Bonaire rarely springs to mind when one thinks of Caribbean islands whose history bears the deep stains of slavery. The “B” of the “ABC Islands,” Bonaire is as arid as its Aruba and Curacao neighbors, none of them ideal for the type of large scale agricultural production that made slavery so common elsewhere across the region hundreds of years ago.
This, then, makes the structures pictured above all the more curious.
You’re looking at slave huts built in Bonaire in the 1850’s. You can find them astride the coastal EEG Boulevard near Bonaire’s Salt Lake along the southwest coast of the island.
The slaves that lived here weren’t made to work the types of sprawling sugarcane fields that predominated Caribbean plantation society under colonial rule. Their burden centered around Bonaire’s expansive salt flats located nearby. Other slaves forcibly brought to the island were made to cultivate maize or cut dyewood, but salt was the primary cash cow here.
Built entirely of stone, the interior headroom of these huts measure to a height equal to a typical man’s waist, the oppression extending from the flats to the slaves’ quarters.
Restored to their original state, with just the traditionally thatched roofs replaced by a more durable marine plywood, these huts serve as a poignant reminder of the darkest period in our region’s history and the long shadow it cast over every corner of the Caribbean.