Myth or Real? Amerindians in Curacao, Aruba, Bonaire.


There is a big misconception about how Amerindian heritage seemed to be only common in the Spanish Caribbean, and also in Dominica. But the Dutch Caribbean, most notably Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao has it as well. Especially in Aruba, the Amerindian heritage is still strong amongst the people.

It is interesting, how many Curacaons, Arubans, Bonaireans of all parts of the islands still tell stories of their ancestors, which show that they are descended from Indians.

The proof of this is also the baptismal books of the various churches on our islands, which are already a population register for the church, also almost always indicate, when it concerns Indians. Thus, we find Indians of our islands back in the baptismal registers of the 17th, 18th and even 19th century. Even surprisingly, the last mention of Indians was in 1920, when it was told that there were no more Indians in Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao.

Who were they?

The Amerindians who lived in Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao were named Caquetio, the Caquetios came in 500 AD to the islands from present-day Venezuela.

They belonged to the Arowakan Maipure family who mainly populated the north coast of South America, their communities covered approximately 13000 square kilometers from the northern coast of Venezuela, including the Península of Paraguaná at the Northwestern coast of Venezuela between the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Venezuela, Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire.

They were known to be very tall, so tall that the Spaniards thought that they were Giants. They named the islands 'Islas de gigantes' Islands of the Giants. The men were known to be very robust and well developed, and their women to be very beautifull.

The Caiquetios attached great value to moral qualities such as: friendship, generosity, hospitability, respect, obedience and despised deception and betrayal. The norms that guided their lives were: do not kill someone of the same lineage, be giving, do not rob, do not commit adultery, maintain peace and friendship with others and provide food for guests.

The Caquetios in Paraguana, Venezuela, who were of course the same people as those in Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao followed the matrilineal system, the kinship was presented by the mother. 

The natural mother and all her sisters were the mothers of all their children. The brother of the biological mother were practically the fathers. The (extended) family was considered a important unit with the father the authority figure. The Caquetios practiced polygamy; The men could have alot of women, but they were not allowed to commit adultury. 

The Caquetios had according to the Spaniards a 'matrilocalidad' system, which permitted the men to visit the women's places but not vice versa.

Tolosa writes in 1546 a letter to the King of Spain, that the Caquetios were 'simple' and slept in hammocks. The hamaca (hammock) was a typical object being used by the Caquetios. The hammock was also used as a object for funeral rites. The dead body of a Cacique was put into a new hammock after the fire ritual. 

The hammock was renewed untill the disintegration of the body. The whole tribe came together for the final funeral rites that lasted three days. The Spanish also adopted the of hammocks on their ships, which proved to be far more hygienic then sleeping on the floor.

The politcal organizations of the Caquetios consisted of the supreme authority of the Cacique Manaure, in whom all the military, administrative, political, administrative, religious and medical powers was vested. 

This all changed when the Spanish came, altough they recognized the Caciques, unlike the Dutch who did not recognized them officially. Also known is well the Indians from Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao called themselves 'Caquetios', the Dutch kept referring them as Indianen (Indians), Naturellen, and sometimes the women were referred as Wilde vrouwen (Wild women). 

Contacts between the Indians from Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao and Venezuela.

The Caquetios in Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao still had contacts not only with each other, but also with the Caquetios in Venezuela. Since there were marriages conducted between Aruban Indians and Curacaon Indians, also there were Indians from Bonaire in Curaçao for baptisms. I will give some examples later. 

The Caquetio Indians from Curaçao could cross to and from Venezuela and Aruba very easily, which they certainly did very often, traveling by canoes, it was more difficult to reach Bonaire from Curaçao than to reach Aruba or Venezuela which are further away.

According to archaeologist Jan Haviser, they found that the Indigenous pottery in Bonaire was more similar to the pottery of the Aroa area on the Venezuelan mainland, while the ones found in Curaçao were from the Dabajuro type, that were also found in Aruba.

This seems to support the theory that the Indians from Curaçao were more in contact with Aruba than with those in Bonaire. This doesn't mean that the Indians from Aruba and Curaçao were not the same as the ones in Bonaire. All three islands were known to be inhabited by the Caquetios peoples. 

The reason why the Caquetios decided to also visit and even settle in the Islands were perhaps due to the availability of high-protein seafood. In Curaçao for example the main Indigenous settlements were situated along the inner bays, Fish and shellfish were known to be an important part of the diet of the Caquetio Indians from the ABC islands.

The Indians of the ABC Islands had good contacts with each other, so it appears that in 1677 there were 10 Aruban Indians temporarily or only just in Curaçao. There appeared to be contacts between the new Indian village Ascension in Curaçao and the village of Alto Vista in Aruba. Also, at baptismal ceremonies there were Aruban Indians who were godfathers of Curaçao Indians and vice versa. One of them was a godfather of the Indian child Phelipe from Curaçao, two Indians from Curaçao were godfathers of 3 Aruban Indians.

