A little historie of Bonaire
Bonaire's history is deeply rooted in its inhabitants and their culture. The tranquil beauty of the island is reflected in the faces of her people. From the first inhabitants, the Caiquetios (a branch of the Arawak Indians) who sailed from the coast of Venezuela almost 1000 years ago, to the many cultures now living and working in Bonaire today, the island has a distinct character that is all its own.
The first Europeans came to Bonaire in 1499, when Alonso de Ojeda and Amerigo Vespucci arrived and claimed it for Spain. Finding little of commercial value and seeing no future for large-scale agriculture, the Spanish decided not to develop the island. Instead, they unceremoniously enslaved the Indians and moved them off to work in the plantations on the Island of Hispanolia, effectively leaving the island unpopulated.
The name Bonaire is thought to have originally come from the Caiquetio word 'Bonay', a name that meant low country. The early Spanish and Dutch modified its spelling to Bojnaj and also Bonaire. The French influence while present at various times never was strong enough to make the assumption that the name means 'good air'. Regardless of how the name came about, the island remained as a lonely outpost until 1526.
It was in that year, 1526, that cattle were brought to the island by then governor Juan de Ampues. Some of the Caiquetios were returned to act as laborers and in a few years, the island became a center for raising other animals such as sheep, goats, pigs, horses and donkeys. Since they were being raised more for their skins and not their meat, they required little tending and were allowed to roam and fend for themselves. The result was large herds of animals that far outnumbered the population. Today, there are a number of wild donkeys that still inhabit the Kunuku (outback), but the majority now enjoy life at the Donkey Sanctuary, where their needs are attended. Many goats can also be seen foraging in less populated areas of the island.
Bonaire's early years were not ones of prosperity. Her inhabitants were mostly convicts from other Spanish Colonies in South America. The only permanent settlement was the village of Rincon, located far inland where it was thought to be safe from marauding pirates. In those years, development was discouraged in favor of the richer, more productive colonies.
In 1633, the Dutch took possession of Curacao, Bonaire and Aruba. The largest island, Curacao, emerged as a center of the notorious slave trade. Bonaire then became a plantation island belonging to the Dutch West Indies Company. It was during those early years that the first African slaves were forced to work, cutting dyewood and cultivating maize and harvesting solar salt. Grim reminders of those days still remain in the form of slave huts and salt pans which were laboriously constructed by hand. They are an important part of the island's heritage and have been left to stand mute testimony to Bonaire's repressive beginning.
Until 1816, ownership of Bonaire changed hands a number of times, finally being returned that year to the Dutch as a result of the Treaty of Paris. A small fort, Fort Oranje, was built to protect the island's main resource, salt. Salt was one commodity that Bonaire had in endless supply, although it took back breaking slave labor to produce it. In the early days of the industry, the most important use for salt was in the preservation of food, since refrigeration was still centuries away.
By 1837, Bonaire was a thriving center of salt production. The government, who by then controlled the industry, built four obelisks, each painted a different color, red, white, blue and orange (the colors of the Dutch Flag and the Royal House of Orange). They were erected strategically near areas of the salt lake. The idea was to signal ships where to pick up their cargoes of salt. A flag of the corresponding color was raised atop a flagpole, thus signalling the ship's captain where to drop anchor. Three of the obelisks can still be seen today.
The abolition of slavery in 1863 signaled an end to the era of exploitation of those first Bonaireans. It was almost a hundred years later that the salt industry was revitalized. Today it is a division of Cargill, Incorporated, one of the largest businesses in the world. It also was during this time that the island began to attract visitors.
Tourism was born when the island government constructed the first ship's pier in the harbor. It allowed cruise ships to tie up alongside the wharf and discharge passengers. It also made it easier to bring in goods and supplies for the island's residents. Hotels began to spring up and cater to the early visitors who enjoyed the tranquility of Bonaire. In 1943, the construction of a modern airport south of Kralendijk made it even easier for tourists to reach the island.
The history continues to be written. The people of Bonaire are part of the past and are proud of what they have accomplished on an island that was abandoned hundreds of years ago and deemed useless by the Spanish. As for the future, Bonaireans welcome progress but have made a conscious decision to take time out and step back and to look at how it will impact their island and their lives. They have learned to balance their growth with the environment.
Our flag contains the colors red, white and blue, representing our respect for the Dutch Kingdom's tricolor.
