birthday So many ships were wrecked on rounding the south-east corner of the island, which is not easily discernible from the sea, that the authorities decided to replace the beacon con¬ structed in 1762 (see page 30) by a lighthouse. On August 24, 1838, the birthday of King Willem I, the lamp of Willemstoren (William’s Tower) was first lit. Bonaire merchants benefited by their contact with Curasao. When a lighthouse was erected on Klein-Curagao in 1849, Bo¬ naire traders contributed 90 guilders and even sent some slaves. Bonaire becomes catholic The Netherlands administration was mainly made up of Pro¬ testant officials. Among the military there were occasional Catholics. The majority of Indians and slaves had been christ¬ ened by catholic missionaries. Priests from the Latin America coastal region visited the


Fishmarket built in 1935.


Willem’s Tower, lighthouse erected on Bonaire’s Southern point in 1838.


Netherlands islands now and again keeping the faith alive. Pious laymen conducted devotional exercises. Foremost among them on Bonaire was Cornelis Martin (1749-1852), called Papa Cornees, who between 1772 and 1780 built a little chapel at Antriol out of mud and branches. This settlement is the oldest religious centre in the island. In 1955, when the construction of a new Catholic parish church was started nearby, the build¬ ers reverently removed a stone from Papa Cornees’ little house of worship to serve as ’’first stone” of the new church. It was the priests who had the cause of the freedmen and slaves at heart. They also began to employ the idiom of the people, Papiamento (see page 84). Their activities resulted in Bonaire’s population becoming almost entirely Catholic. After the restoration of Dutch rule in 1816 some attention was also given by the Government to spiritual guidance. The beneficial effects to be derived from the religion in the matter of obedience and subjection to the Government however was fo¬ remost in their thoughts. A Royal Ordinance decreed the ap¬ pointment of two priests to the Dutch Leeward Islands, one of whom came to Bonaire in 1824. Since then Bonaire has never been without its priest.

Rural architecture on Bonaire.

When making trips into the country one

still fairly often sees this type of cottage.


Bird’s Mass Bonaire Catholicism to this day shows traits reminiscent of times gone-by when the population was sometimes deprived of spiritual guidance for a considerable length of time. As a re¬ sult several population centres possess little houses of worship of their own, where it is customary to pray under the direc¬ tion of a layman and to bum candles. At Rincon people at¬ tend Bird’s Mass or Misa di Para. This mass which, when the maize is on the stalk, is said so early that everybody can be in the fields at daybreak to shoo off the birds coming to peck the ripening crop. Priest also baptizes protestant children In the very first period of the Netherlands West India Com¬ pany’s rule here, there was a ’’visitor of the sick’” among the military, a non-ordained Protestant pastor. As the garrison dwindled away this official disappeared. The children bom within this circle were baptized by priests visiting Bonaire. The priests on their return to Curasao, handed in these certi¬ ficates of baptism to the Protestant Elders and Deacons. The protestant congregation Protestants used to be so rare on Bonaire that it was not be¬ fore 1843 that a congregation was founded. In 1847 this con¬ gregation inaugurated their Kralendijk church, which is still extant, but without its present tower. This was added in 1868. The Curasao minister conducted services until, in 1840, the Government stationed a government teacher on Bonaire, who was also to act as pastor. Since then the Protestant congre¬ gation has never been without its spiritual leader either. Popular education by the sisters We have mentioned the arrival of a government teacher on Bonaire in 1849. There simply did not exist any education be¬ fore. Bonaire’s few upperclass families either taught their children themselves at home or boarded them out with Cura¬ sao relatives. When in 1824 a priest had settled on the island and had started religious teaching, the Catholic Mission made repeated attempts to procure the means necessary to bring to Bonaire something resembling elementary instruction. The authorities, however, dit not view these attempts with sympa-



Bonaire is one of the world’s rare breeding-places of wild rose flamingoes. Top: Here the birds are seen perched on their nests.

Bottom: Close-up

of the flamingo nests, small mounds on top of which the egg is laid. Few visitors will succeed in watching the flamingoes from as close by as this for the flamingo is extraordinarily shy.