Also, there were Indians from Curaçao who visited Aruba, it appears that the surname Silvester was known among the Indians in Curaçao, also appeared on Aruba. The surname Quinones occurs on both islands. The same goes for the surname Tromp.

Religion amongst the Caquetios. 

The Indians on the islands were Catholic, partly because the Spaniards had converted them into Roman Catholic. After the Dutch conquered the islands of the Spaniards, an official instruction was issued for the director and preachers that they had to do their best to maintain the Reformed religion (Protestantism) under the Dutch Staff, and the religion should be brought to the blind Gentiles (Catholics), African slaves, and Indians.

Also in 1638, preachers were instructed to teach the Christian religion to the Spaniards, Portuguese and their children, as well as to the blacks and Indians.

Soon it became clear that the Indians had become too Catholic by the Spaniards, and it was impossible to make them Protestant. It was attempted to bring Indian children to schools so that they learned Dutch and became Protestant, even that didn't work. Interestingly, the fact that more and more is being read in sources that the Indians came to priests on their own to ask if their children could be baptized. Not because they wanted them to be Protestants, but because baptism seemed to be very important for them.

In 1677, the Indians continued to ask for priests from Venezuela, the Indians who spoke not only the language of the Spaniards, were also because of their religion they shared with the Spaniards, depending on them. That the Indians were still Catholic was mainly due to the Spanish missionary's system. If a priest was not present, Indians were appointed to help in the church and help the children until their 9th year to learn to read, write, and talk in Spanish.

A bishop of Caracas named Maestro Antonio Gonzales de Acuna, who was officially also the Bishop of the islands of Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, wrote the following about the Indians:

'The islands of Curaçao, Bonaire, and Aruba are the spiritual subject of our jurisdiction. Since the heretics or the Protestants had come to the islands, many families of Indians who were baptized remained faithful to the faith.'

The Indians always ask us to come to them, to build churches so that they could pray, bless marriages, and to baptize children. 

Although, the priests also cared for the Catholic Europeans and African slaves, who were also Catholic. The motive in 1677 was mainly the concern for the Indians of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. Proof of this is also the testimony of English pirate Esquemiling, who stayed in Aruba in 1688 and one of the Indians told him that they were speaking apart from Spanish, were also dependent on religious matters to the Spaniards.

Indian uprisings against the Dutch.

The Indians had different tasks they had to perform, they had to slaughter cattle, they had to regularly defend the islands from enemies, they had to find runaway slaves, cleaning wells, chopping wood. They also had to take care of horses.

The Dutch, despite the laws they had made about the Indians, such as that they should be left alone and that should not be enslaved. Father Schabel who visited the Indians on Curaçao and Bonaire in 1704, said that the Dutch were not interested in the well-being of the Indians. As in Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, the Indians lived a quiet existence, as long as they remained faithful to the work they had to do, such as cattle drifting.

However, there were some incidents of which the Indians stopped working for the Dutch. In Aruba, there was an incident which happened in June 1795 between the Indians led by the Indian Andres Tromp, who was from one of the well-known Caquetio families in Aruba and the Commander Specht and Company official Jan Hendrik Jansz, who was Specht's boss.

The commander had a conflict with the Indians from Noord. Presumably it was about free cattle breeding. In any case, the Indian Andres Tromp, who was a Cacique of the Caquetios in Aruba, rebelled against the abuse of the 'Herendiensten' by Company official Jan Hendrik Jansz. The Indian Andres Tromp caused a lot of problems, forcing the commander to go to his house together with his men.

When Andres saw that the commander and his men came to his house, he resisted with weapons. According to Specht, 3 to 4 of his men were injured, finally Andres Tromp understood that he could not win, so he decided to flee to Coro. According to Specht, a group of Indians went to Coro with Andres, but said they would come back for revenge. It is known that eventually Andres Tromp came back and died in 1820, it is also known that he had children.

 The other Indians went back to work.  The other leaders of the uprising who fled with Andres were allowed to come back with no punishment, although this was after a few months and they had to ask publicly forgiveness to the government in Curaçao. The other leaders were named Francisco Tromp, Andresito Tromp, Albert Castro, Pieter Castro, Frank Marten, Frankie Vrolijk and various others, whose name were unknown.

It seems that the official of the Company, the boss of commander Specht, was corrupt. He made use of the 'Herendiensten' for his own personal benefit. Jansz was dismissed from the service of the Company. He too was shot by Andres, at least five times.

Nevertheless, recurring protests against the colonial authorities were guided by descendants of Andres Tromp, at least until 1827.

