Sailors during the 16th and 17th centuries on long voyages would often come down with scurvy. Legend has it that the island which was to become Curaço became a sanctuary for ill sailors, and when their ships returned, as a result no doubt from the Vitamin C-rich fruit found on the island, they had fully recovered from their scurvy. From then on the Portuguese referred to the island as Ilha da Curação (Island of Healing).
The racial and ethnic composition of Salinas is estimated as:
- 75.4% Curaçaoan
- 6% Dutch
- 3.6% Dominican
- 3% Colombian
- 1.2% Surinamese
- 1.2% Haitian
- 1.1% Aruban
- 1.1% Venezuelan
- 0.9% Unspecified
- 5% Other
After the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century, the entire indigenous population was deported to Hispaniola as slaves.
Curaçao is also home to the oldest continuously inhabited Jewish community in the Western Hemisphere. The 1500s saw the fleeing of many Sephardic Jews from their native Spain and Portugal and many wound up in Curaçao. About 73% of people in Curaçao are Roman Catholic but other major religions include Pentecostal (6.6%), Protestant (3.2%), Adventist (3%), Jehovah's Witness (2%), and Evangelical (1.9%).
The first European records of the island came from Spanish explorers in 1499. Previous to this, the Arawak peoples indigenous to South America and the Caribbean had inhabited the island. Most of the Arawak were enslaved by the Spanish and many were forcibly relocated to other colonies. After the Netherlands earned its independence from Spain in the 1630s, Dutch colonists flocked to the island, while major powers in Europe were attempting to establish bases in the Caribbean.
During the 1800s and 1900s, ownership of the island went back and forth several times between the Dutch, French, and British. Stable Dutch rule was regained when the Napoleonic wars ended in 1815, when the island was incorporated.
After a failed attempt in 2006, the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles in October of 2010 saw Curaçao become its own county within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.