ABSTRACT

Curaçaoans have manifested a continuing search for what it means to be Curaçaoan within a Caribbean context. Despite Curaçao’s different colonial history and political situation, there are parallels in the respective debates on social identity and identity formation. Central in these debates are the frequently asked questions: “Who are we, what do we want, and are we likely to achieve it?” Some scholars agree that these questions cannot be tackled without first answering the significant question: Who were we? In the Caribbean, the answers to all these questions are experienced as complex and contested in their relationship to the transatlantic slave trade. The crux of the debate over identities lies in the answers provided to these questions and in the difficulty of specifying who precisely is the “we” referred to when speaking about “we.” In this chapter, I examine the lyrics of slave work songs offered as oral histories, discussing the implications these narratives may have on contemporary identity constructions of Afro-Curaçaoans as they deal with questions of social identity and what “Curaçaoan culture” might mean to them.