Also interesting, is on that same year, on June 15th there was also a African Slave uprising led by Tico in Aruba, which could be connected to Andres Tromp and the Indians. Altough its possible that it had connection with the Slave uprising in Curacao, also in 1795. In any case, the Indians together with Free Blacks told the Slaves to rise up against the Dutch in 1843 in Bonaire.

In 1715, the relationship between the Indians and the West Indian Compagnie was already tense, and in 1740 the Indians murdered commander Pieter Boer, probably because of the harsh regime he imposed on them in Aruba. In 1769 the Indians in Aruba refused to transport wood to the harbor, this task used to be of the shipmates who came to ship wood to Curaçao. In 1786 once again they refused to submit to new obligations: in this case, it was the introduction of tax-measures.

Indians admitted that statute labor was their obligation, but paying taxes was not. Neither were they willing to assist in the construction of a defense fort at Horse Bay in to protect vessels of Curaçao trading companies.

In 1823/4, with the new introduction of the new colonial laws, the former 'statute labor' was reintroduced under the name 'labor duty'. Although the feudal connotation of the statute labor system was abandoned, male inhabitans between 15 and 50 years of age could still be forced to assist in public works, such as repairing public roads, cleaning water reservoirs and so forth.

Because of this, between 1824 and 1831 Indian resistance was related to the gold mining activities on the island in Aruba, in 1824, the Indians were obliged to assist in the mining activities, which they refused. In 1827 and 1831 - after government exploitation of the gold deposits turned to be unsuccessful, the Indian population revolted after it was excluded from private exploitations of the goldfields.

In 1826-1827, the Indians on Aruba went on strike again. Commander Plats had called them for work on the streets of Playa and the landing site, the improvement of the Paardenbaai. But the Indians refused, they were not slaves, but free citizens. Something they had always been after the Dutch conquered the islands of the Spaniards. They gathered and left for Simon Plats to sign a protest. Eventually, Plats managed to persuade them to work.

It is known that on all three islands, there were complains from the Indians about the their social-economic status. They felt that the Dutch didnt care about them, and that was true.

In 1806, the Indians in Bonaire also decided not to work for the government. The Indians did this because since the W.I.C ceased to exist in 1792, their privileges were increasingly deprived. And practically they were worse off than the African slaves. And that's right, even though they had their own garden with cattle. They still had to do heavy work, and their wages were always withheld. This was so because the economy was worsened due to the wars with France and England.

They were allowed to have only 25 goats, cows, donkeys, horses, sheep were banned. Also, they didn't get any new clothes or oxen anymore on New Year's Day. When before all of this, they were allowed to have more animals of different kind. And they recieved more clothes and drinks.

The Indians had prepared a petition with the help of a schoolteacher. It was then sent to Governor Changuion, but he gave it back to Vice-commander Palm who did not do anything.

Eventually Changuion told Vice-Commander Palm, to go to Bonaire and speak with a Pastor from Curacao, who was currently in Bonaire to tell him to go talk to the Indians. The Pastor in Bonaire had talked to the Indians, eventually the Indians went back to work.

And in 1795 there were in Curaçao complaints about the Indians having too much cattle. It seems that when the W.I.C was disbanded, more and more Indians were rising up against the Dutch since there were more incidents between Indians and Dutch people documented.

My opinion: The Caquetios considered themselves free, although they were not slaves, they were definitely not free either.

And most of the time they were treated better than African slaves. But yet their social-economic status was getting worse and worse and worse, so they stopped working for the government.

According to the Indians, they said that they were free people and not slaves, so they had the right to stop working if they wanted too.

Also why should they work when their wages was getting little by little witheld. No suprise that there were many uprisings of the Amerindians in the islands, but yet they were persuaded to work again for the Dutch government.

Were the Indians disadvantaged by the Sephardic Jews? 

The West Indian Company allowed the Indians to farm their own agriculture and livestock for their own livelihood. On condition that they regularly prove their services to the W. I. C.

In 1652, Jews came to Curacao as free settlers, and not long after there followed a second wave of Jewish immigrants. The Company felt compelled to take the Indians in protection against the new settlers.

It was told to the Sephardic Jews that they were not allowed to take a land from the Indians. If the Indians wanted to renounce a piece of land freely, that could be done at a reasonable fee and before the Vice Director. In 1659, the Jews established themselves as farmers (until in 1664 they left agriculture for trade, where they were found to be very good in) in Schottegat Oost, Jodenkwartier, between Veris and Rio Canaria and they also possessed lands in Suikertuintje.

Later, the Jews went more into trade and also ended up in Aruba where they bought horses and on Bonaire, where they bought stick-vishout. Also on both islands they were dealing with Indians. Now there seem to have been complaints, that the Jews in their trade did not play fair plays with the Indians, did not pay or underpaid.