Both these shots were taken by

K. Mayer on Bonaire.


thy and in 1849 themselves started a school.

Prom the outset this had a marked Protestant character since the teacher ap¬ pointed to it was pastor of the Protestant congregation at the same time. , J _ _ ._ . In 1856 the Catholics finally managed to found their own school led by the Sisters of Roosendaal (so called after the town in the Netherlands where their mother convent is situat¬ ed) From this beginning public education started. The Sis¬ ters became very popular here. As early as 1856 a female slave that had been bought off entered their congregation. Since then about thirty girls born on Bonaire have become Sistors. In 1913 the Tilburg Brothers settled on Bonaire. Slaves to Tera Cord The slaves, as we know, lived at Rincon. Many slaves who had obtained their freedom continued to live there after their emancipation because of family and friends. From these freedmen there grew a pauper group who, on an island where they were prevented from owning any land, could do nothing but eke out their existence as sailors or by illegal means. This led to public disturbances a few times. Forty five families of freedmen were scattered about the island in 1850. At the same time a considerable body of slaves were living elsewhere which started the little township of Tera Cora (Papiamento for red soil).

A picturesque road carries you to this point with a panorama over the Goto Lake. (Photo: J. Heitkonig )


10 Treatment of the Slaves The treatment of the slaves on the Netherlands islands con¬ trasted favorably with conditions elsewhere. The slaves had the benefit of medical services. There was a little hospital for them, there was none for freedmen. Slave-ordinances regulat¬ ed working-time (a 10 hour day after 1824, whereas in England the 12 hour day introduced in 1819 was considered a great step forward). In addition, slaves could no longer be sold out of the Netherlands Antilles after 1849. A little way beyond the Catholic Church one may still see what remains of the Magasina di rei (King’s Magazine), the

Near the salt-ponds small stone shelters are found. about 1850.

The slaves lived elsewhere,

They were built

but bivouacked at the ponds

from Monday to Saturday, having to make do with such shelter as could be found there until the Government had the above stone huts built for






Luis Brion

at Kralendijk.






weekly service for passengers, cars and freight between Bonaire, Cura gao, Aruba and Venezuela.

Government warehouse mentioned before, in which the food for the slaves used to be kept. (See page 26). Contrary to what happened on nearly all other Caribbean islands including Curasao, Bonaire never witnessed a slave¬ rising. On occasion the punishment of a slave was decided upon, but the result sometimes became a humorous anecdote. In 1835 a certain Bintura had run away. He was kept in hiding at Rincon by slaves and freedmen. Exasperated, the Comman¬ der resorted to threats of violence swearing that he would have the house of any person aiding and abetting Bintura pulled down — which the Government of Curagao forbade him to do. But Bintura was seized anyway and thrown into the Kralen¬ dijk detention cell. A day or so afterwards he escaped again. The man had tunnelled his way out of the cell and leisurely strolling past the sentinels (!) of the Fort went home ! Slave-cabins were not houses Every week the slaves used to march from Rincon to the saltponds. Only on weekends were they at home. When out work¬ ing they camped in huts covered with foliage which barely af-


forded them protection from the rain. In 1850 these fragile huts were replaced by stone bunkhouses at the order of the Government. At the request of the slaves, who were given a choice between large barn-like structures or small sheds, the latter were built where they could sleep by twos. The so-call¬ ed slave-cabins, which still constitute one of Bonaire’s tourist sights, accordingly were no real houses, but temporary shelters used by the slaves staying at the ponds. Their families lived in the homes at Tera Cora or at Rincon. Nature and doctrine It would be incorrect to suppose that the slaves had an easy life. They lacked liberty and numerous escapes prove that many preferred being destitute but free to being well-cared-for and enslaved. Moreover, cases of mistreatment did occur. Con¬ sidering the age this was not unusual: until the middle of the last century military discipline as well was kept by public¬ ly administered thrashings. The position for the female slaves in particular was unenviable. Various merchants and officials kept slave-girls as concubines. This earned them the jealousy of their mistress, against whom they were defenseless. It was humorous that the Commander was forced to ask the Government by letter on His Majesty’s service for his consent to use the government slave Maria as wet-nurse for Mrs. X’s baby. Slavery abolished in 1863 In 1863 there was an end of slavery in the Netherlands An¬ tilles. On Bonaire 151 privately owned slaves and 607 govern¬ ment slaves were emancipated. The owners of the former were compensated Dfl. 200 per head. A complication, strange in our day, was caused by the fact that whenever a slave happened to be mortgaged, this mort¬ gage had to be cancelled on his release. Many slaves left the island, most of them to return soon af¬ terwards. They only wished to taste freedom and being able to leave without asking permission. After 1863 it was only a matter of a few years before Rincon grew into a good-sized village. Government exploitation a failure When they were still ruling Bonaire, the Government repeat¬ edly attempted to bring into play other resources of the island 62

