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Curacao

Uncommon Attraction: Curacao’s Fab (and Fading?) Floating Market

Uncommon Attraction: Curacao’s Fab (and Fading?) Floating Market
Curacao Floating Market/SBPR

Curacao’s Floating Market is one of those wonderful Caribbean misnomers in that the market itself doesn’t really float at all. (Well, most of it anyway.) As you can see, the stalls brimming with produce are all quite safely ensconced on terra firma along the Sha. Caprileskade on the Punda side of Willemstad.

Some also say it’s a fading institution, threatened like so many other Caribbean traditions by the advancement of modern times…

Produce for sale at The Floating Market, Curacao/SBPR

At its heart, the market is as bustling, vibrant and colorful (both in language and in hues) as any local market I’ve ever visited throughout the Caribbean. The warm air hangs heavy with higgling and cajoling encompassing a rainbow of languages – mostly Spanish with fits and starts of Dutch, Papiamento and English mixed in. Cars move slowly up the street, stopping to make drive-buys from sellers all-too-eager to venture into traffic to sell their fruits, vegetables, honey, cigars and other goods.

Further down toward the St. Anna Bay, small stalls like this do a brisk trade in the catch of the day…

Seafood Stall at The Floating Market, Curacao/SBPR

These are full-service establishments, where you can get your fish cleaned and filleted to your liking. If you wanted ‘em any fresher, you’d have to catch these bad boys yourself…

Fish for sale at Curacao's Floating Market/SBPR

All the produce, and some of the fish, is brought to the Floating Market from Venezuela, 40 miles to the south. This is where the “floating” comes in, the whole enterprise supported by wooden boats like these…

Wooden Boats from Venezuela/SBPR

They’ve been coming here for years, the trade passed down through the generations among Venezuelan men hailing from the South American country’s coastal towns. The men who pursue this line of work stay in Curacao for months tending to their stores, with new shipments brought in daily to replenish stocks.

The Venezuelan sailors live aboard their boats during their months in Willemstad, creating their own little Spanish community within the historic town. It’s a uniquely symbiotic relationship, as the sailors provide a valuable service, supplying fresh fruits and vegetables to predominantly arid Curacao, where such produce would be near-to-impossible to grow in quantities sufficient enough to support the local market and visitors.

At the same time, though, today’s smaller world, with its more efficient shipping methods and larger scale grocery operations, are threatening to make this once vital market obsolete.

Floating Market Boats, Curacao/SBPR

This would be a shame on several levels, in my opinion, but nothing lasts forever, right?

For now, at least during my last stop here in early-April, the Floating Market was as alive and bustling as ever, though you may want to check it out sooner rather than later, lest Father Time rob you of the opportunity…

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