The Jews decided to defend themselves against these accusations and explained that they had not wanted to bribe anyone, that they gave the director as goodwill a gift and nothing more. And that they do not want to obtain any new privileges or permissions outside the ones that they had previously owned, and especially not in terms of the permission and authorisation to trade with the Indians. Accusing of this kind, from whom they also came, were lying, false and fabricated.

Captain and lieutenant of the Indians

With the Chiefs, the Caciques, of the Indians on Curaçao the Dutch could not do much with it. They started to set up their own chef. About 2 or 3 Indians were Cacique by the Dutch. Adrian Balthhasar de Montero, Hernando, and either Juan Matteo and Martin. The Caciques proved to be unreliable because they were loyal to the Spaniards and were Catholic.

The Dutch chose a Portuguese Jew who had come along with them to Curaçao, named Samuel Cohen as captain of the Indians in 1635. This was not intended for the integration of the Indians with the Dutch, this was business.

The captain had to make sure that the Indians went hunting, slaughtering, logging, carrying water. This in contrast to the Spaniards who take the Caciques in their colonial administration to ensure the best possible for the Indians as a community.

Also slaves who fled had to be tracked down by the Cornet and Indians who were on horseback according to a rule in 1729.

Apparently the same kind of arrangement existed on Bonaire and Aruba, namely a captain of the Indians as overseer of their work as flock Guardian

The Dutch were practically not interested in the Indians as human beings, but only as a worker, despite some precepts about faith and education for the Indians.

The list of our famous captains and lieutenants of the Indians is not great. The history of the Ruijterij should be better known.


1635: Samuel Cohen, Captain of the Indians
1704: Jacob Zaunlifer, Captain
1723: Hendrik Evertsz, Captain
1767: Jan Ferdinand, Captain
1767: Jan Laurentsz, Lieutenant
1775: Jan Evertsz, Captain


1805: Jan van der Biest, Captain
1806: Joseph Franke, Captain
1816: Lourens Cries, Captain
1816: Nicolas Tromp, Lieutenant


1806: Jan de Groot, Captain
1822: Carl Magnus Neuman, Captain
1822: Nicolas Martijn, Lieutenant.

Pater Schabel praises the Indians from Curaçao - 1705.

The Indians of Curaçao seem to me to be of good character, and of good nature. This wrote the Jesuit pater Schabel, who was the pastor of Curaçao from 1704 to 1713.

The German-speaking pater was sent to the Indian mission in Ecuador in 1639, Quito, worked there for more than a year, was then transferred to the Indians on the Venezuelan River Apure and in the town of Barinas, where he stayed until 1698.

He then left Curaçao, where he spent four days from 3 August to 6 August 1698, to the Netherlands. In 1704, he moved from Amsterdam to Curaçao, arrived here in July 1704, where he came in contact with the Capucijner Pater Victor Dole. He wanted to stay on Curaçao, but therefore needed his credentials from the Bishop of Caracas.

So he went up the boat again, to Caracas and when he finally came back to Curaçao, he stayed here until 1713 working as pastor. Since he had worked among the Indians for a while in Venezuela, and had knowledge of their lives and mentality, he also paid special attention to the Indians who lived here in Curaçao.

In a travelogue he wrote in 1705, he talks about the Indians on Curaçao:

Report dated 9 April 1705, from America, on the new mission on the islands of Curaçao, Bonaire and Aruba and on the river Apute on the mainland of new Granada. Now something about the Indians living on the island of Curaçao, whether it be hundreds or thousands, is not clear to me, because so far I have not had time and have not seen a chance to go to them myself. 

I have often seen many of them in the city and at the port and have often talked to them. It seems to me Indians to be good nature, and good character. 
I have been told that they are called Caquetios and come from the Indians of Coro, just like the Indians from Aruba and Bonaire who also call themselves Caquetios and were from Coro. 

This means that they are descendants of the great Manaure, the Cacique. It was narrated that the Manaure was a Caquetio Indian, who would have lived in Coro and fled from fear of the Spaniards to the inland. 

To return to the Curaçao Indians, six years ago, the Indians already got to know me, when I did a trip through the island. I have baptized several children during my temporary stay. 

This was mainly due to the Cacique and Indian monarch who died later in Brussels in Brabant. This was a descendant of the great Manaure and a Caquetio who spoke their language. And because he was closely connected to him by language and kinship, he was very much loved by them and he could get everything done. 

I have heard about them (By them, probably some W.I.C Officials) telling them that the Indians, who at the moment were not integrated, lived in two settlements or villages on two parts of this island. 

It is said that they call themselves Catholic and Christian, but that they are only in name. Is it surprising? They are sheep without a shepherd. And according to the non-Catholic Dutchmen, They are just about monetary win. Sense, ' let the Indians and those black slaves reproduce themselves, anyway, we get more work forces. 

