Recently, the Prime Minister of the autonomous Island State of Curacao received a hefty report, supposedly doubling as a script on “Nation Building.” Nearly five years after autonomy, on the magic date of 10-10-10, a fresh start on Nation Building may be too little and too late, or is it?
Some Caribbean islands succeeded in creating a national myth that citizens eagerly identified with. Cuba-Fidel Castro’s socialism echoed around the world for 60 years. Jamaica-Bob Marley’s Reggae Rastafarianism changed the world’s music landscape forever. Haiti-Toussaint Louverture’s equality and freedom struggle set the tone for a new era in the world. And even, tiny little Statia created her myth of the “First Salute to the new nation of the United States of America.”
So, will Curacao be able to inspire beliefs in their citizens, or would-be citizens, and provide identities and communities? Some argue that such is not likely, since less than 30% of Curacao islanders has two parents born on the island, whereas 70% feel strong allegiance to one, or more other national identities. Others point at the diaspora, which resulted in half of the “Curacao-people” living temporarily, or permanently, “off-island”. And again others remind us of the assassination of Helmien Wiels, the nationalist leader per se, who left behind a void, a vacuum into which organized crime eagerly took her parasitic position.
Nationalisms are mere romantic notions of identity, of belonging. It matters not whether such notion is true, or false. All nationalisms were created where no nations existed before. In a way, they were all false, what matters as truth is the identity and feeling of belonging.
Curacao has a large sentimental market, as an international crossroad for hundreds of years of shipping and trade between Europe, Africa and the Americas. Aother special section, is generations of SHELL- refinery ex-pats, which formed the earliest feeder for the tourist industry.
Recruiting the island’s sentimental market could become Curacao’s new way to inspiring nationalism. But in the forefront, needs to be a national belief. Spaceport, for commercial space travel from the island as the first in the world, captured the imagination of many around the world. The Spaceport myth became a fatamorgana when permits got stuck in legislation and red tape. Inspiring, the least to say, was also Green Town, an alternative energy and industry center of Curacao 3.0, to replace the aging oil industry. Green Town is still around but it never managed to gather any political support. Political refugee-investors of Venezuela built a huge shopping mall, speculating on a daily stream of thousands of visiting shoppers from abroad. These grandiose dreams are still in statunascendi. None of these ideas may have caught on yet, but it demonstrates clearly that the island is not suffering from a lack of ingenuity and initiative.
The Curacao government can expedite nationalism by inviting all those who are member of its sentimental market to realize their dreams, and where possible, make a lasting impact with a national myth.
By Jacob Gelt Dekker, opinion columnist for Curaçao Chronicle.