Since November 25, 1975, when Suriname became independent from the Dutch Kingdom, the tropical remains of the Netherlands (1) comprise six Caribbean islands. They are divided into the Leeward Dutch Antilles (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao; abbreviated ABC Islands) north of the Venezuelan coast and the Windward Dutch Antilles (Saba, St. Eustatius, and a section of St. Maarten; abbreviated SSS Islands) east of Puerto Rico. (2) The six territories rarely represent focus areas of Caribbean research. Many studies simply neglect the islands or dedicate--except for the studies by individual scholars (i.e. Rutgers, Broek, Martinus, Clemencia, Allen etc., for instance in the volume on Caribbean literature edited by Arnold in 2001)--but a small number of pages to different socio-cultural aspects. Within linguistic and literary concerns, however, the interest in the ABC Islands has been increasing particularly during the past two decades. This is to a large extent due to Papiamentu, the local Creole vernacular, which plays a pioneer role in the field of Creole languages and has reached remarkable corpus, status, and prestige (the tripartite system stems from theories developed by Kloss and Haarmann). More recently, however, socioeconomic and political issues have been foregrounded in several publications (Oostindie), since the economic decline on Curacao led to a considerable growth in emigration. As a result, the European diaspora grew from about 70,000 according to Narain/Verhoeven (112) to an estimated 100,000 at the turn of the millennium.
Taking these introductory remarks as motive and point of departure, this paper aims at providing the background for a critical understanding of the contemporary linguistic situation and literary life with regard to the Creole culture of the ABC Islands. The text falls into four sections: The first section (chapter 2) provides a historical synopsis from 1499 to our days and is subdivided into three sociolinguistically relevant subsections. The first (2.1) gives a short account of the developments from the Spanish discovery until the nineteenth century, while the second focuses on the changes subsequent to the 'oil-turn' in the early twentieth century. The last subdivision is dedicated to the episode of the May 1969 riots and its effects. Section two (chapter 3) sheds light on linguistic and literary issues. It starts by giving a short overview of the development of Papiamentu (3.1) and subsequently concentrates on facets of multilingualism (3.2). In subsection 3.3 more recent developments with regard to education and language planning are discussed. Finally, I turn to questions related to the role of Papiamentu literature and literary translation (3.4). Incidents regarding the growing European diaspora are discussed separately in chapter 4. As a conclusion, the paper gives an account of future potentials and possibilities of the Creole culture within a globalized world (chapter 5).
Before stepping in medias res, however, it seems important to clarify that, in my opinion, Caribbean issues require a multiple perception of the conditions to be analyzed. Consequently, a single discipline with its canonical and paradigmatic boundaries does not suffice to come to relevant conclusions. Hence coming from a linguistic background--with particular roots in Romance linguistics (3)--I will aim at addressing the subject matter from a transdisciplinary angle. This allows an acknowledgement of the findings and approaches of different concerned fields as much as the creation of a problem-specific scientific paradigm.
2 Historical Synopsis
Different historians at different times have focused on the past of the Netherlands Antilles (4) (cf. the publications by J. Hartog 1953, 1957, 1961; R. A. Romer 1976, 1978, 2000; A. Romer 1997). In different publications, the history of the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba has been divided into various periods, consistent with the purpose of the respective studies. The following brief but critical outline starts with early colonization.