One must know that on this island the Indians and blacks are left completely free in the taking of a life companion. It may be this person today, tomorrow the other, or a blood relative in the first, second degree, it may even be their mother or their sister, it may be a one woman or even hundreds. No one is worried about it, no one is looking for it. No one will take action. 

As far as the Indians on Curaçao are concerned, their captain or who has been appointed as subordinate to them, is a German at birth, therefore a compatriot of mine, with whom I have already made acquaintance and befriended. By his doing, I hope to get all the freedom and the money to keep me occupied with the Indians, to win all those Indians for Christ. 

I was certainly told that when the island was taken over by the Dutch, the Indians were left free to believe in any religion. Therefore, in exchange for that religious freedom, they had to swear allegiance to the island's boss and promise to take care of the horses and cattle. 

When the new governor was installed as such after his arrival, an armed Indian militia was also present on horseback between the other military riders for the castle and the governor's palace. 

As far as the Indians on Bonaire are concerned, when I took a trip there, the Catholic commander who came from Gent asked if I wanted to baptize some Indians. That day I baptized thirty young Indians. He let the Indian parents, their children, bring them to me to, so I could baptize them. And they came very happy, and delighted. Because on this island of Bonaire there was no priest or father seen yet. 

I don't know if there are hundreds or thousands of Indians living on that islands. Among the Indian parents appeared a  soldier of German or rather of Polish descent, coming from Dantzig. He was married to an Indian woman and had a number of children that he wanted to be baptized. I also found many Indians on plantations that could now do the Easter light. 

The Caquetios lose their identity

The name Indian or Indians began in the late 18th century to disappear, despite the fact that there were still Caquetio Indians in the 19th century, they became Arubans, Bonaireans, and Curaçaons. In other words, they lose their identity and that is mainly because they are increasingly mixed with the rest of the population, from marriage certificate It was known that they mixed with whites, mestizos, zambos, mulattos and blacks.

The Caquetios also started to have more and more contacts with African slaves, Mulattos, Free Blacks, Zambos, and whites.

Thus, Pater Schnabel who stayed in 1707-1713 in Curaçao, noted that at the baptism of this child of Silvester, one of the main caciques of Curaçao was impressed by the presence of so many races involved in the baptismal ceremony. The father and mother who were both present at baptism were light brown and ruddy. The child just about white. The Madrina, Antonia, was a black woman and the Padrino was the Indian Salvatore, who was a servant of the Father Dominican, where Schabel was present.

Although speculative but yet interesting, is that in the archives and some recent publications, there were several remarks (mostly diary quotes of the Company director on Curaçao) in which reported that mentally insane whites colonists from Curaçao were brought to Aruba to be cured by the Indians.

 In 1720, Company governor Jean Rodier wrote to his superiors in the Netherlands that a Dutch widow had been sent to Aruba to see if the Indians were able to cure her.

During the 1767 census, the mentally disturbed Jacobus van Dam was living on Aruba. As early as 1723, during the efforts by Swedish mining expert Paulus Printz to discover metals on Aruba, his crew made use of the local Indian community to heal the sick and wounded.

Unfortunately, we have no proof as to the pre-Columbian nature of these healing practices.

It is known that the last Caquetios, who had not mingled with the population as the rest of their people, died in the late 19th century. Especially in Curaçao the Caquetios lost their identity faster than their brothers and sisters on Bonaire and Aruba. On Aruba the Indians kept their identity longer than the ones from Bonaire.

It is known that the Caquetio Indians were increasingly going to the cities to buy stuff, so they weren't really isolated. They bought food, tobacco, pipes, drinks and Delft blue.

These things were also found in their villages. They also started to talk more and more in Papiamento, like the rest of the population. Thanks to them, we also now have more than 350 words of indigenous origin. These are the words:

