The Link between Madeira and Curaçao
All over the world you will find people with Madeiran blood in their veins, and one of them is Curaçao.
Curaçao is one of the former Dutch or Netherlands Antilles, formed by two groups of islands, one to the north of the Lesser Antilles (Saba, Saint Eustatius and Saint Martin or the SSS islands) and the other one off the coast of Venezuela (Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, the ABC islands). Curaçao was the one that maintained a greater contact with Madeira, because of the oil exploration of the Royal Company Shell – Curaçaosche Petroleum Industrie Maatschappij (CPIM), that settled there with a refinery in 1919. It was around this refinery that the development of Curaçao took place, and that attracted the Madeiran people. The saga of Madeiran emigration was immortalized in a memory of the voyage of 1944 made by João Perpétuo from Funchal to Curaçao, with the title ´Memórias de um Emigrante´.
The greatest emigrant waves of Madeiran people took place after the two world wars, with the goal to find a better future. Brazil was one of the preferential destinations of many Madeirans, but the options have extended to other labor-friendly markets. In the years 1929 and 1951 the emigration was directed by the Shell company, which allowed the departure of more than 4000 Madeirans. The refinery hired in the first phase local workers, but needed more staff in the following decades for the full operation. Therefore they arranged publicity in the mainland of Portugal, Madeira and the Azores.
The image of the Portuguese (and especially the Madeiran) people in Curacao, was that they were dedicated people who accepted even the hardest kinds of work. Various supermarkets and ice cream factories were owned by Portuguese people. Nowadays you still can find Madeiran restaurants on Curaçao, and eat ´Bolo do Caco´ and ´Espetada´!
More details can be found in Portuguese in the link below.
Also interesting is to read the book about “The Portuguese Immigrant in Curaçao”
Charles do Rego wrote a book about the Portuguese Immigrant in Curaçao. He describes the following topics: Immigration, Participation and Integration in 20th Century.
The rapid industrialization of Curaçao, based on oil refining, resulted in an urgent need for labor which the small community could not provide sufficiently. The Portuguese, mostly from Madeira, were among the immigrant laborers who came by the thousands from the 1920s until the 1950s. A small group managed to stay either at the refinery or in the agricultural and grocery sector while others came to join them. This nucleus of permanent citizens evolved since the 1960s onwards till the Portuguese emerged as a very strong entrepreneurial group particularly in the supermarket branch, but also in some other market segments.
Today the Portuguese no longer belong to a distinct migrant group but have become an integral part of the Curaçao society. The second and next generations have been assimilated in the Curaçao society and culture.
The process of immigration, participation and integration has been analyzed within the framework of both the sending and the receiving countries. It presents, also through the eyes of the immigrant, an excellent view on the outcome of the struggle to maintain one’s own culture and to adapt and prosper in a new society.