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Posts for December, 2007

Baby it’s Cold Outside… But Not in Curaçao

Timothy Kincaid

December 9th, 2007

curacao1.jpgGay travelers wishing to enjoy the turquoise waters, pristine beaches, and colorful fish of the Caribbean often find themselves limited in their choices.

Some islands, like Jamaica, are so hostile to gays that those who value their safety should never venture there. Churches on the island are vitriolic in their condemnation and, spurred on by murder-minded anti-gay popular musicians, on several instances local gays have been attacked or killed by homophobic mobs.

Other islands seem conflicted in how to respond to gay tourists. Granada recently was caught in confusion when they discovered that a gay travel group was choosing a couple of cruises that included the port city of St. Georges as a destination.

Thinking that this was an all-gay charter, they were contemplating banning the ships. As word got out, however, hotels reported cancellations and negative press in Canada caught the attention of the tourism board. As did fear that the Canadian government may consider cutting off humanitarian support for St. Georges.

The government quickly decided that all travelers are welcome, but the initial response revealed a basic misunderstanding and fear of gay men and women.

In contrast to those islands, the Toronto Star’s Julia Steinecke brought news today of a Caribbean island that not only allows gay tourists, but is making an effort to draw and welcome them: Curaçao.

This small Southern Caribbean island off the coast of Venezuela is part of the Dutch Antilles. It boasts pristine beaches, beautiful Dutch architecture, eco-tourism, outstanding diving, and a website set up for gay tourists: www.gaycuracao.com.

Curaçao’s tourism board has been hyping the island’s gay-friendly vibe since 2004 when it launched a dedicated website at gaycuracao.com. Now there are 17 businesses in the IGLTA (International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association: traveliglta.com), the highest membership for the Caribbean.

Everyone credits the Dutch influence, here in the Netherlands Antilles; I’d also acknowledge the local multicultural mosaic for creating an environment where diversity is the norm.

And as the Dutch government has made a commitment to advancing gay rights abroad, Curaçao can be expected to continue its welcoming attitude.

Curaçao’s motto is We Live and Let Live (“Biba i Laga Biba”). And that can be seen in the island’s long history of welcoming those who were outside of the majority. It prides itself on being a haven for Jews fleeing the persecution of the Spanish Inquisition and hosts one of the oldest continuing synagogues in the Western Hemisphere.

As with all foreign countries, travel should take into consideration such issues as economic unrest, political strife, and other current social upheaval. And not having visited there, I cannot confirm that the island is a paradise or that gay people are truly welcomed with outstretched arms. But with the overt hostility of much of the Caribbean, these words of welcome make me want to come spend time on their beaches:

“It is important to us that it’s known to the gay & lesbian community that everyone is welcome in Curaçao. Our island offers diverse culture, art galleries, beaches, museums, fine accommodations and exquisite cuisine that are enjoyed by all visitors to the island.” commented the Executive Director of the Curaçao Tourist Board

And those feeling Jack Frost nipping may want to know that it’s 77 degrees there right now. And a suite in a four star hotel affiliated with the IGLTA is less than a standard hotel room in NYC.