Curacao (Yes, it a missconception that the portuguese give it the name Curacao, when it fact when the Spaniards 'discovered' the abc islands they called the Curacaon Indians (Los Indios Curacaos) because they the Amerindians called the island Curacao)
Andicuri, Andicouri
Arikok, Avikok (Sero)
Aruba, Oruba, Orua
Ayo = Means bye (we still use it to say goodbye)
Behika, Behuko
Budui (Boca)
Boegoeroei, Bucurui (Sero)
Cadushi (Largo)
Cadushi (Sero)
Canashito (Sero)
Caushati (Sero)
Cashunti (Baranca)
Cucu (Sero)
Cudarebo, Cudarebe
Curuburi, Corobori (Seru)
Daimari, Damari (Rooi, Boca)
Dushi = Sweetheart
Eayac (Cuy grandi)
Guadirikiri, Wadirikiri (Cueva)
Guarero (Sero)
Hudishibana (limestone terrace)
Jaburibari (Seru)
Jucuri (Seru)
Kimbaima, Kibaima
Kivarcu, Kivarco (Sero)
Kukuiy (nickname)
Kajoechi (nickname)
Kudawecha, Kudawechi (Sero)
Kurimiauw, Kurimao
Maishi = Morning
Mahos (Boca) = Which means ugly (still use it as calling someone ugly)
Malmok ?
Noka (Sero)
Paraguana, Parawana
Sawaka = The underworld, the realm of the dead. In the old Papiamento there was a expression called 'Baha na sawaka!' which means descend to the underworld or die. In modern Papiamento it is used as Dead! or as a expression that something went wrong.
Shabururi, Shabiburi
Shidaharaca (Sero)
Skepou ?
Taratata, Tatarata
Teishi, Tijsji, Tishi (Sero)
Huliba, Uliba
Uña uña
Urataka (Sero)
Urirama (Boca)
Wakubana, Wacobana (Sero)
Wao-Wao (Sero)
Warawara (Sero)
Wiriwari (Boca)
Yamanota (Sero)
Yuwana (Morto),Yuana (Morto)
Yuchi, yiuchi (small child, we say Mi yiu which means my child)

Adicoura (Klein Curaçao)
Charomba (Salt pan)
Chinchó, Chinchorro
Cocori (Seru)
Curazao, Curaçao
Padiki (nowadays Patrick)
Pushi: Cat (we used this word to call a cat)
Wakawa, Wacao (Wacao is a surname, one of the slaveleaders had a surname of Amerindian origin).
Buynari, Buynare, Buinare
Cabuja (Seru)
Caracao (Seru)
Casicunda (Seru)
Garati (Pos)
Guarati, Garati (Kibrá)
Hobao (Seru)
Huba (Rooi)
Jua, Juwa (Seru)
Karati (Seru)
Kaumati (Seru)
Koahara, Koahari (Rooi)
Macutucao (Seru)

Guajira Indians on Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao. Red slave trade. 

From 1820 to 1895, with a number of years between which there had been no trade in children. A number of Indian children brought to the islands to work in homes of wealthy families, but also people who were not rich also had some children as slaves.

It is known that some Caquetio Indians, along with other merchants from the islands of different races, were known for trafficking Guajira Indians. This was mainly because since the mid-end 18th century the Free population were growing rapidly, due to the fact that it was easy to buy your self free, or flee to Venezuela, also occasionally slaves were released by their masters.

The Indian children came from Guajira, a peninsula of northeast Colombia, the Indians were taken along the coast of Maracaibo or the river near the city of Rio Hiacha. The Indians were always children, and teens. Sometimes even young adults. They were sold by their own parents in exchange for export goods like corn, firearms, beads or rum.

Apparently there was no preference for sex or age. In principle, the trafficking of children was forbidden, Commander Plats tried to stop this, but he failed. He pointed to the people who had Guajira children, that they should not treat the children as slaves, that they should give them their freedom if the children wanted to go back to Guajira.

That they had to become Christian, and that they had to learn to provide for their own living maintenance.

Also, Palm had made a list containing names of families who had Indians in the house, by whom they were brought, their age, what work they had to do, and whether they were already baptized. On according to him, when there was a list of 51 Guajira Indians made in Aruba, only three of them chose to go back home.

This also shows that the story has two sides, yes it is indeed wrong what we did with the Indians children from Guajira, but it is also sad and horrible that their parents themselves with pleasure sold their own children in exchange for corn, beads, weapons, and rum.

It is not excluded, but also not positively known whether there were already Guajira Indians before the events of the trafficking of children. And whether they had mixed with the people of the islands.

It is interesting to see that the Indian population, which slowly began to disappear because of the mingling and integration with the rest of the population, and also with some going back to Venezuela, began to rise again due to the presence of Guajira Indians.

It is also interesting to know that the Guajira Indians were a family of the Caquetios. Both belonged again to the Arawak, just like how the Tainos are also related to them as well. The Caquetios were even neighbors of the Guajira Indians. The Guajira lived mainly in northeastern Colombia, while the Caquetios that did not live on the islands lived in northwestern Venezuela.

The Indians were in any case baptized like every other person on the islands. And also had godparents, just like in Aruba, the Indians in Curaçao were not treated as slaves, but as domestic staff. Here, too, the Indians were satisfied with their stay. Yet one finds few marriages mentioned of these Guajira Indians. On Santa Rosa, Curaçao there was in 1908 a marriage between two Indians, both were Guajira and belonged to the family Seferijn.

Although the number of Guajira Indians on the islands was sufficient to fill a village, they did not count in society, they were mainly dependent on their masters, and they didn't leave any cultural traces on the islands or formed their own group. The Guajira Indians who had arrived at our islands had gone over the years  the same fate as their cousins, the Caquetios.

