Curacao Floating Market

Curacao’s Fab (and Fading?) Floating Market

The Curacao Floating Market is a wonderful Caribbean misnomer. I mean, the market itself doesn’t really float at all.

(Well, most of it doesn’t 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.

Curacao Floating Market
Curacao Floating Market | Photo by Steve Bennett

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

Before we address any threats, though, let’s look at the market itself…

Produce for sale at The Floating Market, Curacao/SBPR

Colorful in Every Way

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 you hear Spanish with fits and starts of Dutch, Papiamento, and English mixed in. Cars move slowly up the street, stopping to make drive-buys. All-too-eager sellers venture into traffic to offer 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
Seafood Stall at The Floating Market, Curacao | Photo by Steve Bennett

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
Fish for sale at Curacao’s Floating Market | Photo by Steve Bennett

From Venezuela with Love

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
Wooden Boats from Venezuela | Photo by Steve Bennett

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.

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. The sailors provide a valuable service, supplying fresh fruits and vegetables to predominantly arid Curacao. This is critical to the island’s food supply as such produce is near-to-impossible to grow in Curacao at quantities sufficient enough to support the local and tourist markets.

Fading Fortunes of the Curacao Floating Market?

At the same time, though, today’s smaller, more connected world poses a real threat to the market’s future. Increasingly efficient shipping methods and larger scale grocery operations are making this once vital market obsolete.

Floating Market Boats, Curacao
Floating Market Boats, Curacao | Photo by Steve Bennett

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

For now, the Floating Market was as alive and bustling as ever. (At least it was during my last stop here in early-April 2012.)

You may want to check it out sooner rather than later, though, lest Father Time rob you of the opportunity…

Last updated by Steve Bennett on .

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