Creolization and Contraband

COVER CuracaoCreolization and Contraband: Curaçao in the Early Modern Atlantic World
Linda M Rupert
2012, University of Georgia Press
296 pages, plates

SMUGGLING, like language, may seem on reflection like an obvious medium through which to explore inter-cultural exchange, but only after an original and imaginative piece of scholarship points this out. Linda Rupert’s Creolization and Contraband is just such a work, with the added bonus that it focuses on Curaçao, the enigmatic and under-studied island in the southern Caribbean Sea which remains within the Kingdom of the Netherlands and where Dutch is one of the two official languages alongside the creole Papiamentu. Language is important to this excellent analysis of the relationship between illicit inter-imperial trade and processes of cultural exchange after the island came under Dutch control in 1634, because the emergence of Papiamentu was one of the vectors that gave shape to early modern Curaçao, representing an adaptation to the diverse ethnic mix that came together on the island. The island’s main city, Willemstad, had a non-Dutch majority composed largely of free blacks, urban slaves and Sephardic Jews. They communicated through this hybrid language – today also spoken on Aruba and Bonaire – and their physical and social exchanges took place through smuggling. Rupert argues that these informal, extra-official exchanges provide excellent examples of the building blocks of colonial society wherever expanding European empires brought together a wide diversity of peoples. This is a fascinating book that makes a valuable contribution to the study of colonial history in Latin American and the Caribbean. – EC

Latin American Review of Books – Latamrob

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