They lost their identity and  integrated into the population, which was surprising, since it was difficult to learn them things, and they were not seen very positively because of their physical features. In 1920, it was known that there were no purebred Indians on the islands.

Slavery amongst the Caquetios. 

In the ABC islands, most Amerindians didn't own any slaves, although it has been mentioned that a minority of Amerindians who happened to be not poor, had Black slaves, and also some who had Amerindian slaves. But both seems to be rare. It is known that the Amerindians treated their slaves more like a houseguest rather than an actual slave. Here are some examples of Amerindians who had slaves:

In 1736, Christomo: Slave of Minguel Alvarez. The Aruban Indian Minguel Alavarez bought in Curaçao out of pity, a poor departed slave, a Negro boy who arrived via a slave ship. He took care of this slave at acquaintances in Curaçao to let him rest, and to give him some strength. From there, he brought the slave to Aruba and gave him his freedom.

Indeed, some Indians in Aruba had slaves, as they could be seen in baptism books. A brother of Minguel Alvarez, Jacob Alvarez had two Negro boys, Apolinar and Boniara who were both baptized in 1788. Also, the Indians Bernardino Silvester and Andres Tromp had slaves as well.

In Aruba there was in 1774 an Indian woman named Maria Tromp, nicknamed Maria Largu, she was in possession of 700 sheep that she had sold to the governor of Curaçao. She was the richest Indian woman of Aruba. She also had a number of slaves, so we see in the baptismal Book of 1776 and 1778 that there was a Mary, slave of Maria Helena Tromp, Mariana, slave of Anna Catharina Tromp, Cecilia, daughter of Maria Francisca, negress slave of Bernardino Silvestre.

Also in Curaçao there were Indians who possessed slaves, the Cacique Minguel Bartholomeo had slaves in 1707, and in 1677 there was an Indian woman named Augustina who had a slave. It also being noted that there were Indians being slaves of other Indians, which was even rarer. These were the names of Indians slaves who were baptized.

1741: Lucia
1773: Juan Pedro and Maria
1775: Joseph Martha.

It is also possible that the Caquetios had Guajira slaves, before the trafficking of Guajira children in the 19th century. Although this is unknown. 

Laws about the Indians:

The despite the fact that the Indians still had their own Caciques, the Dutch (unlike the Spaniards) didnt gave official recognition. According to R.H Nooyen, author of the book 'Het volk van de grote manaure, de gigantes-eilanden' which I use as my main source, he said that the Indians were hardly considered in text of law; they were often considered more or less a forgotten group, the group of Indians were too small and too isolated to come up for their own rights and laws under the W.I.C reign. However, atleast for now.

The West Indian Company had issued a number of guidelines in 1629, which applied to the Dutch colonies in Brazil and North America. But since 1634 they were also valid for the ABC Islands.

Indians were not allowed to be enslaved, everyone even the Indians were allowed to keep their houses, lands, and possessions were allowed to being held by heirs.

 Indians were not allowed to be enslaved, everyone even the Indians were allowed to keep their houses, lands, and possessions were allowed to be held by heirs.

- On 1634, it was stipulated that the servants of the West Indian Company, were not allowed to destroy or steal their fruits of  the gardens of the Indians and Negroes, there stood the death penalty.

- On 1634, were the rules again explained to the newcomers, that they had to stay away from the lands and the women of the Indians.

- On 1640, In the instruction for Directeur Tolck, it was stipulated that the servants of the West Indian Company were not allowed to harass the Indians, both their lands and their wives. They were not allowed to have intimate relationships with ' wild women ' and ' Black females '. Wild women were  meant to be the Indian women. Sexual pleasure, however, was allowed,

-In 1655, In the instructions for Directeur Beck, It was also determined that one had to try to bring the ' blind Indians ', who were not baptized into the reformed religion. He therefore had to make sure that the Indians brought their children to the school in order to receive education there, so that they learned the Christian doctrine and the language.

In 1655, The Christian (Protestant and Catholic Europeans) population of the ABC Islands was now allowed to marry 'wilde vrouwen' (Amerindian females) and 'zwartinnen' (black women), but under the condition that those women first become Christians and were baptized. The Indians had to be encouraged by promises and persuasion to work for the company. Their duties were, logging, transporting for the fortification, horse training, keeping water wells clean.

In 1764, For the instruction for Directeur Jean Rodier, there are still rules that the Indians had to be brought to the faith.  It was also the task of the Director to try to heal the Indians ' of all barbaric ways ' and to put them to work. Christians were still allowed to marry Indian women and black women, as long as they were also Christian.

