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Plantations in West Curaçao

Date of Submission: 17/08/2011
Criteria: (ii)(iv)(v)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Ministry of Education, Culture and Science
State, Province or Region:
Curaçao (Caribbean)
Coordinates: N12 20 32 w69 05 38
Ref.: 5632

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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


The Plantations in West Curaçao are a cultural landscape that convey a picture of the Caribbean slave plantations dating from the seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries. The nomination relates to the Ascencion, San Juan, Savonet and Knip plantations.

The plantations are relatively large, ranging from 500 to 700 ha. in size. Each comprises a mansion with its own grounds, overgrown vegetation and remnants of slave quarters, outbuildings, archaeological sites and memorials. Unlike many other plantations on Curaçao, these have not been built on subsequently.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The plantations of West Curaçao are a cultural landscape that uniquely reflect a distinctive variant of the Caribbean slave plantation society that evolved between the mid-17th and early 20th centuries and constitute an eloquent memorial to the significant role this variant of plantation played in human history, specifically the transatlantic slave trade and the emergence of global capitalism in the late 17th century. The nominated site is a remarkable example of how enslaved and other groups interacted under the adverse conditions of a semi-arid environment and together established a society with a complex heritage that is outstanding in both a regional and an international context.

Criterion ii: The plantations are the product of three centuries of exceptional architecture, a unique landscape and prominent monumental art.

Criterion iv: Each plantation has a typical Curaçao mansion.

Criterion v: The plantations are an outstanding example of traditional dwellings and land use, characteristic of interaction with the natural environment under harsh conditions.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Banda Abou displays the highest biological diversity of Curaçao and the nomination site provides critical habitats essential to ensure the survival of viable onsite populations and migratory species. Also, recovery and succession of vegetation has been taking place, resulting in picturesque contrasts/discontinuities in the vegetation landscape, based on differences in vegetation colour, structure and composition.

Overall, the impact of human activities on the natural environment of the four plantations and their wider setting has remained fairly limited; moreover, the length of time that has elapsed since the plantations stopped functioning has enabled the natural environment to regenerate successfully. The deteriorations and intrusions that have taken place do not compromise the integrity of the site as a cultural landscape, which exhibits a dynamic but managed interaction between nature and humans across time in a semi-arid context. The geographical expanse of the four plantations comprising the nominated property contributes to ensuring that the site includes all the natural elements necessary - such as biodiversity, endemism, physical fabric and scenic beauty - to possess outstanding universal value as an organic cultural landscape. The significant natural features of the property are in good condition.

Today the built structures of the plantations remain substantially intact, due in large part to protective legislation. Restoration and reconstruction work has respected the authenticity of the structures.

Comparison with other similar properties

Compared to other plantations on Curaçao, the four nominated plantations are the most intact and best illustrate the diversity of the plantations. The Curaçao plantations were the only Dutch plantations in a dry tropical climate (unlike the plantations in South Africa and Indonesia), which means that the Curaçao plantations faced challenges in terms of water management. Another special feature of the Curaçao plantations is that they were not geared to export, but formed part of the 'supportive infrastructure' of the slave trade. As a result, they were used to grow mixed crops, rather than a main crop, as in the case of the other plantations in the Caribbean region.

The Curaçao plantations can be compared to haciendas in Latin America. Both used little capital and little technology, and had little incentive to modernise. The main difference was that the plantations were run on slave labour, while the haciendas employed farm hands.