2.1 Indifferent Spaniards, Dutch merchants, and other new inhabitants
From a historical perspective, it is well known that it occurs at a relatively late stage that the Dutch feel attracted to Caribbean territories. More precisely it only happens when the success of French and British trade and "pirate" activities in the West-Indies become obvious around 1600. The Spanish, who, according to the treaty of Tordesillas, claimed a monopoly on all trade and navigation throughout the West Indies throughout the sixteenth century, are constantly impelled to concede territories to their concurrent nations. Therefore, the presence of the Dutch is only evident when they forcefully start to undermine the Tordesillas principle in search of salt (urgently needed to support their fishing industry) and other mercantile goods. This occurs essentially after 1595 and is mainly carried out by the West-Indische Compagnie [West Indian Company] (WIC) that subsequently plays an essential role in Caribbean colonization. The first territory appropriated by the Dutch is Tobago in 1628 followed by St. Maarten, that they share with France after 1648, and Anguilla. In 1634 the Dutch, headed by Johannes van Walbeeck, seize the islands of Curacao, Bonaire, and Aruba, three territories that had been discovered in 1499 by the Spaniards, but due to a lack of water were poorly colonized. (5) While the few Spaniards and Indians that had remained on Curacao peacefully withdrew to the South-American continent, Aruba and to a much lesser extent Bonaire keep segments of native Indian population. After establishing the ABC Islands as a southern trading base and strategic settlement, the Dutch occupy Saba and St. Eustatius in the North, where British settlers had already started colonization back in 1632. St. Eustatius turns into a highly appreciated center of transatlantic commerce. With regard to the Leeward Islands, it has to be mentioned that Bonaire subsequently gains importance due to the production of salt, while Curacao develops into a major transit point of slave trade. St. Croix, the last territory taken over by the Dutch, just like Anguilla and Tobago, does not remain in their possession (cf. Narain 1991). The Windward Islands are--since this is the typical fate of Caribbean territories during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries--taken over by other nations from time to time and alternatively belong to the Dutch, French, British, and other kingdoms. Therefore it is not very surprising that St. Eustatius changed the colonial allegiance 22 times. With regard to the socio-cultural development of the respective societies, it goes, however, without saying that this fact has a long-lasting impact. It seems to contribute to an enormous cultural resistance discussed later on in this paper (cf. 3.4).
The main interest of the Dutch colonial engagement in the Caribbean is undoubtedly a commercial one. This explains--along with the insecurity with regard to a continuity of possession--the very hesitant colonization of most islands. Most of them only reach a considerable number of inhabitants when African slaves are forced into the New World after 1660. Besides, and this accounts particularly for Curacao, an important group of Jewish settlers arrives in the second half of the seventeenth century. These Sephardic Jews, for the most part originating from Amsterdam where they had settled soon after their departure from the Iberian Peninsula, forge a powerful socio-economic group and build the first synagogue on American soil (cf. Emmanuel & Emmanuel 1970).6 Along with the Dutch Protestants invited by the WIC, they form the socio-cultural elite of the island and later spread to the other islands of the archipelago. Given the fact that the two most prestigious social groups lack a common language, the emerging Creole language--based on an Afro-Portuguese Pidgin (or Creole, cf. 2.2) spoken by the black population and fully established around 1700--is quickly adopted. As a matter of fact, it does not unfold a diglossic stratification as observed in other Caribbean territories. This evolution is certainly also due to the specific socio-economic background of Curacao, where plantation societies remain undeveloped, and there is a strong impact of the black yaya [nurse] concubine. Both conditions forge a strong link between the white elite groups and the black majority (cf. Martinus 1998).
Throughout the eighteenth century, trade suffers from the many conflicts the Dutch are involved in, but they equally manage to profit from conflicts such as the American war of independence (selling their merchandise to both parties). The ideas of the French Revolution influence the territories to such an extent that in 1795 a slave rebellion on Curacao led by a slave named Tula keeps the islands in suspense. The Dutch sanguinary authorities put down the rebellion and execute most protagonists. In the beginning of the nineteenth century, the British and the French show growing interest in Curacao, which for a short period belongs to both countries. Nevertheless, after 1816 the Dutch gain power once again and do not cede the territories to other nations. During the liberation conflicts in Latin America numerous immigrants arrive and settle on the ABC Islands. They also adopt the new local vernacular as lingua franca and later as their mother tongue.
(2.2) From the "oil-turn" to the 1969 uprising
Until the abolition of slavery in 1863, the remaining six islands, now denominated the Netherlands Antilles, subsisted on their agricultural and trading …