Caciques of the islands

Unlike the Spaniards, the Dutch showed little respect for the composition of the Indian community on Curaçao, Aruba, Bonaire and did not give official recognition to their own tribal head or Cacique. In the Spanish colonies at most places, Caciques were officially appointed with the consent of the Indians and sometimes crowned with a flower wreath.

He heard the official administration of the Spanish colony and was always called ' don ' as for example Don Martino, the Great Manaure and Don Pedro Ortiz, the Cacique of Curaçao.

Despite the fact that during the Dutch occupation some Indians, among others Don Pedro Ortiz and other Caciques of the islands, were sent to Venezuela because they supported the Spaniards. They kept coming back and saw that their people were left to their destiny, but that they chose their own leaders anyway.

Should we now like to see the Caciques of the Indians a.k.a. leader of the Caquetios of our islands in particular known to us so far, we will not go beyond to fourteen. In Aruba and Curaçao, the names of the Caciques during the Spanish period is known.

Spanish period:
1525: Manaure, Chief Cacique in Coro
1525: Juan Baracoica, temporarily in Curaçao.
1525: Pedro de Sanchez, Cacique in Aruba
1527: Andres, temporarily in Curacao
1529: Balthasar, in Aruba
1634: Pedro de Ortiz

Dutch period:
1704: Leopold, temporarily in Curaçao
1708: Don Michael Bartholomeo
1708: Juan Silvester, principal
1708: Philipo, principal
1708: Pedro Martinus, from Coro, temporarily in Curaçao.
1750: Domingo Antonio Silvester, fiscal from Aruba.
1750-1772: Miguel Alvares, fiscal.
1772-1785: Domingo Bernardino Silvester, fiscal
1786-1812: Andres Tromp, fiscal.

Incident between African slaves and Caquetio Indians in Curacao.
In 1795 there was a slave uprising, led by Tula Rigaud (nickname), named after the Haitian Mulatto general André Rigaud who could be born outside of Curaçao, Louis Mercier, an ex-slave from either Haiti of Guadeloupe with military experience. Pedro Wacao (Either a free person of color, or a slave) and Bastiaan, also known as 'Baszjan or Bashan' Carpata, a Venezuelan slave who participated in the slave uprising in Coro, months before the uprising in Curaçao.

It seems that the Caquetios were also involved in the uprising, although not positively. Some of them were attacked by the rebellious slaves, according to a report from van Westerholt on October 5th, 1795. Days after, the rebellion ended, and the leaders were executed.

Here is the report from what happend that day:

The report of Van Westerholt, 5 October 1795, narrated that the rebellious slaves of Banda Abao were drawn to the St. Christoffel Mountain and that they had burned ' houses in that neighborhood of the St Christoffel Mountain, had broken the warehouses and corn had taken to the mountain. 

Although it was not expressly stated, it is the free people of colour who had their village near St. Christopher, Ceru Bientu, the Indian village. So soms of the rebellious slaves  attacked the Indians. But the countermeasures of Van Westerholt's soldiers had also not taken into account the Indians when they mute the wells or let them poison by throwing dead beasts into it. 

Perhaps that has been the reason, the burning of their houses and the stealing of their corn, that the Indians did not join the rebellious slaves. In any case, there are at least a few Indians abused by the insurgents. On September 25th 
once again, interrogation was taken off by fiscal. answered were Tony, slave to Michael Cambioso, Tula (slave leader) Luis Mercier (slave leader), Martin, and Alexander and these faced the Indians who were being attacked by them.

They had inflicted the Indians ' injuries. The perpetrators who had abused a few Indians were Alexander and Martien. The Indians who were hurt also knew them back. Martien had even offered Tula to bring them ' the head of the Indians who were hurt. But Tula didnt agree with all the violence. He said to the slaves who were attacking people, and burning houses because of anger 'Ta blo ora nos no tin otro moda, nos por uza arma
  which means 'God will punish us if we kill other people, only if we have no other option, should we grab our weapons''

Martien and Alexander stated that they attacked the Indians, because according to them 'they were spying on them, on the road'. So they probably thought that the Amerindians were working together with the Dutch. They actually wanted to cut off the arm of the Indians, but the machete proved not to be sharp enough.

African slave uprising in Bonaire, 1834, encouraged by Caquetios.


There was also a slave uprising in Bonaire which happend in 1834. Altough it was small, it was known that this happend near Rincon, and that the Free Blacks and Amerindians were telling the African slaves to rise up  against the Dutch. The government told that the Blacks and Indians should be moved to another neighbourhood.  


  1. Interessante blog, mag ik je vragen waar je de foto's van de Caquetios hebt gevonden? Ik zie veel familie gelijkenissen en wil dit graag verder onderzoeken. Bedankt voor je harde werk om dit uit te zoeken!

    1. Sorry voor het late reactie, de meeste foto's had ik gevonden via een facebook groep. Aruba Di antes als het goed is.


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