At the upper end of our flag we have a yellow triangle, which is the bright light of our sun and also the beauty of our nature. Most Bonairean flowers are yellow like Kibrahacha, Kelki gel, Brasilia, Hobada, Cucu, Sente-bibu, Angelo Watapana and many others.
Below we have a blue triangle, and that is the color of our beautiful sea. You can see the triangle as a gigantic wave or a high mountain to remind us of the great heights we have climbed.
In the middle of our flag is the white area symbolizing peace, liberty and tranquility.
In this white area we have a black ring with four points of the navigation-compass. That compass is what our indisputable navigators have used to travel all over the world.
In that ring there is a six-pointed red star. The color symbolizes blood, as the fighting and surviving spirit of the six traditional regions, which form together the people of Bonaire.
The most striking and widely recognized features of flamingo's are their pink feathers. In the wild, a flamingo will consume pigments that it utilizes to create the pink coloration of its feathers. These pigments are synthesized by plants and are either consumed by a flamingo directly in plants or are consumed by crustaceans which flamingos feed upon.
Flamingos are "filter feeders." They stand head-down with their bills upside-down in the water and then use their tongues like pistons to push mud and water through lamellae (tiny, hair-like projections) on the inside of their beaks. The small crustaceans, pieces of vegetation and microorganisms that become trapped in the lamellae are then consumed. Long necks and long legs increase feeding efficiency by allowing these birds to wade into deeper water than other birds.
During the breeding season, flamingos practice elaborate courtship displays. Once paired, flamingos construct raised nests by mounding mud along the water's edge. A single egg is deposited in the nest, and incubation duties, which are shared by both parents, begin immediately. During the heat of the day, birds will stand over the egg to shade it from the hot sun.
Hatching after an average incubation period of 28 days, chicks stay in the nest for 5 to 8 days. Exclusively the adults feed chicks for 3 to 4 weeks, and during this time, young flamingo's band together in a group called a crèche. They stay together in the crèche while the adult birds go off to feed. By 30 days of age, chicks are usually eating on their own, and at 60 days they are capable of flight. Flamingos live 20 or more years in the wild, and in captivity, they are reported to live more than 40 years.
Flamingos nest in colonies near large bodies of water in the wild, and historically have lived in extremely large colonies of up to one million birds! Currently, as more and more threats are placed upon wetland areas throughout the world, colonies are becoming smaller and smaller
It should come as no surprise that Bonaire has a rich mixture of food choices. There are over 70 different cultures to draw recipes from and almost as many variations on them as there are cooks. Bonaire is not blessed with much locally grown food and has to rely heavily on imports and ship schedules for procuring fresh produce. However, with more frequent, direct flights from Europe and the US, a lot has changed over the past few years and it is not unusual to find fresh mussels or Norwegian Salmon on the menu.
At last count there were nearly seventy-five restaurants serving eclectic menus from haute cuisine to local dishes (kuminda krioyo). Many of the restaurants are located on various resort properties, while others are situated adjacent to the seaside or close to the center of town.
American, Italian, French, Mexican, Indonesian, Chinese and continental fare is presented to tempt even the most discerning palates.
For the last few years, Bonaire's restaurants have put together a team of talented chefs and taken part in the Caribbean Culinary Competition to compete against their counterparts from other islands in the region. The competition is fierce with 20 islands sending a number of chefs to challenge each other's culinary skills. Bonaire has consistently placed among the top medal winners and brought home the gold.
One of the special treats available to visitors to Bonaire is the chance to sample local food. You may see a sign, Aki ta Bende Kuminda Krioyo, or "local food sold here." Rest assured you will be well fed from a selection of sopi (soups), stoba (stews) or food that is hasa (fried), and you will not go hungry. The portions are huge, very tasty, and economical. The local food is served pa bai kun'e (to go) from the Snacks or in a number of places, at sit down establishments. Following are a few dishes with explanations.
Kabritu = Goat
Galiña = Chicken
Baka = Beef
Kabes ku Higra = Goat Brains and Liver
Stoba = Stew
Sanger = Blood (fried)
Komkomber = Cucumber
Funchi = Polenta (corn meal)
Kesio = Flan / Quesillo
Karko = Conch
Piska = Fish
When you do order local food you have it served with rice, potato or funchi. Many people order it mitar mitar, which is half-and-half, with rice and potato or funchi. Another treat is to ask for the pika siboyo, a sauce made with onions marinated in vinegar and hot peppers. Rest assured, local food is not made with hot spices, but the sauce, if you use it, makes up for it.