The celebration of 200 years of the Dutch Kingdom (see related stories) no doubt will be viewed with mixed feelings by some in the Caribbean. After all, it regards colonial ties in which the slave trade initially played a big part. Moreover, the Netherlands did not abolish slavery until 1863, considerably later than several other nations, including France.
In the early days the islands’ natural resources, including sea salt, were exploited mostly to the benefit of the so-called mother country, never mind the dominant role of Dutch-owned or partially-owned companies like Shell, which initially pumped up so much fresh water for its oil refinery from the ground in Curaçao that agriculture became very difficult there. But a lot of “Antilleans” also found employment that way and others were able to continue their studies in the Netherlands.
The standard of living, level of health care and quality of education too for quite a while were notably better than those of many less-dependent entities within the region. In addition, the longstanding kingdom relationship helped provide the kind of political stability that stimulated foreign investment.
During World War II the refineries of Aruba and Curaçao were essential to the in-the-end successful battle against Nazi Germany. A good number of islanders also joined the Allied effort, while significant aid was sent from the Caribbean part of the kingdom after the big flood in the Netherlands and the opposite happened following natural disasters on the islands such as Hurricane Luis.
When the economies of Curaçao and Aruba went sour during the 1980s, causing thousands of people to lose their jobs, there was an exodus of mainly young people to the Netherlands that sparked social and public order issues particularly in large cities. For years this remained a hot topic, until the flow stemmed to the point where it was no longer seen as a major problem.
Then came the drug couriers and “bolita” swallowers carrying cocaine for which there was a lucrative market in the Netherlands, so what are known as “100 per cent controls” were introduced both prior to departure from Hato Airport and on arrival at Schiphol.
More recently the relatively large number of Dutch interns attracted to the islands has led in turn to concern about their taking away work from locals in practice. On the other hand, their presence seems to have aided in the development of tourism from the Netherlands, especially in Curaçao.
On could go on and on, but the point is that every potentially divisive situation was resolved at least to some extent sooner or later. There is thus no reason to believe that ultimately won’t be the case for the current political and governmental frictions as well.
There are good and bad times in all marriages no matter how they are characterised. However, these alone are usually no reason for a hasty divorce, certainly not in a relationship that has survived two centuries.