besides the salt industry. All of these attempts, however, were either unsuccessful from the start or were only temporarily successful. Stock-raising failed. The donkeys roamed at will about the country-side. They became a public nuisance when the sugarfactories abroad adopted steam-engines by 1850 and there was no longer any demand for them. In 1868 there were 1060 of them. They broke through fences everywhere and devoured the crops. On the Guatemala, Fontein and Mexico plantations the co¬ chineal-insect was reared which, after drying, supplied a car¬ mine dye. About 1840 the aloe, which is used in the manufacture of certain pharmaceutical products, was carried here and grown on the Amboina and Bacuna plantations.

Drip-trough for aloe. trough.

The aloe is cut off and subsequently put in a drip-

The thick sap leaking out of the leaves is an ingredient in the manufacture of certain pharmaceutical products.


Tobacco-, flax- and cotton-growing as well was given a try under one governor and abandoned by the next. Ship-building was also tried. After 1864 a few small factories making brick and tiles were founded. When Shell was established on Curagao in 1915, bricks from Bonaire were used in Negropont for the homes of the employees. Dividivi, exported to Hamburg, became virtually the only product of any importance besides the salt (See page 32). Little or no initiative may have been displayed by the Gov¬ ernment in running Bonaire, but the island had no need of support from outside. In 1827 there was a profit of Dfl. 4000; in 1850 it had risen to Dfl. 33.000. After the emancipation of the slaves, when labor had to be paid for, this trend was bro¬ ken. Bonaire became a dead loss and the Government resolved in 1867 to sell its land.


of landscape

west coast.

and industry


dern salt industry.


each other on

the low

In the background you see the conveyor system of the mo¬


The Island sold In 1867 there appeared a prospectus offering for sale the greater part of Bonaire with the exception of a stretch of land around Rincon and the south part of the island. In spite of the lavish praise bestowed on Bonaire, its sale realized no more than Dfl. 73.000 plus Dfl. 8000 for Klein-Bonaire. Buyers were J. F. Neuman Gzn. & Co. and E. B. F. Hellmund. As for the salt-ponds, no acceptable offer was made for them. It was not before 1870 that the Government managed to dis¬ pose of them for Dfl. 150.0000 to E. B. F. Hellmund. Almost the entire island now came into the hands of two people. Salt-ponds in Lake Goto and at Slachtbaai Bonaire’s new proprietors made a promising start. Before the year 1868 was out Neuman had had a house constructed on Slachtbaai and commenced making salt-ponds there and in Lake Goto. Sorry plight of emancipated slaves Many causes contributed to the ultimate failure of this new way of running Bonaire. The size of the parcels and the fact that two buyers took two parcels each prevented the emanci¬ pated slaves and moneyless freedmen from obtaining landed property. The whole population of the island, in so far as they came from slave- or freedmen-stock, had to hire themselves out in return for meager wages. Their plots of ground, which had been ’’concessions” for which they had been obliged to do some light labor, now became the property of landowners who showed a greater interest than the Government had done. The freedmen, who previous to September 1, 1868 had been permitted to graze their smaller animals on government land, regarded as communal property, were no longer able to do so. Many entered the employ of the new owners but found them¬ selves forced to buy foodstuffs and other commodities at the stores run by these same men at a great profit. Others became vagrants wandering about the island subsisting by catching iguanas and poaching. Remaining poor themselves, they contributed nothing to the prosperity of those who could have used their labor. Now that




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