Visited by Alonso de Ojeda and Amerigo Vespucci in 1499, Curaçao was colonized by the Spanish in 1527. The Dutch captured it in 1634 and remained in possession except for a brief period of British rule during the Napoleonic Wars. In the 18th cent. Curaçao was a base for a flourishing Dutch entrepôt trade. Economic prosperity declined after the abolition of slavery in 1863 but revived with the introduction of the petroleum industry in the early 20th cent., and the island was the largest and most populous in the former Netherlands Antilles. Curaçao was the scene of severe racial strife and rioting in 1969. Prior to the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles in 2010, Curaçao voted to become an autonomous country within the Netherlands.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.